On the danger of procrastination

Often, we only learn the true dangers of procrastination when it's too late.Okay. So, when I say there’s a downright danger of procrastination, some people might immediately call hyperbole.

And that is part of the danger itself.

Let’s face it: We all procrastinate to a certain extent. Even that one annoyingly productive over-achiever in your class or on your office.

Hell, even highly successful people procrastinate. However, that doesn’t make it right, and we all know it.

When we procrastinate, there’s often a certain element of justification in that we, however half-assedly, tell ourselves that we have enough time. And therefore, we’ll do something ‘later’. Or even ‘tomorrow’.

Another part of the danger of procrastination, however, is that, as they say, tomorrow never comes.

There is only the here and the now. That’s it.

But wait a minute! I’ve had a new day come every single day of my life!

… And that’s yet ANOTHER part of the problem.

We humans have the ability to think in abstract terms, also when it comes to chronology. Even though all we experience is right here and now, our highly evolved memory and logic along with our knowledge of the human lifespan (and even of history) allows us to not only think but plan ahead.

Not only in terms of hours and days, but months, years, and, for some, maybe even full decades.

We KNOW perfectly well that the Earth is gonna continue to revolve around the sun. And of course we HAVE to plan ahead because we can’t DO all of our tasks and undertakings right here and now.

And here’s where it really becomes a lose/lose-situation for us…

Even though we’re aware of the danger of procrastination, we might do it anyway. Because procrastination pays off instantly.

The danger of procrastination is treacherous, because unlike procrastination itself, its harmful effect is anything but immediate. The danger of procrastination lies in the risk of finding out much too late exactly how fatally procrastination harms our dreams and wishes for the future.

Okay, so how do we avoid this??

Well, if we wanna be able to overcome procrastination, we need to be better at prioritizing.

Or, indeed, DOWN-prioritizing.

See, the good news is, we should forget about multitasking and only work on that ONE proverbial thing at a time. Because multitasking, as it turns out, does more harm than good.

So, we get to do one thing at a time. This means, we need to figure out what’s most important. It also means, we get to do this one thing in designated blocks of time.

… And then, in the gaps between, we can schedule a little time for the things we would have done procrastinating.

How ‘bout that??

See, it’s not necessarily the things you do when procrastinating that are dangerous in themselves. It’s the very HABIT of procrastination that’s dangerous.

And what’s even better is, the more we get used to only working on one thing at a time, the more we hone our focus, — which is not only good for a lot of things, but detrimental towards procrastination.

The danger of procrastination can be mitigated, and even prevented. But, as with everything else that’s rewarding in the long-term, it takes focus, and effort. And you’re not gonna get there by procrastinating.

ACTION POINT:

1. Make a list of all your to-do’s for the next week.
2. Next, make a new list where you sort the items in order of urgency, relevance and payoff. The most urgent, relevant and/or potentially rewarding goes higher than the rest.
3. When done, you should, ideally have a fully prioritized to-do list for the next week. The top item is what you should primarily focus your energy and attention on.
4. Remember: You might not need to get them all done by the end of the week. The point here is simply to get familiar with prioritizing.

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Do you sometimes confuse pleasure and happiness?

We all confuse pleasure and happiness. Are you doing anything about it?Let’s be honest here: We’re all confusing pleasure and happiness sometimes.

We’ve all found ourselves dicking around on the internet instead of studying.
We’ve all tried ruining our appetite by snacking on junk food instead of at least something healthy.
And maybe we’ve all been in a relationship that we knew was going bad but couldn’t get ourselves to end. Because the comfort, safety, kisses and caressing touches seemed far more appealing than the uncertainties and stigmatizations of being single.

Sure, some are prone to this more than others. But none of us are able to flawlessly distinguish between where one ends and the other takes over.

(Indeed, there probably is no such fine distinction.)

Just to make sure we’re on the same page here, pleasure is an immediate sensation of enjoyment. Often brought on by sensory stimulus, whether eating an entire bag of chips, watching Netflix all day, abusing alcohol, having sex, or gambling. In other words, an externally triggered instant gratification.

Happiness, on the other hand, is purely internal, and cultivated more slowly and meticulously. Happiness stems from a sense of confidence and purpose. — Two things that I’ve found to be related in quite a few ways.

Paradoxically, happiness comes from feeling good about continually doing the things that might not bring you immediate pleasure, but which you know will bring you… Well, happiness!

With happiness being less attainable, it’s no wonder why so many people seem to be virtually chasing one high of pleasure after another.

