Last week a local newspaper columnist wrote an op-ed piece about procrastinating. I didn't care for it. I thought it was a bit dull and predictable- a rehash of basic things we all know. But it must have made more of an impact than I thought, because I've been thinking about procrastination a lot this week.
Of course the first thing I thought about was one of my children, whose name need not be mentioned. She knows who she is and that she often stays up until 2am to meet a deadline. I used to worry about her when she was younger. Now I just consider it her "mode of operation". Some people really do work better under pressure. I love you honey!
My next thought was that I've been doing a little procrastinating myself lately. I have a couple of projects going that just seemed overwhelming at first. One of them is the new flower bed at our local park. It is BIG and currently doesn't have a reliable water source. It was covered in grass and weeds. I have to admit that I had some second and third thoughts about tackling it. Then one night I just went to the park with the idea of working for one hour. After that hour I felt a renewed sense of purpose. I had accomplished one tiny step toward success. A few more steps followed, I enlisted some help from a friend, and last night my husband and I planted the first flowers. As we drove away I felt such a feeling of satisfaction. Three weeks from "I don't know about this..." to "Yes! This is going to work!" It's just a flowerbed, but it represents some key concepts of any project that faces us.
1. It's the first step that is the most difficult. We worry. We go through all the "what if" scenarios. We anticipate failure far more often than we anticipate success. We moan and say "Why me! How did I get stuck with this?" or "What in the world was I thinking? Why did I think I could do this?" But once we figure out the first little baby step, once we start a project, a seed of confidence grows.
2. Everybody needs a little help. Pride is usually the reason why we try to accomplish too much on our own. We like to be in control. We like to think of ourselves as strong and talented and creative and all those wonderful things. If we have to ask someone for help, there must be something wrong with us. Usually the only thing wrong is that we are too dumb to see the advantages of working with another person. If there is anything I've learned from community service work it's that a group of people can usually accomplish much more than one person. Everyone has specific skills, resources, and passions. It just makes sense to put them together!
3. Good things are worth your time and effort. These days it seems like "instant gratification" is the mantra for our society. I'm not so sure about the adage, "good things come to those who wait", but I do believe that good things come to those who put forth effort and are willing to wait for the results. A big project can be broken down into smaller steps, but the work still has to be done. We can't have everything handed to us. We can't make things happen magically.
4. A job well done satisfies our soul. Working toward a goal and then finally seeing its completion is rewarding in a way that is sometimes difficult to explain. We all have doubts about our abilities, our purpose, our importance in the whole scheme of things. Accomplishing something that at first seemed overwhelming validates us in a way that the praise of others can't. That's one of the things I tell parents of my students. Yes, you can praise your child, but nothing builds self-esteem and confidence like the realization that you did something you thought you couldn't!
5. One thing leads to another. One of the perks of finishing a project is that it usually leads to another. I know that doesn't sound like a good thing- just more work. LOL However, as most of my older friends will tell you, work is what keeps us alive! Doing, going, thinking, planning, creating- these are the things that lead to a long life- not retirement and relaxation. Completing something difficult often involves learning something new or meeting someone new or just learning something more about yourself. You use that knowledge to go on to bigger and better things. And yes, you still doubt, you still procrastinate, but maybe not so much this time...