I started a conversation about procrastination on Wednesday and
planned to do this posting yesterday. I am a day late. I
procrastinated. I never actually say or think, “I am going to
procrastinate”. It is a judgment I make after I don’t do something that
I intended to do. I am sure this is on my mind because of New Year’s
Eve coming up, but it is also a big source of discontent and negative
self-talk for lots of people.
There may be many reasons for why we keep putting off what we say we
want to do. The obvious explanations of habit, patterns, and we don’t really
want what we say we want are all variations of psychological
explanations. These are always after the fact and, while they do offer
an explanation, they don’t satisfy a deep understanding of causality
and aren’t especially useful when we are procrastinating. It is like
when your mother says “Don’t worry”: it doesn’t help much when you are
I think we procrastinate because we are not complete in some arena.
Completion is not the same as finished. Finished is a function of the
circumstances. Completion is our way of being in relationship to the
circumstances. We all know people who are divorced but not complete,
and we all know the experience of being complete in the middle of
something like a game. When we are complete, we are present, satisfied
and whole, and usually experiencing a deep sense of well-being.
Complete is a way of Being.
When we are not complete, we aren’t choosing. Our way of being is
that ‘there is something wrong’ and we begin to feel and interact with
the circumstances in an attempt to ‘do something’ to finish what we
started. We are not present, we are re-acting and resisting the ‘way it
is’ and are reinforcing whatever it is that is incomplete. We become
attached to what is incomplete and the more we try to change it, the
more power we give to it being incomplete.
We get what we resist.
One thing that we can do about this condition is to first
acknowledge it as an incompletion, rather than to see it as some defect
in ourselves. We can see what exactly it is that is incomplete and ask
ourselves what is missing or needed to be complete—not what should we
do. If something comes to mind, then do that. If not, relax and observe
what comes to mind. Sooner or later, we realize that we need to choose
to be doing what we are doing and not resist anything. When we can
choose or accept that we are always just doing what we’re doing and can
remove the ‘should’ from our thinking, then we are complete and can
either give up any pretense that we are going to do something or make a
new commitment and get whatever support we need to do what we want to
Completion is necessary for us to choose anything.
I think as we get older it is easy to give up, to become resigned—to
buy into the conventional thinking that “I am too old to change”. And
then the patterns and the ‘incompletions’ rule us as we drift into a
condition of resignation and coping with circumstances. The wisest of
us are able to simply accept ourselves and the world as ‘the way it is’
and be complete. There may always be things we will want to do, but if
we died tomorrow, we would be complete—there would be nothing missing
and we would be satisfied with our lives.
I find it useful at year-end to ask myself what is not complete for
me from the prior 12 months and make a list of what I see and what is
missing for me to complete it. Sometimes it is a “Thank you” I
overlooked, sometimes it is something I need to return. Often it’s
something I need to forgive myself for. Whatever it is, it is almost
always actionable and frees me up in a way that is much more satisfying
and meaningful for me than my resolutions list.
Whatever you are doing to celebrate and pass from 2006 to 2007, may you have a safe, sober and very happy New Year.