There isn’t a person among us who doesn’t procrastinate, i.e. put off your work for the day, distract yourself, put off pursuing your dreams, put off putting your work out in the world for fear of being judged.
But here’s the thing: most people think that this procrastination is a problem.
Most people stress out about being a procrastinator and feel bad about themselves for doing it.
Au contraire (that’s French, don’t bother looking it up, it means you’re way wrong).
Instead, procrastination is the perfect place to practice all the most important life skills.
Our tendency to procrastinate is exactly how we’ll see how our minds work, and learn to be better at all the difficulties of life. Because life will always have these difficulties, no matter how much we’d prefer to avoid them, and how we respond to them will determine everything.
Let’s work on our responses to the hardest things in life.
How We Usually Respond
When we procrastinate, this is the usual process:
- We have something difficult or uncomfortable to do.
- We don’t feel like doing it because it’s difficult, uncertain, uncomfortable.
- Our minds habitually turn away from this task and find a more comfortable, certain thing to do, like watching videos or playing games or checking email or social media.
- We run to the easier thing, and then put off even thinking about the other thing.
- We feel bad that this happens, and start to form a negative image of ourselves. We rain harshness and criticism upon our psyche.
This makes us less likely to do better the next time around. It’s a vicious cycle, I tell ya.
We can learn to do better.
Procrastination is an Opportunity, Not a Suckfest
So what should we do instead? Ideally:
- We set a hard task before us.
- We feel the difficulty, but see this as a signpost that we’re pushing into uncertain ground.
- Then we relish the opportunity to push into uncertain ground and dive in with gusto. (I love the word “gusto,” btw.)
But that’s not where we are. We have to practice in this way:
- Set a hard task, feel like procrastinating because it’s uncertain and uncomfortable.
- Start to procrastinate by going to something easy.
- Once we’ve switched over and noticed that we’re procrastinating, we pause. This Pause is the key to everything.
- We see this Pause as an opportunity to practice a key life skill, and we light up with joy. And yes, gusto.
- We practice with discomfort and uncertainty. What does it feel like? Is it horrible? Can we work in the midst of it? Can we open up to the discomfort of it all, embrace the uncertainty, and see it as a beautiful part of what we’re doing?