We get suckered into the waiting game. Failing to act is easy. We sit and wait. In our mind, we are strategically preparing for the right circumstances to make a move. While this appears rational, the supposedly logical plan is a cleverly decorated deception, justifying our fear to act. If we want to slay the monsters, we must courageous leave the security of the cave and approach the beasts.
We build walls that limit opportunity and prevent growth. We miss golden opportunities while waiting to be served. Perhaps fear is behind much our procrastination. We dream great things but choking the hope is incapacitating doubt of our ability. Typically, these workings remain unconscious. We defend our procrastination, pointing to our detailed pondering of the course we will take. Yet, we actually are just postponing action that we fear will expose our deficiencies.
"We dream great things but surrounding the dreams is an incapacitating doubt in our ability."
Alfred Adler writes, “Often, we will find them deeply in doubt, entangled in important considerations that seem to be logical, and which give them the semblance of being in the right. However, in the course of their considerations they waste their opportunities, lose contact with life and society and shirk the tasks that everyone must accomplish.” (2010, Loc. 2574)
Key Definition: Procrastination
Postponing our delaying action. Chronic procrastination interferes with dream fulfillment and stagnates growth.
Greatness of act cannot wait until we finish school, or get married, or have kids, or kids leave home, or we retire. There will always be another life event, marking a transition, with the last being the grave, where no more work can be done. We must act on our dreams, now!
“Act is the blossom of thought, and joy and suffering are its fruits; thus, does a man garner in the sweet and bitter fruitage of his own husbandry.” James Allen (2017)
The waiting game is often learned early in life. Childhood experiences give way to adult incompetencies. Overprotective and limiting environments fail to prepare children for the difficulties of becoming. They had limiting opportunities to practice overcoming difficulties. In adulthood difficulties loom large, sparking fears seldom faced in the family home. Waiting and watching fails to develop the skill of resiliency. We must act, and with action, we must fail.
Procrastination can be a learned behavior. A defensive pattern we implement unconsciously and repeatedly.
“Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting-point for future power and triumph.” (Allen, 2017)
Doubting in our abilities, with moderation, serves a healthy purpose, prompting examination of skills and working to improve deficits. But when doubt is pumped with steroids, it is a different monster, creating fear, and paralyzing action.
New age psychology doesn’t help with the unbending attention to positive emotion. New opportunity demands we face the discomfort of travelling into unfamiliar territories. These ventures, by their very nature, create doubt. We rightfully examine our abilities in the face of new challenges. Along with the doubt comes fear, and fear demands courage. If our psychological advice is to be happy and that no task is too big, we will be inclined to retreat every time we waiver.
The discomforting emotions are part of every equation of new opportunity, too much confidence and we shy away from exposure of the realities of our incompetencies. We either become a shyster and fraud or cower in the corner failing to achieve.
Kashdan and Biswas-Diener in their powerful book The Upside of Your Dark Side put it this way:
Unless you open yourself to unwelcome negative feelings, you will miss out on important opportunities to wield some of life’s most useful tools. If you fall prey to the temptation to constantly search for something positive to grab on to in hopes of eliminating, hiding, or concealing negative emotions, you will lose in the game of life. You cannot get rid of the negative emotions without unintentionally squelching happiness, meaning, grit, curiosity, maturity, wisdom, and personal growth. Choose to numb the negatives and you numb the positives too. (2015, Loc. 821)
We can’t wait for the easy way out. To experience life in the fullest, we must engage in action, not lazily stalling for our luxurious vessel to pull into the harbor. Engagement in opportunities requires stepping from behind protective walls and confronting life on its terms. By exploring the vast wilderness beyond the castle walls, we may find life different than we expected; but only with these fascinating voyages do we obtain the blessings we seek.
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Adler, A. (2010) Understanding Human Nature. Martino Fine Books. Kindle Edition.
Allen, J. ( 2017). As a Man Thinketh. Value Classic Reprints
Kashdan, T,. Biswas-Diener, R. (2015) The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self--Not Just Your "Good" Self--Drives Success and Fulfillment. Plume. Kindle Edition