“I’ll do it tomorrow” – the greatest labour saving statement ever uttered, because as the cliche goes, tomorrow never comes. We’ve all been in that situation. We all have things we need to do, things we must do, even things we actually want to do and yet we don’t do them? What’s the matter with us? The prognosis is that we’re suffering from a deadly brain disease called procrastination. So what is it and what’s the cure?
Firstly, it is not laziness. Procrastination does not mean inactivity, quite the opposite. It requires a great deal of exhaustive effort directed at any, usually irrelevant, task other than the pertinent quest at hand.
Secondly it’s not through ignorance or lacking something. It is not through lack of a good plan. It is not through lack of good advice. It is not the lack of ability. It is not lack of intelligence. Neither is it lack of time nor money.
Thirdly, and most oddly, it is not because we don’t want the outcome.
Why, when we know what to do, do we still not do it? Why do we fall short? Why the sabotage?
The answer is quite mundane. We all operate on a basis of taking a course of action that leads to the least hassle. We’re all familiar with the scenario: if today is Monday and we’re aware of a certain job that is needed to be completed by Friday morning it would be quite likely to be perceived as a lot of hassle to do the job now. However come Thursday night something interesting happens – we’re suddenly aware that they’ll be more hassle if the job isn’t done. So we do it.
If we break down our motivation even simpler it leaves us with this conclusion: every action we take is designed to lead us to pleasure or to move us to avoid pain. The avoidance of pain (or hassle) is usually stronger than the desire for pleasure. This is why we tend to fight stronger to hold onto something we already have rather than to strive for something better. We associate more pain to acting than to not acting.
So what can we do about it?
If you’re not acting on something and you know you need to or want to but simply don’t, you need to change one of three things about yourself. First you must accept the concept that if you keep doing the things you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting the things you’ve always got. Something’s got to change and it isn’t an external thing either. We have to take responsibility for our in-actions as well as our actions.
Your life is your emotions. There are three forces that control your emotions. The first is physiology that is your biochemistry and the movement of your body. The second is your language, the questions you ask, the metaphors you use, the stories you tell yourself and others about yourself which all re-enforces the third force which is your beliefs and values.
Change one of these three emotion controlling areas, your emotions will change. When your emotions change, your life will change. If you can’t control your emotional state then you must be addicted to certain emotions. You literally could be addicted to the hormones and neurotransmitters that are released when you’re in that particular emotional state. In fact that’s all any addiction is, only instead of an artificial stimulus to trigger the endorphin release such as a drug, you’re doing it with your physiology, your language and your movement.
It’s possible to be addicted to depression, to negativity and to sloth. The good news is it’s just as easy to be addicted to joy, to optimism and to positive action. The choice comes to what you do with your body – do you sit around slouching or get up and move around? With your language – do you repeat the same phrases, use negative terms and dismiss things? Do you believe ‘it can’t be done’ or ‘this always happens to me’ or other global self-defeating phrases?
Just change them. It’s easy to change them. If you’re dismissive of that fact and think it’s hard to change them – watch out! You may have to consider that you might be addicted to cynicism. Consider what affects that addiction may have on future opportunities.
The only thing that prevents you from having what you want is the story you tell yourself which says you can’t have it.