Posts Tagged ‘procrastination’

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A year has passed. At this point, I should be adopting this phrase as my standard opening for every Unmaskd post. Years after its beginning, the Unmaskd adventure continues to surprise me by taking unexpected turns and leading me to places I hadn’t expected to go when I started it. A once-a-year blog is one of them. This time I’m going to skip the long talk about traditions. It’s all here, in my posts. 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010… Now it’s time for the 2014 one.

It’s hard to squeeze everything I have learned and realized over the last year into a short post, so I’ll focus on the highlights. The biggest one is this: the problem has been solved. I mean it. All these questions I’ve been pondering about on this blog… How can I start living my life without regrets? Why do I procrastinate? How do I take control of my life? What is awakening and is it possible? The life looked like a pile of jigsaw puzzle pieces, some shining, some dark, some hazy, but all clearly meant to fit together and all hopelessly disjointed.

And accompanying that puzzle there was a feeling — not even a feeling — a strong conviction that I had for years. A conviction that there was another, better way to live. Not in terms of being more accomplished, or being “better” as defined by external moral principles, but simply a better way to experience every moment. A different state of consciousness, perception and self-awareness. A state, where every moment is meaningful and every action is purposeful. And comparing to that state, a regular day-to-day existence seemed like walking through a thick fog, pierced by very rare rays of bright light. It was not about reaching any sort of religious epiphany or finding nirvana — in fact, that alert, active state seemed like something directly opposite to it. It seemed so luring, yet unreal and thus unachievable.

Well, the pieces of puzzle are no longer disjointed. The irritating, nagging questions are gone, replaced by crisp and clear answers. And the puzzle, while incomplete, has taken shape.

Here are some pieces:

The goal is to live every moment of my life. To be in that alert state of consciousness that makes the usual state of mind seem like a fog. That state is the goal.

Accomplishments are means to that end. Increasingly challenging and fulfilling, they are necessary to achieve the goal.

Self-respect is my evaluation of my commitment to the goal, as expressed through my thoughts and actions. It can be only earned and it cannot be faked.

Willpower is a byproduct of my commitment to the goal. Contrary to the common interpretation, it’s not the ability to make myself do things. All attempts to exercise willpower just for the sake of “being in control” are pointless, painful, often unsuccessful and always frustrating.

Procrastination is an act of intentionally dumbing myself down to avoid making a choice or committing to my decision. It’s an act of giving in to fear. It’s a true act of cowardice. Willpower and procrastination are two sides of the same coin, with self-respect being the coin’s value.

There are more pieces — some already in the puzzle, some waiting to be picked up, explored and placed in the right spot. But the puzzle is solved — and it was worth every minute, day and year spent on solving it.

