Why do we avoid doing the things we know we should be doing. For instance, why do we procrastinate? As humans, we do things for two reasons: We avoid pain and/or we seek pleasure. That’s it. That is our motivation for doing things. That is what drives us to do anything.
Escape is about doing things to make us feel better about ourselves when we’re faced with a difficult task or problem. Living in denial is a great example of escape. Escape is also what we do when we procrastinate. We’ll do anything to avoid pain and seek that pleasure (to run away from the pain of doing the actual work). In doing so, we forget that the obstacle itself is the way. The struggle itself is the point. And the only way out is through.
Why is it that we escape? More than seeking pleasure, it’s about avoiding the pain. We just don’t want to think about the pain. We would rather run away. We procrastinate. Even though we know that by running away from the pain of doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we’re only avoiding it temporarily and that we have to get back to it at some point. We live in denial of the problem and think the problem will magically solve itself, which is never the case.
We have to think about it at some point, and delaying that thinking won’t make it any better; it will only make it worse. When we don’t pay attention to things that have our attention, they use more of our attention than they deserve. We think we’re avoiding the pain, but we’re not. That thing we’re avoiding is always running in the back of our minds. We forget that it would be far easier to just face it instead of avoiding it. Instead, we escape by doing things that are pleasure-seeking and we avoid the pain of our reality. When we avoid things, it’s like a virus that runs in the background that we do nothing about. It affects our ability to be present and to do things in the moment. We’re never fully present as a result of that. We’re not really avoiding or escaping the pain; we think we are, but we’re not. We’re only delaying it. Because at some point, we’ll have to address it. The sooner we do it, the better it would be for us.
Here’s a short list of ways we escape:
- take drugs
- check email
- check phone
- check for notifications on our electronic devices
- watch tv
- shop (retail therapy)
This is also not to say that doing these things are wrong in themselves because the tool is never the problem. How we use the tool determines the problem.
These are all examples of escape in one form or another. We do them for the wrong reasons. For instance, we eat for the wrong reasons — we live to eat rather than eat to live. It all boils down to seeking pleasure. We resort to doing these things to make us feel good about ourselves, even if for the short-term. Doing so also gives us random positive reinforcement in the form of dopamine hits. We rely on doing these things to make us feel better about ourselves, though we forget that (external) things can never provide (internal) satisfaction. We can’t rely on things outside of us to give us pleasure. That would be dependence.
Here are some strategies that we can use to prevent escape:
First of all, we can all learn to be more proactive. By that, I mean that our life is our responsibility. We may not be responsible for the situations in our lives, but we’re fully responsible for our choices in those situations.
We can all learn to be professionals in our work. Being a pro is a mindset; it has nothing to do with having a white-collar job. A pro is driven by values, not feelings. They show up and do the work. They know better than to escape because they’re pros.
We can learn to pause before making choices. Instead of gravitating to the first pleasure-seeking thing that comes to our mind, we pause to figure out if it’s something we want to do. This allows us to be more intentional with our choices. More often than not, we do not pause before making our choices because we know that if we spend too much time thinking about our choices then we won’t seek pleasure and we would fall back to facing the harsh reality of whatever it is we’re trying to avoid.
When we set goals for ourselves, we’re basically saying these are the things we are saying yes to (in a given time frame), which implicitly means that we’re going to be saying no to all of the other things (including escape). This is about having focus, not just doing it.
If we can learn to work and play effectively, we can avoid escape. Because we know that we have only so much limited time to work, as well as time scheduled for leisure/recreation, we won’t escape because we know that life is not all work and no play.
Escape in the long run never works. We think it works temporarily; it does not. We only end up delaying the inevitable, which is to get back to that thing we’re avoiding the most. We escape the life we have, to seek pleasure by doing the above things and avoiding pain of our reality.