I went to my very first writing workshop a little over two weeks ago. The instructor said something that really stayed with me, “when it comes to our ability to get things done, we are fighting the three P’s: procrastination, perfection and paralysis.” This comment was exceptionally relevant to a room full of writers gazing starry-eyed at blank pages, but I think it resonates with most all of us.
Webster defines procrastination as “to put off doing something, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness; to postpone or delay needlessly.” The tendency to procrastinate can be wrapped up in the other P’s – the desire for perfection or the inability to start because of over-analysis, hence, paralysis. Procrastination could be caused by indecisiveness about the task itself, lack of enthusiasm to get started, or a miscalculation of the time required to complete a task. No matter the reason, most would say procrastination is not a stellar quality of great thinkers and doers. It can make you late for work, fail an exam or miss an opportunity. Procrastination can turn goals into never-ending daydreams. You imagine one day you’ll write your memoir, travel overseas, learn a foreign language or master a musical instrument. We tell ourselves we’ll start working on that tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. First you must binge watch the latest season of Handmaid’s Tale, or do additional research, or ask your friends their opinions, or catastrophize the endless list of things that could go wrong. Procrastination falsely convinces you that you have more time than you do and there’s no loss in waiting. In business we call that loss “opportunity cost,” and it’s quantifiable.
Time is our biggest natural resource and we should cherish it more than even our most prized possessions – home, car, heirlooms or wedding rings. Procrastination manages to devalue our time into a limitless commodity which is easily replaced. The reality is even if we live to 103, like Kirk Douglas, would we be in condition to achieve our dreams at that age? We have years, and we have our best years. All years are not the same.
My Virgo zodiac sign is often considered the sign of the perfectionist, although I don’t think that trait manifests in me in a traditional way. I am certainly detail-oriented, and will make adjustments until a project is to my liking. However, the perfectionist trait can present itself as a barrier when the quest for perfection either keeps you from starting a task or stops you from finishing. The essay is never good enough. The painting is eternally incomplete. Or, conversely, where is the perfect place to start a task? The perfect time? The perfect first word? Perfectionism convinces us that she’s real – that there is or ever was a perfect thing, place or time, when in reality there never has been and never will be. Perfection is subjective so the search for it is futile and leaves us in a fruitless spiral like a dog chasing it’s own tail.
When I worked in sales we used to talk about different client types. The analytical clients were the most likely to fall into the mode of what we called “analysis paralysis.” They were the harborers of the third P, often never making decisions because their analysis of details, variables and options was so in-depth a decision became time-consuming and impractical, or contained unknown variables and therefore became impossible. For example, a client might want to know exactly how a product would work in their lives. Well, that’s impossible to know, whether it’s a mutual fund or a tube of toothpaste, that much detail about the future is simply unknowable. For that client the money may stay in savings for ten years earning 1% when it could have earned 5%, and they may continue brushing with their grandfather’s Colgate instead of upgrading to Tom’s with the fresh peppermint.
While perfectionism is the search for an unattainable holy grail, and procrastination lies to you about all the time you have, paralysis is oddly real in comparison. Anyone who’s experienced sleep paralysis, a panic attack or has even tried getting up from a position and quickly realized their leg was asleep knows the deeply physical feeling of paralysis. When the block is psychological, that inability to move can last a week, months or years. You may watch people, time and situations change around you, creating the illusion of change, when you are actually stuck doing the same things, making the same promises or dreaming the same dreams.
As my writing instructor told me, the three P’s are always there, so don’t let your guard down. Time is a treasure waiting to unfold. I plan to be there loosening the ribbon and watching the beautiful wrapping release to the earth as my life unfolds with confidence, joy and intention.
I wish you all Freedom, Alignment and Effortless Abundance!
P.S. The photo is from our farm tour yesterday at the Eco-Lodge where I’m staying for my writer’s retreat this week in Costa Rica. I still have 3 spots remaining for my upcoming “Courage to Dream” mini-retreat on March 7. Check out the details at https://honeybutterflyz.com/about. We’ll be doing deeply relaxing and inspiring restorative yoga, meditation and yoga nidra. I firmly believe we have to get still to break past the things that keep us from reaching our dreams.