You know that frustrating, sludgy place? That one where you know what you need to do, should be doing… and yet you can’t get yourself to move. The Greeks call this state of being, akrasia (“ah-CRAZE-ee-ah”). It’s when we lack the will to do what we know we should be doing. For instance, I sit down to write that important email, but end up scrolling through social media. Well, we all do this, so why is defining the issue helpful? Because torment lives between knowing and doing.

It starts with a mild sort of emotional friction,

that comes from a lack of will power or self-control. But dissonance can rapidly grow into frustration… “Why can’t I do this when I know it’s the right thing to do?” Which risks becoming self-loathing: “What’s wrong with me?” How quickly we can spiral!

Daniel Mingook Kim self-hate

So, what can we do to avoid akrasia?

Try its opposite: enkrateia. Pronounced “en-KRAH-tay-ah“, the words means to “be in power over oneself”. But that’s exactly the issue, isn’t it? Things feel out of control!

Sure, and anxiety can skyrocket when we think about everything we have to do which we aren’t doing. This is why it can be helpful to do these 3 things:

1. Break tasks down into smaller, bite-sized chunks. Need to write that tough email? Sit down with pen and paper to jot your key points. Then allow yourself to step away. Come back a few minutes later and structure your email. Then, fill in the gaps.

eat an elephant one bite at a time

2. Talk to yourself like you’re a friend. I know this may sound a little hokey. But imagine if your friend came to you with this particular struggle. How would you extend kindness and offer help? We often find it easier to tackle others’ problems before addressing our own.

What if we treated ourselves with the generosity with which we treat others? wrote a nice article about this; to learn from Yale psychologists and Olympians, click here.

talk to self like a friend

3. Quiet the trolls. We all have them, those nastly little voices that whisper past traumas in our ear. Identifying those trolls is the first step to shutting them up. Do you know what your trolls are? If not, ask yourself these few questions:

✓ What diminishes your physical wellness?

✓ Can you identify fears or insecurities that hold you back?

✓ What practices maintain your spiritual balance?

Which one of these tips was most useful for you?

If torment lives in the space between knowing and doing, how can you get yourself out of that place?

If you’re interested to read more, here are a few more resources:

Photo credit for #2: article (just loved it!)