Procrastination, An Hypothesis


I am not a psychologist, nor am I one of those life coaches who are supposed to help you live better. I'm just a guy with a procrast...

I am not a psychologist, nor am I one of those life coaches who are supposed to help you live better. I'm just a guy with a procrastination habit. The interesting thing about my habit is that in most areas of my life, I do not procrastinate. In fact, I tend toward the opposite. If there is something I know I need to do, I do it and get it over with. With one notable exception, I never procrastinate. Tell me the garbage needs to be taken out, I'll usually do it right then and there. And if I'm busy, I do it as soon as possible so I will not need to do it later. The one exception: Writers block, a difficult form of procrastination.

I have lots of great ideas. And I have written several books. Despite my spelling and grammar difficulties, I could probably be good at writing, if I did it. So as I do often, I've been engaged in a search for The Answer. How do I stop resisting my desire to be a writer? It's not like I hate writing. I'm enjoying writing this article. But yet when it comes to writing several books I have planned in my head, I can't get going.

Let me say straight out, I do not claim to have The Answer. I have some ideas. I am very good with coming up with great ideas, and more often than not, they are wrong or only partly right. That may be the case here. Yet, one of the main reasons I write this blog is because the writing helps me to think. This writer’s block is something I need to get past. I need to do all I can to help myself with this problem. Hence, I'm writing this article.

Yes, I have read many books on procrastination and goals and to-do lists. Just before beginning this article, I downloaded several more books to my Kindle that I will read or skim this afternoon. These books are full of many useful tips, such as breaking the goal into small pieces and doing just a little bit a day. I like those tips, but I need to get into the psychology of it. I have read ideas about what causes procrastination, but they did not help, and I'm not sure their ideas are any better or more scientific than mine, which I'll get to in a moment. I want to get at the root of my problem, so that is what this blog post will eventually be about.

So here are my ideas (I do not know if they are original or not):
• Procrastination is an anxiety.
• We pull away from an activity because of the bad anxiety feeling.
• This anxiety is ego based.
• This ego is based on self-image.
• A conflict with this self-image causes the anxiety.
• This anxiety can happen if the activity itself conflicts with a self-image, or if the failure to achieve the activity would conflict with our self-image.
• If you recreate your self-image in a way to undo the conflicts, the anxiety and the need to procrastinate will go away.

Those are the basic ideas I have developed. Now I'll try to explain them.
This is not a technical document so my use of the words ego and self-image may not be the official psychological definition. So let me explain what I mean by them. By ego, I am referring to your pride about yourself. So in my way of thinking, if someone hurts your feelings, for example, it is your ego that is hurting. The word "self-image" can mean different things, and I am not talking about body image here, although that can be a part of self-image. By self-image, I mean how you think about yourself. Do you see yourself as being a tough guy or as an average nice guy? The difference is one of self-image. I'm not going to try defining anxiety except to say that anxiety is the uncomfortable gnawing feeling that will not go away in specific situations.

So how would this work out in practice? Well, here's what I'm thinking. During our lives, we develop ideas about how we should be, how we should act, the image we should project to other people, about what is right and wrong (not ethically) in how we do things. Everyone develops different ideas on these matters, which is why people sometimes find it hard to get along with each other. Also, we have no guarantee the self-image will be consistent with how the world works. But when things work well, we feel pride and our ego swells, but if something in life conflicts with our self-image then it hurts our pride and our ego shrinks.

Several more things. Our self-image is mostly developed without us even knowing it. Just as we learn how to talk and the grammar of our language and meanings of thousands of words without trying, so we develop a self-image. Much of this happens during childhood without your conscious effort. And of course, this is why it is often hard to understand why we do what we do. We don't remember?

So now as a teenager or an adult, if you need to do something, or set a goal to do something, that conflicts with your self-image, that conflict will cause you to feel anxiety, which you will wish to avoid. So perhaps you need to do your taxes, and you hate even the thought of sitting down and having to fill out the forms, so you keep putting it off even though you have the time and even know you might get money back; you hate the idea. How could this be caused by a conflict with your self-image? Easy. Perhaps you do not see yourself as someone who does paperwork, maybe you do not respect your ability to use numbers, or maybe you feel you are above having to pay taxes.

Another hypothetical is putting off getting your driver’s license renewed. It's not a case of forgetting because you know you need to do it. It's not social anxiety because you often spend time with people. You hate the thought of standing in line and waiting, so you put it off until your license expires. Once again, there is something about this activity that is conflicting with your self-image. Perhaps you do not think you should need to stand in a long line and wait. Perhaps it's the type of people in the driver license office that you object to. Perhaps it's the authority that the driver license office represents.

Finally, what about my writer's block? If my theory of procrastination is correct, there is something about sitting down for a long period and writing a book that is conflicting with something deep in my psycho. Now I have thought it would be cool to be a writer ever since I was in school. It is hard to know what's going on in my head, but I believe there is nothing about being a writer that is conflicting with my psyche. I think I should be able to be a writer and a great one at that. I like the idea of being a great writer, and should be able to do that. But what would it say about me if I tried and failed. It would mean I was unable to live up to a cherished desire and hope. It would be a true punch to the gut, which is never any fun and best avoid. So that is what I do, I avoid the possible punch by not writing at all.

According to this model of procrastination, the solution in all the above cases is a change in self-image. Change your self-image until it does not conflict with the activities you need to do. In the case of my writer's block, I have set myself up to fail. The idea of being a writer, a really great writer, is a cherished one. I'm aware of my limitations, so the possibility of achieving this desire seems impossible. So if I can't achieve it, why try? Every time I attempt to write a book, this idea of not being good enough and the fear of failing at being what I want to become causes a great deal of anxiety. To get past my writer’s block I will need to figure out how to undo these conflicts.

I'll more to say about this later. For now, this will have to do.
Consider This:
There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept. -Ansel Adams, photographer (20 Feb 1902-1984)



The Evolving Monkey : Procrastination, An Hypothesis
Procrastination, An Hypothesis
The Evolving Monkey
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