Why You Don't Need To Solve Procrastination
Years ago, my parents had a cold tub in their basement by the sauna.
The water in it was around 4 degrees celsius.
It was C-O-L-D.
Over the years, I tried countless different mental approaches to make getting in the ice cold water easier.
Sometimes I would psych myself up to get in.
Other times I would tell myself how great I would feel after, that it's really not that bad, or to man up and take it.
Yet none of my approaches seemed to make it any easier to get in that freezing cold water.
Every time it was a terrifying, uncomfortable experience.
It wasn’t until one time I got in without thinking about it at all that everything changed.
As I got in without thinking, I was amazed at how easy it was.
Gone were the debates I would have in my head about how on one hand I should do it and how how I didn't want to do it on the other.
Instead of the exhausting mental debate, there was just the physical sensation of the cold water.
Rather than label my experience (“terrible”, “uncomfortable”, “cold”, or “heroic”), I just sat in the cold water and allowed myself to experience it as it appeared to me in that moment.
Doing this countless times over the years has taught me something about discomfort and fear.
In the words of Michael Neill (who said it better than I ever could):
“We are not afraid of what we think we’re afraid of - we are afraid of what we think.”
What that means to me is that we are not actually afraid of discomfort or others opinions, but rather we are afraid of what we think about it.
Our thoughts are the true fear - not the people, circumstances, sensations, or events out in the real world.
So how does this apply to procrastination?
The more you think about how uncomfortable, boring or pointless something is, you have already stepped into the mental world of your thinking, and the world you've created is uncomfortable, boring or pointless.
That is literally the worst it's going to get.
The more we try to psych ourselves up, talk positively or focus on the outcome, the more thinking we have about procrastinating.
And the more we think, the more intense our experience gets.
On a fundamental level, we create our world through thought, then we forget that we created it, and we blame that made up world for our feelings.
It's a rather amusing game we play with ourselves when we see it for what it is.
But since we can't recreate the world on a whim, we can at least our change our relationship to our made up world.
In practice, that means letting our thoughts be and getting on with our task or project regardless of whether we feel like it or not.
Just like Messi or LeBron James occasionally have a sudden stroke of genius on the field, they have to be in the game to make use of it.
If they were sitting on the bench waiting to feel inspired and creative, by the time the feeling came and they jumped on the court to do something, it would be too late.
Similarly, we need to be in the game - writing, creating, solving, meeting, or sharing - for motivation and inspiration to find us and be of use.
As someone who used to procrastinate a lot (I sometimes joke that I put the PRO in procrastination), procrastination is no longer a problem in my life.
Not because I have strong will power.
Not because I am so good at motivating myself.
Because I don't and I'm not.
Rather, when there’s something that needs doing that I don’t want to do, I just start and don’t give my thoughts that say otherwise any attention.
It’s remarkable how easy and effortless shitty jobs become when we stop obsessing about how shitty, unjust, boring or pointless they are.
I simply become one with the task at hand, the problem I am trying to solve or the person in front of me.
And there, motivation and inspiration are able to come and lift me up.