Archive for December 28th, 2007

The Benefits of Procrastination

Posted on December 28, 2007. Filed under: Musings, Spirituality |

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If you were intrigued by this title, I’ll bet you thought this was going to be a humorous post, right? While I hope it will not be without its elements of whimsy, I’m quite serious about the subject. Just for fun, and anticipating the results, I “googled” the term “Procrastination”. The results, overwhelmingly, also included the word “Overcome”, as in, “How to Overcome Procrastination“, or “Let Go of Guilt, and Overcome Procrastination“, or this: “Perfectionism doesn’t Pay–Let Go of the Procrastination”.

Now, I’m all for letting go of habits which do not serve one, but is Procrastination really a habit, or just an opinion? “Every time you put off something you dislike, you strengthen the habit of not doing; practice avoidance instead of participation.” I’m struck by how the practice is treated as a bad character flaw. Why is it so bad?–Because it “stops” us from accomplishing what we “need” to get done. But, does it?

If we look closer at WHY we procrastinate….. Wait!, I must stop that last sentence before it goes any further. I, in fact, question whether or not we do actually procrastinate. What does the word really mean, after all?

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Procrastination: \proh-cras-tuh-NAY-shuhn\, noun:
1. To put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness.

transitive verb:
1. To postpone or delay needlessly.

Procrastination is from the Latin procrastinatio, formed from the verb procrastinare “to put off for tomorrow,” from pro-, “forward” + crastinus, “of tomorrow,” from cras, “tomorrow.”

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This is the popular definition, of course, but I have some “issues” with it. If I “procrastinate” according to this, I am lazy and/or careless. If this is true, then that’s quite a social stigma, and, naturally, I would not deliberately engage in this behavior. However I do. So what does that say about me? Some articles I read actually see “chronic procrastination” as a serious mental disorder, involving anomalies in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex. I would re-define the word as “choosing not to do that which does not seem fun in this moment”. With that definition, procrastination is quite sensible.

You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” — Louise L. Hay

Some of you will tell me that there are times we have to do things we don’t enjoy in order to accomplish a higher purpose, but, to be honest, I just don’t believe that. If I procrastinate a lot, I feel it’s time to take a serious look at the activity I’m putting off.

Why don’t I just do it? It doesn’t look, feel, or seem pleasurable.

Why not do it anyway, if it furthers my goals? Because it doesn’t look, feel, or seem pleasurable.

That’s it. Bottom line: It’s not fun. Sometimes we can convince ourselves, or train ourselves, or discipline ourselves to do a series of tasks which, on their own are not fun, but lead to accomplishments. Accomplishments, in many cultures, are often considered the measure of “success” (another term for another post!)

We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, [people] are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have — for their usefulness.” — Thomas Merton

In thinking of all this, I realize I have achieved some accomplishments in my life. I have some pieces of paper or parchment to prove this, along with some trophies and awards. I’m as proud of these as most would be, but it leaves me wondering if it was worth all the times I didn’t procrastinate, but did what I had to in order to gain the achievement. Had I procrastinated more, I might have discovered some things I wanted to do more; that were more fulfilling, and, ultimately contributed in a greater way to my fellow humans.

My favorite quote on the subject is this: “What is the definition of procrastination? It means: I can feel within my energy sensor that this action is not in perfect alignment at this time.” – Abraham

So, maybe it WILL be in perfect alignment tomorrow. Maybe never. This is a reminder to trust my joy-seeking apparatus, which knows what is right if I allow it to.

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