Hide-and-Seek with Your LIfe: Procrastination as a Lack of Objectivity

October 14, 2007

Peak-a-boo. I don’t see you! At least, I think you’re not there when I’m not looking. Maybe you’ll go away in the time I have my eyes shut! If I don’t think it, it won’t be there.

Somehow, that infantile imagined scenario (that ‘if I don’t see it, it’s not there!’) seems to seep right into even the most adult of lives. We just have a different name for it: procrastination. What a big word we’ve created for ourselves to make us feel special. To somehow rationalize the fact that we’re acting like a two year old.

I see this all the time in my college studies: ‘oh my, this is hard / a lot of work / etc. … I’ll just put it off a little while until I’m in a more resourceful mood!’ Presto, change-o… wait, it’s still not gone! The dilemma doesn’t disappear because I willed it out of my awareness.

I recognize this same tendency in my unwillingness to plan out my day. My very being seems to rail against the concept of putting the day to paper. Because then it’s concrete. Then it’s taken my small, childish hands and ripped them from my face. It’s hard to cover your eyes when your hands are tied behind your back.

Ultimately, that’s all there is to objectivity: it makes it that much harder to lie to yourself. That much harder to play hide-and-seek with yourself. The metrics, the lists, they’re all just the tools adults use to get beyond childhood. Though they do take practice. And a little luck.

But the hide-and-seek habit, the tendency to rationalize everything, gets down to something more than an unwillingness to study for the next exam. It comes down to an unwillingness to live ones actual life. And more importantly, an unwillingness to live ones life honestly with oneself.

Rationalization about mediocrity is easy when you don’t look: maybe you really are making progress. Maybe this feeling of being stuck really is an illusion. Perhaps you really are better than everyone else, more authentic, more imaginative (though you have more than a sneaking suspicion that you’re not. If you feel deep down in your gut that you’re lying to yourself, then you probably are).

Once again, shining the flashlight of objectivity on the area of interest will quickly dispel all the ‘monsters’ under the bed. You may find soon enough that you’re just as materialistic, just as inept, just as consumerist as everyone else. Perhaps you don’t really have more will power than anyone else. Perhaps in all actuality you’re not spending your time wisely, you’re not living life as you should.

But at the very least you’ll know it. And knowing it is the first step towards changing it. Lifestyle design won’t happen (at least not effectively) until the moment you’re willing to take a long, hard, honest look at yourself and see how you really stack up compared to how you think you stack up… and perhaps more importantly, to how you wish you’d stack up. That’s when the growth will happen.

But a small caveat: growth takes time. The fact that you’re even having this discussion means a lot. It means you are willing to change. You realize that lying to yourself won’t be nearly as effective as taking things as they really are. Or at least, as close to how they are you can perceive them.

Don’t use the flashlight as a cudgel. Be nice to yourself. But in a honest way. Note that you’re making progress when you are or aren’t when you’re not. Just as long as you don’t start pretending when you know it ain’t true.

Procrastination, on the very small or very large scale, is just a deficiency of being objective / honest with yourself. And the false satisfaction dripping from the gummy-drop lies won’t get you very far before the saccharine acid destroys your inside.

Have heart: use a flashlight!

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