The Habit of Procrastination

I am a bundle of feelings right now. I have not written in this blog for quite some time. My interests and desires have been elsewhere. Work. The worries of life. Self. Many of us either have been there or are there now.

But this has helped me to examine the motive for our actions if we have this habit. This habit, that I speak of can be explained like this. You have strayed away from something you know you need to do. You are procrastinating from doing it because you do not want the feeling of guilt about inaction. It is easier to not do it and say that you just stopped rather than deal with that feeling when you do start.

You can actually turn it backwards and look at quitting a habit or addiction like smoking (some of us can talk about this because we have faced it). Quitting smoking involves changing a character trait or modifying it. It is easier sometimes to start up again, say “I failed” and not have the struggle than to keep the struggle going. We get relief from starting up again. Yes, relief. Relief from the battle. Relief from everyone asking about our struggle. Relief from wondering what we actually can do with our hands since we are not smoking. It is easier than changing ourselves.pablo (1)

Turning it back around, though, what about things we are supposed to do, should do or are “expected” to do.

Some are simple.

Some are hard.

Simple things like writing in the blog. You know that you feel more complete and whole when you do. It allows you to “empty” your soul or rant or whatever but it is beneficial to you. If you do not type that much normally, it helps to improve this skill at least. But it takes the effort to do so.

Hard things like saying goodbye to a friend or loved one, whether they have died or just gone away for a while. Having to suffer the emotion, knowing that tears may be involved, we shy away because it is easier. It is easier because we can deal with others temporarily thinking about why we didn’t say goodbye or visit the surviving family rather than suffering through personal heartache and transparency. We would rather choose the road that is easy; the freeway; the road more traveled, so to speak.

Well, then there is this saying that I put together. It goes like this.

Restriction: I can’t do it
Procrastination: I’ll get around to it
Inspiration: I’ll do it when I feel like it
Perspiration: I will do it no matter what

Some people say “Man Up!” (or “Woman Up!”). Some say “Get some balls already!”. I say “The only way to get it done is to figure out how to do it and get after it!”. Why? Because the habit of procrastination kills. A part of you dies every time you procrastinate. I have heard so many stories of people who died shortly after retiring because they didn’t plan on what to do, had nothing to do and lost purpose. When we procrastinate, we lose purpose. In fact, it carves away at our very lives. It provides us a way to lose our lives and purpose rather than enrich them.

In previous writings, we have looked at failure and the circumstances we cannot change; things that happened that are in the past or did not happen because of something we did. Those are things that cannot change.

This is something we can. We can change the way we do things. We have the ability to change how we do things. You may say “I don’t know how”. Find out how. Try something different. If you find yourself doing something that keeps you away from the purpose that you desire to do, look at what you did that led you to doing that (this is common for computer troubleshooters). Examine what you did previous to the action that happened and do something different. Do something that you see leading yourself towards a better result.

You can change the way you do things…but you can’t and won’t, if you don’t.

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Reconsidering Failure – Part 1

There is a time in life that does not come around very often, when the decision to let some things go is hard.  Letting some activities go are considered by some as a failure…and really, what is wrong with that?  If we do not eliminate some things in our life that do not have purpose, our lives become cluttered and purposeless because we are not making adequate use of our resources.  It all becomes a jumbled mess.

 

So how do you decide what stays and what to boot?  Many things that get voted out may actually be a desire that goes very deep but where is the purpose?  Some projects or passions are those that you want to rekindle or feel guilty about not learning them in your past, but are they a catalyst for your purpose or just something to complete to check off of the bucket list?

 

Many things in life that we have failed at, we try to go back and start again because we have issues with failure.  We cannot allow ourselves to fail for some reason.  Here is an example of something that I am eliminating:

 

For many years, I have wanted to learn how to program, learn HTML, maybe even build an app.  When I started college (again) about 6 years ago, it was my major.  I struggled with it, learned a little at a time, completed a couple of courses and actually got 4 different IT certifications.  I built a website, learned how to manipulate it a little and then, after a couple of years of inactivity, I started to brush up on what I had forgotten.  I just recently completed my degree in a completely different field of study than computer science and still I feel a sense of failure that I did not get my degree in programming.

 

As of a couple of weekends ago, after long bouts of inner struggle, I have decided to abandon further education on programming.  Why?  Because of many reasons:

  1. There are many people in my life who can do it faster (and cheaper) than I could do it myself.
  2. It is not my passion, although my passions are not quite refined yet for this time in my life. It is only an interest.  I can marvel at other people doing programming well.
  3. I see that I am just not “wired upstairs” to learn this material at an efficient speed. I can be satisfied with having SOME of the knowledge and be happy that I am not totally ignorant of the programming process.
  4. I feel that it is taking away from the passions I have, rather than contributing to them.

So back to the question:  Why is there still a sense of failure inside rather than just realignment?

Failure.

It is a word that has developed a reputation from school, business and life.

“You got an F.  You failed that class”

“The business failed.  It had to be shut down”

“His heart failed and he passed away”

When looking at the meaning of “failure”, the reputation follows it but is not the actual definition.

  1. lack of success
  2. when someone does not do something
  3. someone/something not successful
  4. when something no longer works
  5. loss of quality/ability

Ummm…if you look at this list, you can probably fit each of those descriptions into events that happen in one work day.  So what is the problem with failure?  Putting things in a process, we can see that it is the reaction following that makes the resulting stigma.  When you had a lack of success one day at work, did you quit your job?  What about when you didn’t do something?  Something wasn’t successful?  When something didn’t work?  When you had a loss of quality or ability?  Did you just quit altogether?