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The Demon of Procrastination
“How do you fight your demons, sage?” asked a man with a tired face, as he stopped by the house of the world famous sage Puram Bam.
Puram Bam, busy at writing something that looked like a letter, looked up.
“What makes you think I have demons to fight?” he asked.
His visitor had a strange face, a face that seemed young–yet beaten by life, fresh–yet old. It was the face of a young man who woke up one morning to discover in the mirror that he had suddenly aged overnight.
“Everyone has demons,” he said, his voice full of conviction. “If you don’t have demons to fight you are dead.”
“Or free,” said Puram Bam.
“It’s the same thing,” said the man.
“For many,” answered Puram Bam. “But not for everyone. Which one of your demons did you want to talk about?”
“The one that sucks the life out of me,” replied the man, his voice hard. “He’s been haunting me ever since I was a child.”
“Demons rarely haunt us uninvited,” said Puram Bam, moving his unfinished letter aside. “Tell me more.”
“He attacks suddenly,” said the man, his face going dark. “I can never see him coming. One minute I’m busy doing something — and the next moment he’s there and my will is gone. No one can see demons, and yet I can almost sense the presence of this one. I can feel him sneaking into my room. I’ve never caught a glimpse of him, but somehow I know what he looks like. He is a large gray limp mass that moves silently and swiftly. Gray and cold. Very cold. And when his coldness touches my forehead, I am no longer me. No one can notice a difference, for I still act the same way I always do.
“In fact, when he takes over me I get very busy. I read wonderful books, I make plans, I do things I’ve been postponing for ages, I write letters to people I have not spoken to for years, I feed my dog, I sharpen my sword. But when I do this I know that my sword is already sharp, my dog is not hungry and the people I write to would scratch their heads trying to recall my name. But I still do it. When this demon takes over me I do anything — anything except that thing I was about to do when he sneaked into my room. And I don’t know how to fight him. I don’t know how to fight the Demon of Procrastination!”
“You can’t fight a demon,” said Puram Bam, “unless you call him by his proper name. And the name you’ve just said is not the true name of this demon.”
“What is it then?” asked the man, his face brightened by sudden hope. “Tell me! Please!”
“You have to guess it yourself, if you want to have a chance against him.”
“Guess it? How? Everyone knows him by this name!”
“What do you feel when he takes over you?”
“I feel as if I’m slowly drowning in a cold swamp and have no power to struggle. All my senses work as usual, my hands are are strong as ever, but my mind goes numb. It feels like it’s being wrapped in some thick soft fabric, layer after layer, thicker and thicker. And it’s so comforting, so lulling, so calm. It feels like there is no way out, that I will drown completely, my mind wrapped in that fabric and my will gone, but somehow this doesn’t frighten me. The the worst thing is, I don’t even want to get out. When this demon takes over me, I don’t want anything.”
“But you do come back, eventually.”
“Yes. I get out of that swamp every time, but it’s becoming harder and harder. It used to take minutes. Now it takes hours. But I do come back.”
“And the first thing you do is finish whatever you were doing when the demon came?”
“Yes. Always. All of a sudden everything seems so easy. Somehow just being back makes me powerful. And that’s what I just can’t understand. People say that this demon takes us away from things we don’t want to do. That he snatches us at the moment of weakness. But I don’t believe them. Yes, he comes to me when I have to do something I don’t like. But he also comes to me when I do something I love! And I find myself just as drowning in that swamp. I don’t believe people when they say that he is not that bad, that he helps us escape. They say that he helps us escape our fears. Fear of failure, fear of success… But why in the world would I want to escape from something that makes me feel alive?”
“You are asking wrong questions,” said Puram Bam. “Ask the right one.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You do. People avoid asking a right question, when they don’t want to face the answer. But you–you want it. Tell me, do you enjoy doing things you do once he takes over?”
“Enjoy? I hate doing them! And I hate myself for being so weak, for not being able to stop. But you see… it’s not actually me who’s doing all these things. It’s almost like someone else is moving my hands, opening my mouth to speak, making my eyes to read. It’s the demon.”
“Our demons are not as powerful as we think. They cannot move our hands. Only we can.”
“But this is what it feels like. And if it’s not me moving my hand then who?”
“I knew a man once,” said Puram Bam, “who used to ask this question. He doesn’t ask it anymore. It’s another wrong question to ask. Do you know what you are escaping from?”
The man shrugged.
“Fear?”
“You can’t escape fear, without taking it with you.”
“Doing something unpleasant? Or . . . pleasant. Pleasant, but difficult.”
“Do you still think about that difficulty, while drowning in that swamp,?”
“No! I know it’s somewhere out there, but I don’t think about it. I don’t think about anything. I simply don’t think.”
“And when you don’t think you don’t exist,” said Puram Bam. “You may think you’re escaping a difficulty. But you’re escaping life itself.”
“Life…” the men repeated after Puram Ban. “Where does one escape life?”
“Now you’ve asked the right question,” sad Puram Bam. “And this means you are ready to face the answer.”
“In death,” said the man slowly.”This demon… he is the Demon of Death himself.”
“He has many names,” said Puram Bam. “But you’ve just named the only one that matters. He comes to you when you secretly wish that you’d rather not exist than face life with its choices and their consequences. He offers you sweet escape of his swamp, where your mind will slowly drown while your body is busy doing meaningless things. But what’s a body without mind? When your mind doesn’t think, you’re dead.”
“But why…” said the man, “why do I come back then? Every time. Why?”
“You know this answer too, “said Puram Bam, smiling.
The man smiled back.
“Because I want to live,” he said, his face younger and filled with wonder.
“Yes,” said Puram Bam. “And once you fully realize what this means you won’t need to fight demons anymore. You simply won’t be inviting them.”

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As I have recently mentioned in my rather spontaneous Tumblr post, my approach to everything in life can be described in three simple words: Feel. Think. Do. I’ve also mentioned that occasionally I skip a step or two before getting to  step 3. Which is why I’m writing this post. At first, I felt like writing it, and without giving it much of a thought, jumped to the final step. Then the thinking part of me woke up and yelled, Whoa!! Are you nuts?? And so the writing process got stopped before it had a chance to begin.

Why? Because unlike other posts it wasn’t going to paint a pretty picture of me. Pretty ugly, maybe, but certainly not pretty. I’m hardly a narcissist, but usuallyI prefer to project an image of someone strong, smart and decisive. This post would do exactly the opposite. So I almost decided to label the whole idea as stupid, when it suddenly hit me. Wait a second, I thought, have I just turned writing as Unmaskd into a PR exercise? Have I just decided not to write a post just because it would make me look bad? The very point of going Unmaskd was to be completely open. Plus, something useful may come out of it. Actually, that’s I wanted to write it in the first place. So here I am, writing this post.

