I’ve been procrastinating about writing this post all week, so I thought I’d write a post about procrastination. Why is it so hard to just get on with things?! I think there are two big reasons: (1) we think we have all the time in the world, and (2) we are frightened of failure.
It’s easy to put something off if we think there will be plenty of time to do it later. What we do (or don’t do) is all a matter of priorities: when we give something a high enough value, we will make time for it. We all make time to eat, don’t we, because it gives us an immediate sense of gratification (note: if you do not find time to eat, you really need to read this article!).
So, how do we prioritize? In particular, how do we prioritize a spiritual practice? It should be easy, because it’s only our practice of meditation that gives us real peace and happiness, and what could be more important than our happiness, right?
Yes, but (I hear you say), there is always something urgent that I have to do first, because it has an immediate deadline – I need to pick the kids up right now or they will be waiting at the school gate, I need to send this report right now or my boss will mount my head on the office wall… the list goes on. And on. And on. It will never end, until we die. Now that’s a real deadline.
Recognizing that life has a deadline is one of the most powerful ways of overcoming our procrastination: when we live with an awareness of our mortality, we really begin to question what’s important to us, what we should actually be doing first. I’m not saying that we should sit down and meditate instead of picking the kids up from school or finishing that report for work; but if we remember death then we will be motivated to do those things as a part of our spiritual life, not instead of it. We will make holding onto peaceful and positive states of mind our priority.
Which brings me to the second point: fear of failure. If our main focus is on developing our positive states of mind, we will not be so caught up by our usual criterion of success and failure. When things go wrong, we can learn from them; and if we’re able to keep a positive mind, that counts as a success even if our external activities have been a complete bust. Of course, sometimes we’ll fail at staying positive as well! That’s OK too, because we have still learnt something: we’ve learnt a bit more about how our mind works and how we respond, what our triggers are; and that knowledge will help us to succeed next time. As long as we keep our priorities straight, we can never fail, because our good motivation will always be leading us in the right direction.