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(The following is a translated excerpt from, “Now, Let’s Design a Mind," written by Roxas Yong)
Procrastination is something almost everybody deals with. You can start right now, but would rather put it off until tomorrow. You can clearly make some progress today, but insist on waiting until next week.
Procrastination is hard to avoid, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
In my opinion, most of us only tend to procrastinate a little. If you are diagnosed with being a serious procrastinator and you know that you tend to procrastinate heavily, please listen carefully to what your psychologist has to say. Otherwise, continue reading.
Imagine yourself about to start carrying out a plan you have made. You might have made it yesterday or the day before that or even a month or a year ago. This plan is your goal. However, you keep putting it off and you feel frustrated because of it. Imagine the following. You want to read, but instead of reading you’re going to carry out your plan. Even if it only takes half an hour or fifteen minutes, are you going to do it?
No. You’re not.
You’re definitely not going to do it right now, you will think of a reason not to.
It’s too late now, it’s too early, I have to go out later, I’m having dinner in a while, I will have time tomorrow, I will have time in two days, I want to eat first, I want to sleep first, I need to go to the toilet, I want to quickly check Twitter and Facebook and so on.
When you sum up all these excuses, you will notice your mind is headed in the same direction every single time: the future.
These excuses arise because your thoughts are directed towards the future. The future means unlimited possibilities and uncertainty; it implies that you still have time. This is not the sole reason though. When you’re about to carry out your plans, other elements enhance your procrastination as well, such as it might not be challenging enough, you currently don’t have the energy or motivation to do it or it does not necessarily have to be done right now. These kinds of errors in reasoning lead to procrastination.
You don’t have a future
A young man was feeling frustrated with himself and was terribly confused and uncertain about his future. He felt he couldn’t do anything right. He didn’t feel like doing anything.
He went to the beach alone to vent his worries and breathe in the sea air. On the beach there was an old man who saw the helpless and troubled face of the young man. He asked, “Is something troubling you, youngster?”
The youth was stunned for a second, and then answered awkwardly, “I’m fine.”
The old man continued, “I can tell you’re vexed. All young people are the same. I was young once. I get it.”
“You do? Well actually, I am worried about my future.”
The old man laughed, “Youngster, you don’t have a future.”
At first, the young man was baffled. But then he felt anger bubbling up in his chest. He thought, “I might not have accomplished anything, but you can’t just deny my future.” An angry look started to appear on his shocked face.
The old man expressionlessly gazed at the distant ocean and seemed not in the least aware of the youth’s anger.
“Youngster, you don’t have a future, only now.”
Doesn’t this youngster feel familiar?
Since your goals are still so far away, you still have a lifetime to do things, so let’s just start tomorrow. The next day passes and it’s the day after that. You keep procrastinating endlessly. Of course you know this, but there is still no way of keeping yourself from procrastinating.
I know Rome wasn’t built in a day and some problems seem never-ending. The first step is only the first of thousands to come.
A new small clock hung next to an old big clock. Every hour they would both strike once.
Looking upon the old clock the small clock felt respect and asked, “Master, how many times have you struck until now? How many hours have you counted?”
The old clock answered, “Eighty seven thousand one hundred and eleven times.”
The small clock was stunned. Eighty seven thousand times! What a difficult and endless journey that must be.
“Old clock, I greatly admire you,” the small clock said. “I would never be able to accomplish what you have done!”
“There is no need for admiration,” the old clock replied. “You only have to care about every coming second, then every chime is within reach.”
You really don’t need “the future”
Keith Chen’s TED Talk on how our languages influence our savings behavior further strengthens my perspective.
I will quickly summarize his conclusions. Those who are interested and have the time can click on the link to watch the video.
People’s savings behavior differ because of the different languages we use, that is, the language we think in. The more descriptive your language is regarding the future, the less people tend to save. On the other hand, the less descriptive your language, the more you will save.
For instance, if you’re just about to carry out a plan you have but the language you think in does not contain concepts like “tomorrow,” “the day after tomorrow,” “next week” and “next month,” you don’t have a precise time frame to comfort yourself or motivate you to procrastinate. You’re only aware that “in the future” you have to do something. But how long before the future arrives? Sorry, you don’t know. Because of this, you’re unable to separate “right now” and “the future.”
When your language can meticulously describe every single day in the future, you can accurately deceive yourself into procrastinating. Only then does your self-deception seem reasonable and acceptable. The future seems limitless; you still have so many weeks, so many months, so many years in front of you.
On the contrary, if you don’t think about how long it takes and what time you should start, you are left with only one choice: right now.
Just stay at home for dinner
How to you improve yourself?
It is crucial to not tell yourself you need motivation or “a push.” These are just empty words. If this is not the problem, then you have to change your planning instead of trying to cure your procrastination. You have to limit your choices to right now.
If your choices include your entire future life, it’s like walking into a restaurant with a hundred different dishes. These dishes are like your excuses and every dish can satisfy and comfort you. With so many options, so many tomorrows to choose from, are you likely to stick to your original plans?
If you’re eating at home, your parents might only make two dishes. When you have only two choices in front of you and you have to eat right now, you’re not going to think twice and will start eating immediately.
I’m going to say it once more: you don’t have a future, only now.
Translated by Stijn Wijker
Edited by Olivia Yang