By the way, in my opinion, there’s nothing necessarily bad about taking one night of decadent partying, comprising alcohol and sex galore, followed by a day of restitution, comprising chips and Netflix galore.

In fact, I deliberately do this every month. Because I’m only human; because I wanna live my one life to the max every once in a while; and because acute pleasure does not in itself rule out long-term happiness.

However, there’s something wrong about chasing instant gratification to an extent where it substitutes any happiness you might’ve had otherwise. And it seems most of us are far too prone to chase pleasure rather than happiness.

It’s not that it’s any surprise. In the words of Tony Schwartz, “enduring happiness often requires delaying gratification”. In other words, choosing happiness over pleasure IS harder for us.

But one thing is that it’s hard for us to deny ourselves pleasure; another is that it’s treacherously easy to get pleasure and happiness mixed up.

In fact, neuroscientists have even mapped out the hedonic brain circuitry — the part of our brain responsible for rewarding pleasure-seeking — speculating on the “potential interaction of hedonics with eudaimonic networks“.

… Meaning, in other words, that the two areas are difficult to distinguish even from a neuroanatomical standpoint.

(So don’t worry!)

Like with the above example of choosing to stay in a stillborn relationship because it feels better, it can also seem better. Of course we know that eating a burger meal instead of salad isn’t exactly healthy. But that’s not the only way we might confuse pleasure and happiness. Far from it.

And what I’ve found is that the lower one’s confidence, the lower one’s level of awareness. And the lower one’s level of awareness, the harder it is to make the crucial distinction between pleasure and happiness. — Necessarily!

It’s true that certain pivotal factors determining our happiness is beyond our control. For example, the global economy might impact certain local conditions adversely. And, by the way, anything else imaginable from civil war to our internet connection going down.

Other factors, we might be able to influence. Some people seem to be genetically more prone to depression than others. For certain ones, it’s probably out of their hands. But for most people by far, the ability to influence one’s attitude towards the world is far greater than one thinks. It’s all a matter of continually improving thereupon.

And then, continuing in this vein, there is a vastness of factors which we THINK should affect our happiness, but really don’t matter. For example, if you’re letting your happiness depend on whether you have holes in your socks, or whether the other supermarket queue is faster, you seriously need to take your idea of happiness into reevaluation.

(And I’m telling myself this just as much as I’m telling you.)

So, then, how do we get better at making a distinction that probably isn’t even there in the first place?

Good question. Like I said, it has much to do with the aforementioned awareness. And awareness, like any other state of mind, can be trained and nurtured.

You might wanna start by doing the following:

Should you find yourself unable to make a choice because you can’t seem to distinguish between pleasure and happiness, ask yourself: Will this bring me short-term pleasure? Or, will this rather bring me long-term happiness?

Keep this in mind from now on. It will get easier over time.
ACTION ITEM:

Cut off as many external sources of pleasure — and, indeed, distraction — as possible. For as long as possible.

Which sources of pleasure and distraction do you have in your life?

Internet? Television? Smartphone? Social media? Junkfood and/or candy? Alcohol? Regular sex?

How many of these do you rely upon for comfort on a daily basis? Are you able to cut them all off? If not, then how many? And which ones?

The only way to find out just how truly happy and stable we are is to abstain. The longer we’re able to feel genuine happiness without the use of external stimulants, the stronger we are.

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5 stupid excuses for giving up

Your excuses for giving up are pathetic, and deep down you probably know it.Today, I’ll be presenting 5 stupid excuses for giving up. Last week, I wrote about consistency, and simply about giving up. Consider this post, then, the end of a trilogy.

There’s a saying that goes: “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.

Boom. Love it.

If a project is neither necessary or interesting for you anymore, there’s no shame in abandoning it. But otherwise, there are only excuses for giving up on working towards our deepest dreams and desires.

And I wage that there are only stupid excuses for giving up the project of building one’s confidence.

With that, I hereby line up five of these excuses and debunk them one at a time:

 

#1. “I’ve tried everything

First of all, no you haven’t. Because if you did, you’d have succeeded.

Second, let’s even say for a moment, hypothetically, that you’d literally tried everything and still not succeeded. Ask yourself what’s most likely: That A) somehow it just doesn’t work for you out of everyone who’s tried everything, ever, or that B) there’s one or more steps which you simply haven’t done properly.

 

#2. “It’s too hard

Too hard for what?? Nothing is “too hard” if you do it in achievable magnitudes. In other words: Break it down into smaller bits and don’t do more than possible at a time.

