When we put off doing things that we say we want to do, and keep putting them off and beat ourselves around the head and call ourselves procrastinators, is it really about procrastination? Actually, is procrastination even a thing?
It never ceases to fascinate me when I hear people describe themselves as procrastinators and how that once they could stop procrastinating, they would achieve all the goals they have set themselves and therefore they would become satisfied, fulfilled, happy or whatever positive emotion they desire as their final outcome. (Never mind those who say they procrastinate too much to even set goals in the first place!)
So, when you don’t do what you set out to do in a timely fashion, is procrastination the culprit? Are you doing yourself justice by labelling yourself as a procrastinator? What is really going on when we don’t carry out our intended actions in a timely manner?
1. Unforeseen contingencies (eg. something else which is more urgent and more important came along and so we made a judgement call to spend the time on that)
2. Preferred contingencies (eg. there was something else of equal importance which we much rather would do and so we spent the time doing that instead)
3. No contingency (in this case, nothing really more or equally important or urgent came along. We just didn’t feel like doing it)
4. Sometimes, it’s a combination of all of the above
The reality though is that we tend to gravitate towards doing those things that we really want to or prefer to do: those action steps that contribute significantly to the goals that are genuine to us, even if we don’t like (aspects of) them. And if they are contribute to our genuine goals, then we would find a way round them include exploring the option of contracting them out!
What do I mean by genuine goals? Those are goals that are really important to you; aspirations you have because you really want them deep down. The opposite of that could be described as designer goals: those goals that you think you ought to have because they look like the ‘right’ sort of goals you ‘should’ be having; or they are goals they somebody else desires for you and you decide to adopt them to make them happy, even though you don’t want them for yourself; or you adopt them to keep that somebody quiet, to get them off your back as it were.
And you may even have meant it when you adopted those other person’s goals for you. But having adopted them only at an intellectual level and you hadn’t really bought into them at an emotional level, you find you are not working them; and even when you try to, you encounter internal conflict… and it gets harder than it otherwise would have been, it gets draining and it gets difficult to sustain…
So, what to do?
1. Give yourself a break! Most people I come across are reasonable and responsible; they work very hard and still push themselves to do more and more: they over-commit and over extend themselves; they achieve so much and then beat themselves up about procrastinating in a few other places!
2. Review your goals and planned actions periodically. Sometimes your desires may change, and it is okay to be honest with yourself to do a U-turn on your stated goals: that is not a crime!
3. Choose to give up the people-pleasing! (Haven’t you noticed that those people you are working so hard to please are hardly pleased anyway?) Seek to know yourself, your heart and your mind and go for what feels right for you (remember we are working within a legal, moral and ethical framework always!)
4. Know that it is okay to change your mind, your goals and action plans any time you want to
5. Appreciate yourself for what you are able to do (which is usually more than what you’ve left undone)
And finally, remember that life is not all about doing actions and achieving goals. The journey itself and what we learn, how we grow along the way is at the very least, as worthwhile as achieving even the most genuine of goals.
So, set your destination, put on your walking shoes and enjoy the hike!