Question: What plans do you have for yourself that you’ve just been pushing into the future?
You probably know the type of plans I mean – the good stuff that seems to be always a few months out of reach.
If that’s you, congratulations – you’re just in time to prevent some regrets.
Think about this: do you really want to be in this exact same position this time next year? How would that feel?
You might tell yourself that a year can seem like a long time. One thing I do know is that time passes quickly when we idle away the moments. Procrastination – the failure to move into action – is not a modern problem either.
“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Listen to da Vinci. Information is not enough. Intention is not enough. There’s something fundamentally different about action which greatly outstrips mere knowledge or willingness.
Some of you might think that da Vinci sat around all day figuring things out. Far from it. He accomplished an immense amount in his lifetime.
So what causes procrastination and how do we solve it? How can you learn to move into action more of the time?
Where people fail to act:
- Being unaware of choices
There are certain things we’re culturally conditioned to decide and most of them aren’t really that important when you look at the bigger picture.There are other decisions that are invisible to all but the top 0.1%, the ‘great achievers’ of our age.These are the things that you ‘can’t’ or ‘aren’t supposed to’ decide.For example, you could just decide that this is going to be the year in which your life becomes transformed – the year your dreams and plans become a glorious reality.When you consider that, what did you tell yourself? Many people think “but I can’t just do that!” then reason away their future with faulty ideas about luck, random forces or what they think they deserve.
- Being ‘all talk’
There’s an old saying – “talk is cheap”. It’s a sad fact that talk doesn’t necessarily transform into action.The paradox is that when you get into action, you have something to talk about.
- Being purely theoretical
Pure theory involves plenty of supposition and no experimentation. It’s a world-view that only builds on existing assumptions. The only testing is for plausibility (i.e. does this match what I know?). As you can probably imagine, it’s possible to build towering edifices of theory on top of faulty assumptions.Good theory is intimately linked with action – and thus learning occurs. Books aren’t great for learning unless you test the knowledge presented there. Otherwise, the only exercise is one of memory.“Life is so unlike theory.” – Anthony Trollope
- Being too clever
If you’ve ever seen a doorstop with built in alarm clock radio, you’ll know that it’s possible to be a bit too clever. Unfortunately, this apparent exaggeration is not far from the truth in many cases. Complexity is not a virtue. To me, the truly clever people are those who can make a seemingly complex idea easy to understand. I’m not talking about ‘dumbing down’ ideas. I’m talking about good communication and the elegance of simplicity. Wallowing in apparent complexity is a great way of avoiding action.“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci
- Being a perfectionist
The act of perfecting something can take a long time. The standard of ‘perfection’ is, by definition, extremely hard to achieve. And often unnecessary. To wait for perfection is sometimes to wait forever. Sometimes good is good enough. Then you can act. Remember the saying “perfect spoils good”.
- Anticipating failure
Many people fail to act because their experience tells them that it just hurts too much to fail. This is a double whammy. Firstly, the focus is on pain and failure and you will tend to get what you focus on. Second, there is the barrier of ‘being safe’Isn’t it safe to begin living your dreams? The (often faulty) assumption of safety is that it’s safest to stick with what you’ve got and do nothing new.In many cases, ‘safe’ is like sitting in a car which is rolling towards a cliff. Everything is perfectly okay until that inevitable moment…
Decision is very often the process of cutting away all lesser options. Here’s how:
Exercise for moving into action:
- Identify: Where is your ‘theoretical’ knowledge?
- Imagine it’s true
Close your eyes. Imagine and experience the actions that go with understanding that. What do you see, hear and feel?
- Imagine it’s not true
Imagine and experience the actions that do with discovering that. What do you see, hear and feel this time?
- Imagine it’s true
- Integrate: Allow your unconscious mind to sort and combine all the information from both experiences.
- Action: What is the easiest way that you can test your theory in the Real World? Go now and do that before moving on.
- Fuzzy proposition: Few practical ‘facts’ are completely true or completely untrue. There are ‘degrees of truth’ to almost any statement based on the situation and circumstances. Based on your Real World experiences, decide where/when it’s true and where/when it’s not true.
- Learning: What did you learn from your ‘test actions’ that was not in (i) or (ii)? This is where learning expands through experiential knowledge.
It’s important to take any pain out of the learning process. Make it so experimentation feels neutral and successes feel good. Give yourself a little rewarding glow every time you do something surprisingly right or good or excellent.
It’s like being in the supermarket looking through oranges to find the best ones. Dented or unripe oranges don’t feel bad. It’s more of a neutral experience. The good ones feel different though, don’t they? Make your action steps feel like this and you’ll succeed more of the time.
This is how we kill procrastination.
The true test is in the testing – da Vinci knew this because he was an experimental sort. He was constantly modelling the world around him, testing and refining those models through action.
It’s time to take action now. Otherwise, all you can hope for is regret.