December 11, 2015
When it comes to procrastination, Picasso said it well, “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone”.
We’ve all done it, sure. But, procrastination is more than the act of “putting things off”. On the surface it might seem like a natural reaction to stress and busyness; underneath all that, however, there is something more complex at play.
Procrastination is an emotional state of being. It has its roots in bigger causes, and the reasons why we put the things off that we do say a lot about who we are and where we are in our journey.
At times, it is visible in our lives in obvious ways and it is expressed outwardly—the dishes, the late fees, the excuses, the mail piling up, the canceling of appointments, the bags under our eyes, the sleeping in.
This can look like laziness, right? That or a generalized sense of “not having it together”. And, if we are honest, we can all probably think of times when this was us. The difference, in this case, between what is natural and what is problematic is in how sturdy our tolerance is for living in a state of “I’ll do it later”.
At other times, however, we might not even know that we are procrastinating. That is, we might be put off things that aren’t requirements for life, but rather dreams, goals, and ambitions. Because they are not concrete, when they are denied it is easy to overlook them or call them something else.
For example, when we don’t do our laundry, we wear dirty, wrinkly clothes—this is something that we (and others) can see and, so, it generally forces an action: We do our laundry.
However, when we don’t spend time, say, truly considering what type of life we want; or what actions would make us feel whole and meaningful; or when we put off a daily practice of journaling, writing, or mapping out our life’s purpose, no one notices…not even us, really! Why’s that? Because there are no standardized outward signs that we are procrastinating on our greatness.
A dirty sweater looks like a dirty sweater—we can all agree. But unsought-after dreams? Goals that never get started? Ideas that never get contemplated and fleshed out?
Why might these be so difficult to take action on?
It’s possibly because there is not a specific protocol to follow. To wash a shirt, we learn to use a washing machine and we are good. But, to find deep serenity? To feel life’s purpose unfolding before us? To live up to our potential?
How do we do that?!? The sheer magnitude of the question alone is a reason to procrastinate. That’s why we are better off breaking it down into smaller pieces, things that can be done one at a time. Focal points. Destinations.
The strengths provide us with a starting point. Each strength is a point of reference. When we develop a mindset where we seek to apply our strengths everywhere, we begin to hone our abilities. And because we are shifting our focus toward what we can do and contribute—as opposed to what we cannot—we are likely to find more of what we are looking for.
What we focus on, we find more of.
We can either focus on what we are not doing, which makes procrastination a totally acceptable excuse for staying the same; or, we can focus on what we are doing and what we are capable of achieving, which creates a catalyst toward action and change.
What emotions motivate my procrastination? Is it laziness, fear, anxiety, apathy, something else? Is it a blend of emotions? Does it feel unidentifiable?
By focusing on only the emotional component, what life experiences past or present cause this feeling?
What messages accompany the procrastination? Examples might be: I’m tired. I’ll do it tomorrow. I don’t really care about it. It doesn’t matter. It will take care of itself. I cannot afford it. I am not good enough. What if someone laughs at me. Etc.
Set the timer on your phone for 5 mins.
Freewrite on the following prompt: What are five specific things that I must accomplish before the end of my life?
(These are life goals. Things that you would regret not doing. They can be anything from traveling to relationships to making amends to making a specific amount of money.)
Pick one item from your list and draft the first three action-steps toward achieving it.
For example, if your list item is this: Become financially free.
Your action-steps might look like this:
1.) Write out on paper all debts
2.) Determine net worth to get a clear picture of financial situation.
3.) Schedule automatic monthly withdrawals.
Remember, for some it’s easy to say “I’ll do it tomorrow” for their whole life. Is that you?
Over the course of the next three days, take that first step. Commit to it. Make the change happen.
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.