We are all familiar with the dreaded P-word. Procrastination is like sex: even if you have never had it, you have heard about it. So let me share another secret of mine: when it comes to procrastination, I’m not an expert. I’m The Expert. There are so many people who would procrastinate over little things, clean up their desks frantically every time they need to write something simple, postpone chores and do other stuff like that. Amateurs. The real procrastinator is above these petty attempts. I can go on for weeks or months plowing through unpleasant tasks like a bulldozer. The real procrastination is about something else. It’s about hitting the bottom. And a rock bottom it is. I can go on for a very long time. But then one day, one moment I face something I just don’t want to do. It could be the same task I’ve done before, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I just don’t feel like doing it. And then it happens. All it takes is a single moment of weakness. A single let-me-do-this-thing-first action. And the next moment I’m gliding down the slippery path to hell.

One by one useless accomplishments fill the time. They take the same time it would’ve taken me to accomplish that task I didn’t feel like doing. Then they take more. Then much more. But that’s not the worst part. The worst part is with every minute I feel my will being taking away from me. It’s like watching sand flowing down the hourglass hole. I can feel it. That sensation is almost physical. It’s almost like feeling your brain being slowly wrapped in soft cotton wool. Round and round. Layer by layer. Until even thinking itself becomes a serious effort. And I although I know I can stop this, in fact I really can’t. It just goes on and on, leaving me with less and less willpower.

Of course, as it happens I’m still functioning. Of course, I can have a conversation and I appear to others just like my normal self. But deep inside I know that my will is almost gone. There’s just small part of it left somewhere in a dark corner of my brain, while it goes on its autopilot. And I let it go. Sometimes for hours. Sometimes for days. And I tell you, I hate these moments.

You already know when happens next. Yes, I find strength to stop this. I always find enough will to get me out of that mental swamp. And I get out it, and I accomplish that stupid task that had sent me into that procrasti-state, and I do whatever I decide to do. Once I hit the bottom and I actually jump pretty high out of the water. But I know that one day, it will hit me again.

The saddest part of all this is that once I find strength to fight off the p-bug, I am really good at whatever I do. I accomplish things that are pretty much off limits for many less fortunate people. And people look at my accomplishments and go, “Wow! This is great, how did you do that?” But I’m hardly proud. I know that had it not been for these moments I could have accomplished things that would make whole world go “Wow!” I’ve known this for a fact since I was a kid. But this doesn’t change anything. Because one way or another I always find way to that swamp. It’s like trying to become the running champion of the world while having concrete blocks chained to your feet.

So that’s my procrastination story. Now if you excuse me I have to get back to a little task I have to accomplish…

Oh, and one last thing. In case you have ever experienced procrastination yourself, here’s a question for you. A question that probably will send an icy chill down your spine, especially if you really think about. When you find yourself procrastinating it’s not you anymore who controls your actions. Right? At least it’s not your consciousness, not what you associate yourself with. Yet, you still take some actions.

So if it’s not you who is in control, then who is it?

[tweetmeme source= “unmaskd” only_single=false]Motivation. The Holy Grail of anyone who wants to achieve anything. Apparently it is not enough to want something badly. We also need to be motivated, whatever it means. We need a reason to go and do things we think we want. Just wishing isn’t sufficient. “Motivate me!” we demand, looking around for help.

And we turn to wise quotes and self-help books, motivational speakers and Dr. Phil, insightful movies and success stories. We want the world to bless us, as we set about to do things. We want that tap on the shoulder. Or a good kick in the butt — whatever works. And we get this motivation somewhere and start working on that thing we’ve always wanted. But then a day, a week, a month passes by — and we run out of motivational fuel. And we start seeking it again.

If this sounds familiar, I have good news and even better news for you. Good news: I’ve found the one, the only, the ultimate Motivator. The better news: I’m about to share it with you. But wait, it gets even better. Unlike many sources of motivation, this one can be used as often as you’d like. And every time it will be as good in producing that tapping/kicking effect as the first time.

Interested? Ready? Sure? Keep in mind, it won’t be pretty. Still interested? Okay, here’s the best way to motivate yourself in 3 simple steps.

  1. Think of that goal you’ve always wanted to achieve. You know, like writing that book, learning that skill, visiting that place.
  2. Think of the maximum age when it’s still going to be possible and meaningful. You won’t be learning how to surf when you’re 60. And when you are 50 most stuff gets harder to do than when you were 30.
  3. Go to any countdown counter site like this one and enter the date when you will be turning that age.

You will see the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds that separate you from that moment. The moment when your dream will no longer be possible to come true. Now watch the seconds. Watch them ticking away, taking the time left slice by slice away from you. Better yet wait until you see a minute go away. This is all the time you will ever have to achieve your goal. This is your life being wasted right in front of you. Watch it. Feel it. See it getting away. Nothing can stop that counter. Nothing.

If this doesn’t motivate you, nothing will.