Procrastination. We all react to the word, typically with an expression that resembles some level of physical discomfort. Try it, just say the word and watch whomever you are speaking to. Chances are they will wince, squirm, roll their eyes or if they are in good humor they may chuckle in that conspiratorial way that let’s you know that you are in on their secret but that’s okay. Because after all it is not secret. Most people, if asked, will admit to falling victim to the procrastination but at some point or another in their lives.
For some of us, it is more that just a minor problem, for some of us it can be downright paralyzing. There are times when I have been at war with my own mind over the subject. Now obviously there are some things we put off simply because they are unpleasant. A trip to the DMV to renew your licence plates, or a visit to the dentist. I know plenty of perfectly normal responsible individuals who will postpone those kinds of tasks. And the reason is, well, obvious.
But what about putting off something that will eventually benefit ones self? If you stand to gain something by doing a small simple task, what on earth is the ‘reason’ for procrastination. I tend to be the kind of thinker who once given an adequate reason, even if not necessarily rational. I can then turn my focus to a solution. I’m pretty good at talking sense into myself as long as I am armed with a working theory of “why”. In all the psychological, spiritual and self help books articles and journals I’ve read I’ve failed to find an explanation that fits. So I turned to my friends, most of whom are well educated, many in the social services or education field; and many who have themselves been through a fair amount of therapy or self help programs. Again, aside from some minor speculation, no great revelations. My therapist who is also a practicing shaman, may not always have an answer but will usually pull an evocative question out of his bag of tricks. You know the kind of question that instantly illuminates the path that leads you to your own answer. After all the answers to these “why” questions often vary from individual to individual. Even he was stumped. As a last resort I turned to my psychiatrist. We don’t talk much, he prescribes my anti anxiety meds and asks me if I’m safe. That’s about it. But I thought I’d give it a shot anyway, he seems kind of old school and I thought he might have some kind of Freudian subconscious defense mechanism explanation.
Nope. He told me to make a list.
Really? I could’ve gotten that from Dear Abby. It was becoming apparent that I was on my own on this journey.
The most recent example of this putting off something beneficial was my homestead tax form. I don’t know how it works in other states but in Wisconsin if you are low income, you can be eligible for a refund on rent you have paid in the past year. What’s not to love about that? And yet the form sat on my desk for close to two months. If I had done it immediately I’d have the money by now and I might be out enjoying a movie or a dinner at a restaurant instead of writing about procrastination. The good news is during that two months of not filling out the form and arguing with myself on a daily basis I might have reached a conclusion.
That is, that despite all the work I’ve done repairing my self esteem and quality of life, there are still bits and pieces of old thinking that linger somewhere in my subconscious. One of the most insidious old lies I somehow still hang onto is that “I don’t deserve good things, especially money”. It comes from the old belief that as long as there are people starving and suffering in the world it is wrong to have money. Which is completely irrational. First of all, my poverty is not going to lift anyone else out of poverty. Second, a few hundred dollars from the IRS is not going to launch me into the fortune 500 list. In fact, I will still be terribly in debt. And third, and most important, it is okay to have money. Fact. Fact that I need to repeat to myself daily.
I know I’ve written about this before and in between then and now I’ve probably been in and out of poverty mentality about 50 times. This is a lifelong battle for me. And it is the cause of much of my procrastination, because as I’ve been mindful about the things I put off they are most often things that would bring either money or some form of success and happiness.
Now I’m off to make a list. Not a to do list, but a list of all the reasons why I will not hold myself back from money, success or happiness.
And by the way, I mailed the form yesterday.
© 2010-2012 Nanakoosa’s Place, authored by Jennifer Hazard