The meditation teacher Eknath Easwaren talks about how people have energy only when it comes to things they like. If you enjoy painting, or playing music, or a good novel, you can get lost in what you’re doing and stay up for hours doing it. But if we have the opposite reaction to a task — if we don’t like it — then even a five minute phone call or ten minutes to write a letter seems like an insurmountable challenge.
So we do everything we can to avoid these tasks. One strategy is to avoid what you need to do and then spend lots of energy trying to find out why you are avoiding it. This is a great way to continue to avoid taking action. Another strategy is to assume you need to feel like doing something before you do it. Until you feel comfortable or motivated, you assume that it is not possible to move forward and take action. Actually, many people just assume that if the prospect of some task creates discomfort, we simply cannot do it.
But my favorite procrastination strategy is to do something else instead. If what needs to be done is income tax preparation, then it must be time to clean the refrigerator. If what needs to be done is to work on our unfinished novel, then it must be time to pay bills. We keep busy, convincing ourselves that we are productive and hard working. Our failure to do what is important is disguised as busyness.
Here’s Easwaren’s comment on this:
“In India we call this ‘painting the bullock cart wheels.’ Just when the harvest is ready to be brought in, the farmer notices that the wheels of his bullock cart are looking rather shabby. Instead of going out into the fields, he takes a day to go into town for paint and then spends a week painting beautiful designs on the cart and wheels. When he finally gets around to harvesting the rice, he has to work twelve hours a day just to keep up.”
Can you identify with this strategy? Can you see the ways that you keep busy so you can avoid doing what is really important? How do we cure ourselves of this disease?
The answer is obvious, but it cannot be found in words. You cannot post it as a message or discuss it with your counselor. You cannot read about it in a book or discover it on the Internet.
Soon half the year will have come and gone. Let us use our time wisely. It is a gift and it is only temporary. What is the purpose of your one precious life? What is the purpose of this one precious day?
Linda Anderson Krech, LICSW, is Program Director of the ToDo Institute and has been a frequent contributor to Thirty Thousand Days. She is the author of Little Dreams: A Practical Guide to Spiritual Parenting and has been teaching Japanese Psychology for over 20 years.