Even if you’re about to take on a major endeavour, you gotta start wherever you’re at. And all the better if you start slowly and accelerate gradually. If you’re gonna run a marathon, you’re not gonna start off by doing all 26 miles at once. But if you can run 20 minutes three times a week, you’re off to a decent start.

Wanna start your own business? Read the three best books in your field and you’ll be way ahead of the vast majority.

 

#3. “I’ve given up on everything else, once more won’t make any difference

This isn’t something we say out loud, but a piece of inner dialogue. It’s habitual thinking out of habitual action — or lack thereof. And it’s a painfully obvious result of low confidence and self-esteem.

If it’s important to you, it does so make a difference that you don’t give up. And that, plus the fact that you’ve given up on “everything else”, even if it’s an exaggeration, is all the more reason for you to not give up on this one.

 

#4. “I haven’t got the time

Just like the “I’ve tried everything” mindset, this mindset is one of limited resourcefulness. It’s probably the most common and reasonable one on here. — But it’s still no more than an excuse.

You see… WE ALL HAVE 24 HOURS EVERY DAY.

There is no such thing as “I haven’t got the time”. There is only wrong prioritizing and lack of energy, and these are amenable obstacles.

Getting a coach is a hugely effective way of solving this.

 

#5. “It feels safer and more comfortable doing what I’m used to

Like #3, this is one of those unsaid excuses we only tell ourselves, and that is just eerily close to its origin in fear, insecurity, and low confidence/self-esteem.

Look…:

The biggest risk is to bet your entire life on fear-based habits and instant gratification.

We’re here once. No reasonable basis for thinking otherwise. So let’s establish all the confidence we need. Let’s not waste our only chance by letting fear and insecurity get in the way.

Let’s stop coming up with dumb excuses for giving up on our true goals.

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Is your life running on autopilot?

Confident people do what they want. Non-fident people tend to be running on autopilot.Ever get the feeling your life is somewhat running on autopilot?

That you’re not really working on what you truly want, and that you’re putting off certain necessary things because you feel a need for instant gratification?

And, in turn, do you ever think that you “really should be doing” X? That you really “ought to be doing” Y? But maybe you can’t, because you “have to do” Z?

I know where you’re at. It’s not a good place.

Why would we allow ourselves to get there? Why would we allow ourselves to be running on autopilot like that?

As far as I can see, most people tend to let their lives run on autopilot to a certain extent. Not necessarily out of fear, but because they identify with what other ordinary people do, which is… Ordinary stuff.

Those who stand out are always the confident ones. Those who have the guts, the energy, and the resourcefulness to do what they want, and what’s necessary to get to where they want.

The non-fident ones, on the other hand, tend to be full-out running on autopilot. They tend to do whatever they do, because they feel like they “should”, or “have to”.

And, since this is essentially an inhibitive way of living, they tend to overcompensate on activities of instant gratification, e.g. getting drunk every weekend or slouching in front of the TV when not at work. — Effectively creating a loop of guilt and emptiness without purpose.

Oh, I’ve been there.

Does anyone genuinely want to live like that? Of course not. But many people feel obliged to, simply because they don’t know any better.

What do you mean by “know any better”?? What exactly do I need to know then?

Good question. And for that, you get the answer right here:

We “should” not do anything. We “ought” not do anything. In fact, we don’t even “have” to do anything.

There is only what we want to do, and what is necessary to do.

But then shouldn’t we do what’s necessary? Don’t we HAVE to do that?

Well, no. It’ll probably have consequences if you don’t. But really, we’re entirely free to do whatever we want.

Confident people know this. Confident people act from a mindset of freedom and safety. Whereas non-fident people tend to act from a mindset of desperation and captivity.

But what about paying my taxes? If I don’t pay my taxes, I’ll get punished somehow, right?

Probably, yes. But that’s not the point.

The point is, confident people do what they want AND what’s necessary.

Not because they feel forced into doing what’s necessary, but because they’re proactive about not having bad consequences happen to them — and about doing what they want.

Non-fident people, then, tend to do what others want. Or at least what they think others want. And, hence, to be running on autopilot.

I really ought to be doing my homework”.

I’m 30, I should be married by now”.

I have to get this report done on time”.

I hear bells ringing all around.

I’m not saying that one’s daily tasks and chores aren’t at all necessary. For the major part, they ARE more or less important. But they’re not necessarily essential to what we truly want to do.

ACTION ITEM:

This week, note your daily tasks by durance and importance. At the end of each day, and at the end of the week, add them all up.

How many hours a day do you spend on doing something you allegedly “have to”, “need to”, or “ought to”? How many hours a day do you spend on doing something you truly want to?

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