Why We Procrastinate: The 5 Advantages of Procrastination
If fear is the enemy of pursuing dreams, procrastination is its weapon.
Procrastination kills our dreams and numbs our desires. It’s the most dreaded form of resistance. It’s an entrenched attitude that’s clever, persuasive, manipulative, and highly addictive.
We know procrastination is harmful, but we can’t help ourselves. We worry about it, but we procrastinate anyway.
Keeping with the analogy of addiction, there have to be perceived benefits to procrastinating that justify the addiction.
The advantages of procrastination
Here are a few procrastination rewards that feed the addiction, and perpetuate a cycle of inaction and struggle.
1- Avoiding discomfort and pain: By avoiding action, we avoid the challenges and struggles of doing something that scares us, or feels overwhelming.
2- Romancing the future: When we don’t act, we continue to yearn for what could be. We’re constantly looking at the greener grass of the future, anticipating and longing.
The stress of delaying action may not be enough to pull us out of the fantasy of the future. It’s more fun to imagine a wonderful future, instead of dealing with reality and getting to work.
3- A sense of mission: When we don’t get things done, or don’t even get started, we feel a sense of purpose and importance. We have something to do.
Imagine if you woke up and had nothing, absolutely nothing to do. How would you feel, realistically?
You might feel relieved and relaxed, but only for a short while.
We’re not accustomed to idleness. A mission, or something we have to do, keeps us going. Being busy with too many things to do is an ego booster. It makes us feel important.
4- Reinforcing helplessness: Every time we don’t do something we said we’re going to do, we send a message to the subconscious, or reinforce an existing message.
The message is painful and destructive, especially when repeated many times over: I’m not good enough, I can’t do it, I’m a loser, and so on.
We feed the same negativity, and over an extended period of time, we turn ourselves into victims—of our own doing.
Victimhood by nature absolves us of responsibility. We feel we lack any power in the face of circumstances and challenges.
Victimhood and procrastination continue to feed each other to no end.
5- Shield against failure: And this is a big reward. We can dive into planning, and set all the intentions to get down to business—one day in the future.
If we don’t do something, how can we possibly fail? Procrastination’s motto is: nothing ventured, nothing lost.
As you can see, procrastination appeals to our inner desire to avoid pain and seek pleasure.
In the short-run we can postpone action, avoid failure, and feel busy as we look forward to an imaginary outcome in the future.
But fast forward a few years, and we will feel the sting of unfulfilled dreams and desires, and the reality of avoidance will catch up with us.
How to overcome the procrastination addiction?
Like any addiction, the first step is realizing that procrastination does more harm than the short-lived perceived good. In other words, we can start by taking the so-called benefits and turning them around to uncover the high cost of inaction.
1- Delaying discomfort and pain also delays experiences, learning and growth. In the long run inaction and avoiding pain create a much deeper kind of suffering: regret, and apathy.
2- Fantasizing about the future doesn’t bring us any closer to our desires, right in this moment. Unfulfilled dreams remain a destination that keeps slipping farther away, until it feels out of reach. This weighs us down more, making it much harder to take action.
3- A mission that’s never actively pursued is not a mission—it’s a delusion, or a distraction at best. Sooner or later, we’ll realize that we’re only fooling ourselves by being busy doing nothing that’s important to us.
4- Helplessness and victimhood never feel good, past, present, and future. Feeling like a victim is a harsh self-inflicted punishment. We confine ourselves in a mental prison and relinquish our right and power to choose.
5- In attempting to protect ourselves from failing, we slam the door shut in the face of any possible success. Delaying the possibility of failure also delays the possibility of success and drags us deeper into the pit of inaction.
Every time you feel tempted to procrastinate, think about the payoff and find a turn around for it. The more you truly see the harm of the instantly gratifying payoff, the sooner you’ll get to action.
Moving forward into action
The only cure for procrastination is action. Thoughts and feelings don’t get us anywhere, unless they’re followed by action.
Here are a few ideas about action and struggle that might be helpful.
Embracing reality: It’s tempting to think about the time and opportunities wasted and wallow in regret. But that’s not going to do you any good. Focus on just this moment and decide to do one thing today. What would that be?
Focusing on action, not results: When we think of the totality of a dream or desire, we may feel overwhelmed and freeze.
When we focus on what we can do right now, and the action itself, we’re more likely to do it. Progress is the sum of simple action steps repeated over and over.
Living with fear: Fear and doubt will always be there. Acting in spite of fear is a skill that gets better with practice. Most of the time you won’t feel 100% sure or ready, but act anyway. Motion and progress tend to refocus a fearful mind.
Active Clarity: Clarity can only be gained from doing something and revising our approach along the way. The only thing we need when we start is a general sense of the end result.
Nothing ever turns out the way we expected it. And our imaginary mapped out ideas may overwhelm more than motivate.
Everything is a choice: Procrastination is a choice, a passive one, but still a choice. Just like we make a choice to procrastinate, we can choose to take action and move forward.
There are no magic potions or magicians: There is no magic solution to procrastination, and no one is more capable than you. The sooner you embrace this notion, the sooner you’ll stop looking for solutions and start taking action.
The power of consistency: Repeated small action is all we need. Keep going and somehow the universe extends a helping hand. Most routines start with one clumsy step, then another, then an inspiration comes along and we feel like we’re making progress.
Keep at it and revise as you go along. Stopping is the enemy of progress and improvement.
Procrastination happens, and will continue to happen. We don’t need to wage a war against it. All we need to do is see the hidden payoffs, consciously let them go, and choose action.