Monday, April 5, 2010

Procrastination and Falling in Love with Your Capacity to Really Fail

Characteristic hands-raised anjali greetingImage via Wikipedia

I had an unusual brainstorm on Easter weekend.  Before I continue, let me type out thoughts that help me get from an unproductive state to a productive state, and then I will get into new thoughts about procrastination.

I based all this on collecting failure modes.  As you run into difficulty, add the corrective thought to the list, that corrects the failure mode you just experienced in your life.  When the list gets too long and too unwieldy, just scrap the whole thing, and start with a fresh mind, because you are probably in a different place due to new habits of thoughts and actions and new life situations.

So, in my life, recently, I added these thoughts to a list that I force myself to contemplate when I am in a unproductive or incapable state.

The First Four:

Embrace Philosophical Security - this is the peace and security of the Stoic philosophers, such as found in Epictetus.  More than a lack of anxiety, it is a positive goal.

Embrace Epicurean Delight - In my mind it is taking enthralling happiness from the commonest of physical experiences, like a breath of morning air, or a sip of cold pure water, or grass felt by bare feet while morning rays hit your shoulders.

Embrace Graciousness - Tolerance - Accommodation - for other people and outside things, offer them all graciousness, tolerance, accommodation.  Easy to imagine the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, acting naturally in this manner.  Just copy that way of being

Embrace Being Informed by Honest Work - how wonderful to enter a situation being informed by honest work.  You can speak with understanding, assurance, and earned confidence.

Two More:

Is my current action or inaction in opposition to any conceivable personal hierarchy of values and goals? You have some intuitive knowledge of all possible effective hierarchies of goals and values, so kick-start yourself into a compatible action, if you find your current coping or distracting action/inaction is utterly incompatible.

Link happiness to growth & improvement, and vice-versa. You have the right to define happiness however you wish, and to call whatever you wish happiness, so why not make happiness synonymous with growth and improvement.

The Latest Two:

Allowing yourself to drift through life without active intention is poisonous, just as if you bit into the bulb of a large mercury thermometer. Do everything in your power to avoid the thieves of intention.

Procrastination is not success postponed - be serious - the habit of procrastination is already failure.  Bouts of procrastination are hammer blows on the coffin lid.  When you procrastinate, you demonstrate that you ARE a failure.  These are all demonstratively true from first principals; procrastination is just a name for a form of anxiety that helps you preserve your ego, because you are clinging to the idea of success being postponed.  So, if you have the habit of procrastination, you will eventually have a crash, and a humiliating blow to your station in life.  Your only task left is to make this crash as soft a landing as possible, and to hopefully raise the bottom to limit the extent of the drop in status.

OK, done.  The heaviest thoughts are about procrastination.

There are two viewpoints when it comes to desire, intention, values, and goals.  There is the personal + intimate + internal + subjective + 100% inclusive view where your stated future desires are taken at full face value.  There is also the economic view which is external + impersonal + objective + cohort statistical based, where your stated future desires are given zero weight.

Procrastinators will be seen as wildly different in the two views.  Objectively, the procrastinator has distraction, consumption, amusement, and numbing as their highest goals, mixed in with some self torture (anxiety about how success is being postponed) only to preserve ego and a positive self-image.  This is an extremely negative way to view a person under the spell of procrastination, but it can be defended as demonstratively objectively true.

Procrastination is the funeral ceremony of your aborted higher self, the higher self that had the ability to accomplish those higher goals.  It is the funeral ceremony because you have demonstrated no ability to fulfill those higher goals, because the creatures that can fulfill those higher goals have no time for procrastination.  If the desire truly was there, you would procrastinate on your procrastination, and just dive right into your work, like a fish flailing on land, when it finally splashes back into the water, is too busy swimming to take time to beach itself again.  Procrastination is the signal that your higher self, whatever embryonic form it managed to manifest, is now dead.

Action is based on habit, and personal desires are the genesis of new habits, or the genesis of self-flagellation to preserve ego.  If all your personal desires just prompt bouts of self-hatred because of procrastination, and never prompt simply throwing yourself into your work, what are those personal desires there for?

OK, we talked about two views: the intimate & personal or the economic.  Your expected outcome is most likely to be predicted by the economic.  The End.

Am I taking things too far?  I remember that I lost my religiosity because I focused too much on an intense commitment to perform all the duties of religious faith.  I overdid it, because it is not the job of the common believer to maintain that intense commitment; I took it too far, I used a partial commitment as an excuse to dispense with all commitment.  I have mixed feelings about this, because, on the one hand, I am being honest about having a false viewpoint about religion, and, on the other hand, I cannot "rewind" my mind back to that earlier state, and I cannot say that I would prefer to be a believer again.

OK, back to the issue at hand; am I taking things too far, by calling procrastination the nails on the coffin of a higher life goal or value?

I will have to try out this viewpoint for a few days.  I will do this... Really bring into mind the feeling of realizing that my higher life goals, that I have had as constant companions for all my life, must be set aside for moving forward with more down-to-earth issues, and concentrating on preparing myself for the day when I must submit to a humiliating loss of status, and disown a big part of my past ego.  It brings things into sharp focus, and it brings home how serious is the issue of losing intention to the distractions, vices of consumption, vices of cheap amusement, vices of self-numbing.

I like this, because I cannot think of anything more fundamental than acting under intention under a moral commitment.  Forget procrastination and anything I may be procrastinating, this concentrating on action under intention is the primary important issue.
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