“Procrastination is the bad habit of putting off until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.” – Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) American speaker and motivational writer.
Procrastination is a term that needs no introduction. I’ve lived much of my life battling this bug, and I have come to believe that it grows from a fear of action.
Creative procrastination is a trick our mind plays to defer things we should do now until the future with an abstract goal to banish our desire.
I’ll give you a simple example. I always thought that I love to go on a world tour to meet with people from different walks of life and to learn their culture. But whenever I thought to plan a trip, I would get the opposing thought, “Well, I’d enjoy the world tour when I’m retired and after my daughters finish their college.”
Research has revealed that we use a fraction of our mind in our entire life, leaving much of our potential to achieve in life at the mercy of this magical bug of creative procrastination. I have come to a revelation: if we bring awareness to our thoughts and the way they persuade us to engage or not to engage in the dreams we dream, we can transcend our fear of action.
1. Planning obsession
Our world has evolved into a culture promoting productivity and its ugly nuances. It’s an insidious cult of planning everything in advance (eg our retirement). It assumes that we have control over the future circumstances. In reality, we only control our reaction to the circumstances that exist in our life. If I plan my world tour based on the future event of my daughter’s willingness to go to college and complete her education, I’m projecting a future with events that are out of my control.
2. I don’t know everything
For years, I had a dream of being an entrepreneur. I anticipated a day when I could shape my own fate and make my own decisions without need the permission of others. I had a noble mission, but I would always think, “I should learn about the business first, I should have enough in the retirement funds” before embarking out on my own. It never happened. As time went by, I felt frustrated with not knowing about the business I wanted to own and not having enough in the retirement fund to quit my job. I procrastinated due to the illusion of a safety net. In life, there is no insurance policy for the safe future.
3 . I’m a poor judge of happiness
We are a poor judge of what will make us happy in the future. When my daughter completes her college in the next seven years, I may not be as excited about the world tour. I may end up having health issues that prevent me from pursuing my dream. When I build a good retirement fund and master the basics of the business, I may not have motivation to call my own shots. We as a collective society have this obsession of planning weeks, days and years of our life but we miss a subtle yet profound truth. What makes us excited today to pursue a dream may not work with the same vehemence when future arrives.
“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Third president of the United States
It took me awhile to banish the dreaded bug of creative procrastination. I finally learned to nurture a self-belief that pursuing what made me happy in the present moment was the way of living a life of abundance.
1. Enjoy the simple pleasures
A fear of failure plays a large part in creative procrastination. It’s a stereotypical stream of experiences that lead us to inaction. Watch a child playing with agility. Children enjoy simple pleasure such as playing in the backyard or watching animals. This fosters confidence in taking action to do what makes them happy now rather than to abscond with safeguarding their thoughts with events in the future. Try taking a walk in the wilderness, engaging in a random act of kindness or simply remembering what is was like to be a child.
2. Acknowledge the unknowns
For years I was not able to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship, largely for the factors that I considered important to master. These were the factors I considered important without knowing the other unknowns that can show their ugly head. Anything we do in life can meet with unknowns that can change the outcome against our will. Sitting on the safe harbor and not setting sail to explore the ocean until we know every danger is akin to a hallucination that we know and master our future. We can only master what we desire with the awareness that challenges are sure to arrive.
3. Do it now
When I made that dreaded decision to quit the job and embark out on my own, I had not planned every possible challenge that I was about to face. I’d trained my mind to be aware of these challenges, and I was prepared to deal with them with best of my ability. I had decided that time to pursue my dream is now or never. I’m glad that I took control of the steering wheel to direct my life in the direction I wanted to go. I knew that there would be bumps on the way. But I also knew that no planning or learning could ever overcome these challenges that were destined to arrive. I decided to embrace the challenges as happily as the successes, and to take action and to never look back. It’s a decision I haven’t regretted since.
“How soon not now, becomes never.” – Martin Luther (1483-1546) German priest and scholar