A number of years ago I had a conversation with a writer – I’ll call him Jack – who had a terrible problem with procrastination. He was widely acknowledged as an expert in his field. Yet he struggled to get anything written until the 11th hour. Literally. On the day of our conversation he had effectively been unable to start a complex piece until 11pm the previous evening, and had then worked for most of the night, just meeting the deadline. He felt stressed out of his mind a lot of the time. Interestingly he wasn’t actually feeling stressed while he was writing.
Sometimes I have experienced a bit of this too, even if not so extreme. One of the benefits of understanding how the 3 Principles Paradigm operates has been that this kind of procrastination and stress has diminished. And it is understanding alone that can be transformative. When I could see that the task is always simply the task and that any feelings about it are completely separate, there is less pressure. No task, however complex or lengthy has the power to create any feeling within a person. Only that person’s own thoughts about the task, about themselves or about anything else can create feelings. Because most of that problem creating thinking is going on invisibly, below the level of conscious awareness, the person feeling the paralysis and the stress will tend to attribute them to the circumstances in his life or even to make up circumstances. This is what was going on with Jack. He believed that he had a procrastination syndrome. It had become a thing that he was afflicted with. Sometimes he would go to battle with it, trying and failing with various time management strategies, then judging himself for his ‘inadequacy.’ All the time he would be worried that this could be the time he missed the deadline, and about what the consequences of that would be.
There was obviously another hidden belief in Jack: that the procrastination would drop at the 11th hour. With that too his internal prover proved what his internal believer believed. When he reached the 11th hour [which, again, was a point being determined by his own hidden thinking] his full ability was unleashed. This capacity had never been lost but was routinely overlooked while his procrastination thinking was holding sway. The moment his thinking cleared his genius was revealed.
In fact the whole thing was a product of Jack’s largely hidden thinking. The idea that it is possible to suffer from procrastination, as if it were a thing, like a virus, which could exist independently of thought, is a misunderstanding. However every time that thought or belief is entertained it appears true. And the escape route is grasping insightfully – understanding at depth – that the whole of the paralysing procrastination is simply a false belief which has been innocently and unbidden, created within. The catch is that there is a world difference between seeing that intellectually and having the kind of realisation, which brings release and transformation. But simply being open to the possibility that there is no syndrome which exists independently of moment to moment thought can begin to trigger an insight.
Often the insight occurs out of the blue as it did with me recently. I was walking after my working week had ended. I noticed that my head was full of a low hum of self critical thoughts about how little I’d achieved in the previous week. The thoughts had a life of their own. In a futile attempt to manage the discomfort I added some more thinking. I began making resolutions about being more organised the following week, or using time management tools or delegating, or even cutting my workload. Suddenly I had the insight: ‘I’m trying to change my world so that I will feel better. And I know that my feelings actually derive 100% from my thinking not from my circumstances.’ In that instant the hum of judgement, criticism and worry was gone. Taking care of business became a neutral matter which I could look at afresh on Monday. And I felt very grateful for the peace and the clarity which accompanied my insight.
Until that moment of insight it seemed inevitable to me that I needed to make changes in the world to change my feelings. I might even have felt tempted to decline opportunities. The moment the true cause and effect of the low hum became clear, I had a very different perspective on my business. Without doing anything, my head cleared and I felt better.
I hope some of this is helpful if you have experienced procrastination. And I am always happy to have a conversation…