The Root Cause For Procrastination
Why is it that we as human beings often behave in ways that we don’t really want to? How often have you said or done something only to cringe at the thought of it afterwards? The truth is that your behaviour is mostly driven by your unconscious mind, especially behaviours that is hard to explain from an intellectual point of view. Procrastination is knowing what to do, having the ability and desire to do it, but still you don’t do it. Although there are many apparent causes for procrastination, the root cause for this illogical behaviour resides in your unconscious mind.
Your conscious mind is very limited in its ability to deal with life. That over which you have conscious control is mostly limited to one thing at a time. This is why using your willpower to create any real change rarely works long term. What you need to do is to change your automatic behaviour which resides in your unconscious mind, that part of you that controls all the vital function of your mind and body. You can try and overcome procrastination by using willpower but it will usually be a short term change. The cause for procrastination is not your conscious actions, but your unconscious associations that is to a large extent responsible for your behaviour.
When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat. – Nelson Mandela
Your nervous system is designed to preserve you and when fear presents itself your nervous system, through the working of your sub-conscious, will “kick in” to “protect you. The ironic thing is that we train ourselves, unconsciously, to fear certain things by making false associations about the meaning. Nothing in life has any meaning but the meaning you give it. You literally create neurological links to experiences that gets “stored” in your nervous system so that you can act quickly and accordingly next time. Whenever something happens to you, you assign a meaning to it by the way you communicate the experience to yourself. Unconsciously you are always trying to establish meaning and at a very basic level you are trying to establish whether something means pain or pleasure. This meaning then gets stored in your unconscious mind that will help you act (or re-act) appropriately in the future. The challenge is that when associations are reinforced you build up beliefs that will greatly influence your behaviour and is often the cause for procrastination.
Although procrastination makes no sense intellectually it actually reveals a lot about your unconscious and your self imposed limitations and (in)abilities. The major cause for procrastination is fear, and more specifically your fear that taking action will lead to pain or a painful experience of some kind. At some level your unconscious mind combines and searches it’s “files” to come up with a “link” that associates the action to a painful experience. This can range from something which is mildly uncomfortable to something physically painful. Although you consciously want to do something your unconscious will prevent you as it associates pain to the action. As human beings we automatically reach for comfort and will almost automatically reach for whatever feels comfortable in the moment. This is why you often procrastinate on tasks that do not feel good in the moment although it will mean much more pleasure in the future.
Learning to push against this need for comfort is what creates all the growth that is necessary for you to really produce results. When you start to see procrastination as a blessing in disguise; you can start to use it and embrace the behavioural insights it holds for you. Procrastination reveals your fears and, quite by design, gives you the necessary resistance needed to expand and grow in your capacity to push past your fears and create the things you really want for your life. The quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of “discomfort” you can comfortably deal with. Procrastination can also shed some light on the goals that you value most, as your concern over procrastinating on it shows that some part of you care enough to be concerned.
Isaiah 41:10 ESV Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
It’s been said that first we form our habits and then our habits form us. This is also true for habits of mind and procrastination often manifests itself as a habitual pattern of thinking. Your thoughts lead to and help create your actions. Like the engraved pattern on a record your behaviour will “play the same tune” every time. Your associations to pain and pleasure play an important part in your habitual behaviour in that it determines what you will or will not do. By repetition you form habitual patterns of thinking that will cause you to automatically act or retract in certain ways when your habit pattern gets triggered.
Being aware of your associations to pain and pleasure is critical in dealing with the root cause of procrastination. There are many symptomatic solutions that will not create a lasting result. Although you have to use your willpower initially, your aim is to re-establish your associations to the tasks you are avoiding. You can be, do or have whatsoever your heart desires providing that you can overcome your self imposed fears and take action. Although the real cause for procrastination resides in your unconscious mind, you are ultimately in control with your conscious actions.