Everyone procrastinates, but why?
Out of fear: fear of failure, fear of something difficult or uncomfortable or confusing. And where does this fear come from? An ideal: that we’ll succeed, that things will be comfortable and fairly easy, that we’ll know what we’re doing. Let’s take the case of Nathan, who has a thesis paper to write. He’s been putting this thesis off for months now. I know, he’s probably the first person ever to put off a thesis paper.
What’s stopping him? Well, it’s a big overwhelming task, complicated and a bit confusing. He knows it will take days, even weeks to work on, and so it’s built up a huge status in his head. He’s not even sure where to start, and the thought of having to do all that tedious research and writing is scary. It’s all scary. So the fear of all this makes his mind want to run to easier things, from reading things online to social media to watching TV shows.
Nathan’s fear comes from an ideal that he doesn’t even think about, but that’s there nonetheless. The ideal is that life will be comfortable and easy. That he’ll know what he’s doing and feel competent and successful. When things don’t meet up with this ideal, he avoids them.
When you have an ideal, you fear not meeting the ideal. You hold onto this ideal, and in your mind it becomes real. So what can Nathan do about this ideal that’s causing the fear that’s causing the procrastination? How can he overcome all of this to get his thesis done?
He can let go of the ideal. Life doesn’t have to be easy — in fact, the hard stuff is how we achieve anything of value. Life doesn’t have to be comfortable — in fact, when we get out of our comfort zone, we grow. He doesn’t have to know what he’s doing — it’s when we do things we don’t know how to do that we learn new things, new skills, and get better at them.
He can be grateful for the difficulty that leads to achievement, the discomfort that leads to growth, the uncertainty that leads to learning. He can let go of the ideal, and so it won’t be so scary. He can accept that things will be difficult and uncomfortable, embrace that, and do it anyway. He can be present with the task, and do it in this moment. Let go, accept, embrace, be present, do. A cure for
About the author
Leo Babauta is the creator of Zen Habits, a blog about simplicity, habits and mindfulness. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and six kids.