The reaction is where the effect is either limited or exaggerated.  This is a key factor because it relates to so much in our lives.

Part 2 is developing…

The Passion Cycle

I remember when I was in my twenties and starting out working at a job.  It was a career choice that would have made sense if I would have been cut out at it.  But I was unsatisfied because it didn’t satisfy my “passion”.  I had always dreamed of being a philanthropist or psychologist who had a level of importance and authority that people looked to for help or guidance.  I did not want the authority to tell people what to do…I just wanted to know the answer to their problem and help them find their way.  Funny thing is, I couldn’t find my own.

I had read (or skimmed through) a book called “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow”.  What a grand scheme this book had.  Do what you really love to do and it will sustain you.

That mantra still carries on to today.  Many people, unhappy with their jobs and/or line of work, have taken the path of following their passion thinking that they can enjoy life more because of it…and a few times they do…very few.  In the meantime, they go through the cycle of

PassionCycle

  1. quitting their job to follow their passion,
  2. passion doesn’t produce results needed,
  3. get mad at passion and leave,
  4. take job that is even more unfulfilling,
  5. trying to find new passion

and so on.

Now some people may say that this is good because you actually get to know yourself and evolve through a process of elimination.  This is true I believe but for many who take this route, there is a habit of the cycle and it is never-ending.  In fact, it can be debilitating and destructive to a person’s overall life.  When reading this, did the thought run through your mind about people and intimate relationships?

While not everyone has this happen in personal relationships, just looking at the cycle and taking that angle, you can see how destructive it can be to someone’s life.  So I want to take a different look at this scenario…a cause and effect look.

Let’s just imagine the ultimate goal that is being aimed at.  The ultimate goal is to enjoy what do.  Enjoy life.  Maybe experience the “flow” that once tasted, can sometimes become a passion to find it again.  Nonetheless, the goal is to do something that you enjoy doing and not to get trapped in the hunt for it.  Without trying to imagine what that is exactly, imagine the feeling.  What does it feel like?  Is it you standing around, grinning all the time?  No, that would be weird.  What is the feeling?  Is it accomplishment…importance…authority…creating?  Find the feeling and the action of it.

This takes a little time to figure because it may not be a certain thing, but a feeling that is being sought as the goal.  Now remember, this is the goal and not the means of getting there.  And one other thing:  the means are temporary and build upon each other.  You cannot get to the goal and be done and be fulfilled.

So with this in mind, how do you get there…to each means.  Well, just as a sturdy house is built with one brick at a time, your means are built one step at a time.  Here is the interesting part though:  you do not have to search for that perfect job.  You can find that first step where you are right now.  You see, sometimes people do not let themselves get into their jobs well enough to experience that “flow”.  They yearn for the steps to the great goal to be like that goal.  For example, if their goal is to be an authority in a certain field, they seek to be recognized for each “brick” or step and when they are not, the temptation of starting that cycle happens.

So keeping that vision of building a brick house, what is it built upon?  A foundation.  Have you ever seen a foundation without the house?  Is it just a slab of concrete? No, there are things set in it before the concrete is poured to make everything in the future fit correctly:  plumbing, electrical, etc.  and a lot of digging before all of that.  If a contractor keeps moving to a different lot before the digging is done or while the foundation is being built, all that is left is a bunch of holes and messes.

Preventing that mess requires steps being followed and that “flow” can be found in each step if the goal is kept in mind.  In reading the book by Jim Collins, Good to Great, he talks about a POW named Admiral Jim Stockdale and how he survived being held in captivity for 8 years.  The statements made by Stockdale can be directly applied to this post:

“I never lost faith in the end of the story.  I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life…This is a very important lesson.  You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end, which you can never afford to lose, with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

He developed systems for his fellow captives to handle torture, communicate and deal with captivity.   He gave them purpose, keeping the ultimate goal in focus.  Interestingly enough, he stated that the captives who did not survive were the “optimists” as he called them.   Those “optimists” would talk about getting out by Christmas, and Christmas would come and go.  Then by Easter, then by Thanksgiving, etc. and in his own words, “they died of a broken heart”.

What does this say about goal setting to you?  Four things are evident

  1. Setting goals (dates, milestones, quotas) for the steps to the ultimate goal is good but can be destructive if the STEP takes the prominent place of the GOAL. (How many times do you want to break and mend your own heart?)
  2. Small failures will happen. It is a part of the process.  (Ask a contractor if they ever built a house with no failures or mistakes)
  3. Setting up systems for small purposes that point to the overall goal or purpose can lead to sustainability.
  4. Keeping your eye on the ultimate goal is the key to perseverance.

What is great about this is that it can be started immediately, at any stage in life, at any part in your career and make a difference in your life as well as those around you.  Find your “flow” WHERE YOU ARE.  Set up systems for those small purposes that point to the overall goal.  Set up goals for your steps but do not make them what you live by.  Keep your eye on the ultimate goal and stay out of a destructive cycle.

Trust and fear

So I have been on vacation (as you could probably tell) and have not posted for a few days.  I have been working on some other projects and spending time with my family.  This post has been in the incubator for a couple of weeks and brewing during that time.  I am scolding myself in much of it but many of my posts are aimed at myself and you get the brunt of it as well.  Welcome back…it’s therapy time.

I have heard that when analyzing problems, when you get to the 5th “why”, you are probably at the source rather than the symptoms.  Sometimes, habits that are holding us back are sourced by something totally different and deeper.  Just like putting a bandaid on cancer…

Dig a little deeper