I sometimes feel like a space alien living on this planet. I know that this is my home world, but sometimes the people on it baffle me. Wars. Must I say more? Racism. Must I say more? I could go on and on, but I won’t. What I will talk about today is what I have noticed in human nature that seems to be holding everyone back. Procrastination.
I remember my mom telling me that I had chores to do. I said I would get there. Her question was, “If not now, then when?” After all, livestock needed to be fed and watered etc, and you can only make them wait so long until it has a negative health effect on them. So I would get off my butt and go get the chores done. This question, however, stayed with me. I hear her voice now and then when I am contemplating making a move into or away from something, or when I am considering an opportunity that I know will be good for me but have been putting it off for a variety of reasons (which are only excuses). So when I hear that voice, I make my move.
We can find numerous excuses why not to do something that is needing to be done. Humans are the best at procrastinating. It is too warm outside to do this, it is too cold outside to do that, I would but I have kids that need my attention, I would but I have a deadline to meet at work. The list will go on and on. And although some of the excuses can hold some merit, most of them are just lame cop outs that hold us back from doing whatever is necessary or from doing what we need to do in order to thrive in life.
I was never one who enjoyed studying. I have an excellent memory, so as long as I was paying attention in class or while reading about the material at hand, I would usually ace the exams. I was also one who could take information and extrapolate from it and come up with interesting perspectives and arguments in essay questions. I would weave together the information that was in the class I was being examined on with the information from 5 other classes that I had been taking. The information would always weave into a tapestry that would be colourful, full of texture and quality, and highly unusual in the end result. This would baffle some of my professors and impress others. Some of them would not know how to deal with someone who did not just memorise material and regurgitate it. They were used to first year students who thought that memorisation was a form of informational expertise. So when they found someone who would extrapolate the information and weave it with information from other sources they were a bit at a loss. But because I would do it so well, I won them over.
The thing is that it would work even if I did not actually know the answer to the question on the exam. I would consider the possibilities of what the answer might be and then present an argument that would prove that my answer was the most likely of all possibilities. One of my profs once told me I should really study law. I took it as a compliment, sort of, because I know that lawyers, at least the good ones, can argue a perspective very well. I was almost insulted, however, because my regard for lawyers in general is not very high. That is not to say that lawyers as people are horrible or anything like that. I just find that the amount of money that they charge for the minimal amount of work involved is suspicious at best. And most of the actual work is not done by the lawyers themselves but by their helpers behind the scenes. So it all comes across as fake.
So as I would sit there in an exam and contemplate how to begin answering a question, I would, once again, hear my mother’s voice saying, “If not now, then when?” I would then just dive in. The waters were sometimes deep and often quite murky, but nonetheless I was able to swim and get to the other side, and achieve a decent mark on the exam despite the fact that most of my answers led the reader into strange and wonderful realms of possibilities to which they would not, as markers of an exam, have ever dreamt of going.
We really need to look at what it is we truly want to achieve in our lives. At the time of my university education, I was highly motivated to get a degree and then get on with the rest of my life. It was viewed by my young self as a stepping stone. I did not make my educational years my life. I had a life outside of my university classes and I made sure that the life I had was full to the brim. Sometimes I would “study” but that was usually just a brief run through of any notes I had taken the night before the exam so that I would have some of the concepts fresh in my mind. Nothing, to me, was worth fretting or toiling over. If I showed up feeling unprepared I would dive in as though I knew exactly what I was doing. And in doing so, I would come out looking like I actually did know what I was doing. In many ways I wonder if deep inside I actually did know, but not in terms of specific information, but rather in terms of weaving ALL information together in order to answer a question.
Once we decide what we truly want to achieve, we do need to dive in. We can’t keep putting it off until the “time is right” or until “the kids are out of the house” or until “the right job opportunity comes along”, and so on. We really just need to make a decision and then direct our lives around that decision. Everyone and everything else will adapt and move with or around that decision. The more we procrastinate in our lives, the more we restrict those around us from having the opportunity to experience us in all our vibrant glow.
I have a friend who is an artist and a jewelry maker. She knows who she is, so I won’t mention her name here. I like to allow others opportunity to have their privacy. But this friend has been telling me for months that I need to start selling some of the power jewelry that I have been creating for years. I have always just created that sort of thing for myself. So the thought of creating it to sell seemed foreign to me. At first I would nod and say stupid things like, “Ya, I will have to think about that.” And the next time I would respond with, “Yes, I am not sure how that would look.” Then finally one day while I was making another piece for myself, I heard my mother’s voice say those words to me. It was different this time. It was not like her voice in my head. It was more like her voice beside me, like her spirit from the other side of the veil was watching over my shoulder and telling me that I needed to get off my butt and get my chores done. So I started thinking about how I would want to market this jewelry line. And then I considered how I would like to display it in my work space. And then I started to get excited and feel some of what my friend was feeling when she would look at my creations. I am so grateful to her that she planted that seed. In the first three days I sold a number of pieces and have begun to make some profit, which is something that often does not happen for months. The best part of it is that I can create beautiful and powerful pieces of jewelry that others can appreciate and enjoy and have enrich their lives, and I can do it whenever the mood strikes me, which these days is almost on a daily basis. I love creating things. But as an artist you can only house so much of your creations. So actually selling them is serving both the person purchasing and myself, in that once something is sold there is then more room for the next thing to be displayed.
None of this would have been possible if I were to have allowed myself to further procrastinate. I would have taken possibly years to “get around to that”, if ever I did actually get around to it. But because I heard those words from my mother, I knew that the time was NOW and that I might as well get on it.
It really does not matter what your “thing” is that you want to do. The trick is to just do it. To dedicate a part of your world, a part of your life, to accomplishing the task, whatever it is. And in so doing there will be a sense of fulfilment that was previously never experienced. Trust me, it can feel awesome, if you let it.