"We'll increasingly be defined by what
we say 'no' to."
I set a goal: to brisk walk for 45 minutes every day. Then I glance at my watch...it's only 10 minutes....It's only 20 minutes! Then the phone rings and I'm saved by the bell!
It's a timeless problem, this procrastination and so common to us all that the Greek philosophers, Socrates and Aristotle, had developed a word to describe it: Akrasia; a state of acting against your better judgement. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else....we can loosely describe it as a lack of self-control.
When we set a goal for ourselves, like losing weight, or finishing a project by the weekend, we're actually making plans for our future self. We can imagine what it would be like to do it. It's easy for the brain to see value in long-term benefits. Though when it comes to taking action right now, we are no longer making a future choice. Now the brain is thinking of 'sooner the better'. And we all like instant gratification, not long-term payoff.
For example: the payoff for eating a donut is immediate, and the cost of skipping a workout won't show up until months later. Or, the payoff for thoughtless shopping sprees is immediate and the cost of forgetting to save for future emergencies won't be there until you fall sick.
Why do we make future plans and set goals and then not stick to them? Because the human brain has a tendency to value immediate rewards rather than future ones.
This is the reason we plan to go on a diet from tomorrow but the next day we might have a different idea. This is also the reason why our ability to delay gratification is such a predictor of success in life. Understanding how to pull away from instant rewards can help us bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
In order to change we need a commitment device....a strategy that helps to improve our behaviour for us to achieve the goals we set.
For instance, we can stop wasting time on social media by deleting the apps from our devices....or we can curb eating indulgences by buying and stocking only small quantities of healthy food. Or even some drastic measures that I had experienced myself.....At one time in my life I was so trapped by an obsessive fear that I committed to myself that every time I thought about that future fear and descended into a negative spiral, I would stand under the shower as many times a day as it happened.
So, it's possible to be the architect of your future not a victim to it!
The guilt and frustration of procrastination is usually worse than the pain of doing the work. So why would we put it off? Because it's not doing the work that's hard, it's starting it! Once we begin, it's often less painful....so it's important to build the habit of getting started.
Ask yourself, "in one year do I want to be eating donuts or be heathy?"
There is always a present YOU and a future YOU.
If you want to beat procrastination then we need to find a way to make our present self act in the best interest of our future self.
Set a deadline for your behaviour... (I'm going to finish all pending projects by this weekend)
Place an expensive bet on your behaviour (for each workout I miss I will give my kid ₹200)
Make a physical consequence for your behaviour (each time I take an extra helping of food I'll do 30 push-ups)
Each day we are faced with hundreds of tiny decisions. The option to either take the easy way out and jump at instant gratification or say 'no' to temptation and commit to long-term behavioural benefits.
These daily choices end up defining our reality. It is increasingly the distractions we avoid that define our capacity for success.
Until next time!