I suffer with a chronic lack of motivation. I know I am not alone in this too. I don’t know for sure if it’s worse now than it was for previous generations but I think it’s safe to say that when I feel like doing something other than what I’m obliged to do, there are way more avenues in which I can sate my appetite for mindless entertainment than there would have been even 20 years ago. I know I am not the only one who sits down in front of a computer screen with the intention of doing something productive only to come out the other side of 4 hours and have nothing to show for it. Well sure I may have found a few new songs to play out at gigs, maybe read an interesting story or two on Reddit and giggled to myself over a couple of stupid pictures but I haven’t done the thing I originally set out to do.
Instead of ranting about all of the distractions and how bad they are, I want to ask why do I get so easily distracted. I can’t place the blame anywhere but on myself for my lack of focus, even when I know that I need to do something. Why do I have such a fear of starting important things (assignments, e-mails etc..)? I think it comes down to a fear of being wrong. I can only speak for myself here, but I think we all have a grand idea of ourselves in our own mind. We are confident in our abilities and skills, we don’t need to validate that to anybody, particularly to ourselves. “I know I’m a good programmer, I don’t need to prove that to myself by actually writing some code.” is a thought that has run through my mind subconsciously too many times.
But the thing is, I was lying to myself. I know I’m not perfect and that I make mistakes, everybody does! But it’s only through trying that we can ever fail, do you see? By not starting a particular assignment, I still had the potential to create a perfect assignment hence the image I held of myself as a perfect individual could remain intact. Instant gratification prevails! That is until I’ve left it too late to make a decent attempt at an assignment, neglected to educate myself properly on the contents of it and then had to work my arse off trying to come up with something half-decent in a very short time span! The image of perfection crumbled as I frantically tried to teach myself what needed to be done.
In order to remedy something as commonplace as procrastination, we have to understand why it happens, finding the root source of the problem and address that instead. I think the fear of making mistakes is that root. And in order to overcome that fear, I want you to think of this; making mistakes is the sign of learning, if you don’t ever make any mistakes, that doesn’t make you perfect, that just means you’ve never tried anything hard. If that still isn’t enough to change your mentality, here’s a quote from a lecturer of mine.
“When you hear the voice in your head telling you that you don’t feel like doing work, take a step back and look at your self. Say ‘So what if you don’t feel like doing it? That doesn’t mean you can’t do it.'”
– Damian Gordon, Lecturer at DIT
This is something that a lot of people don’t realise. We may not feel like writing that important e-mail but really does that even matter? Just because we feel a certain way doesn’t mean we are immobilized by that feeling. I don’t feel like getting out of bed at half 7 in the morning yet I do it anyway. I’ve begun to take on this mentality of ‘So-what’ recently and I implore you all to do the same. I’ve found that the thought of doing work is much worse than actually doing it and if we don’t let ourselves be consumed by procrastination, we can do an awful lot more than we think is possible!
I have found through my own experiences, that I am only truly happy when I am fully present in any given situation. If I don’t engage with my surroundings and what’s going on around me, I am not living in the moment, I am not taking part in the life that has been given to me. It’s foolish of us to do anything but live in the present moment, yet I constantly find myself replaying past experiences or dreaming about how great the future is going to be. It’s only natural that these thoughts come into our minds but we shouldn’t let them become a significant part of our lives.
When I think back on my own memories, I can smile in remembering past experiences and that’s OK. But when I start comparing my current situation to one that I’ve found myself in before, I get disheartened. How unfair it is that my life’s not as great as it once was. I wish my life was the way it used to be.
Do you see where that line of thinking gets you? I’ll tell you where.. nowhere. If you spend all of your time reminiscing on past experiences, how will you ever have any more experiences to add to that collection? You won’t. If I think back to my fondest memories, they were times when I was fully present. I didn’t have a care in the world, I was living in the moment.
If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.
Some people might say that you have to think about the future and they are correct to a certain extent. I think of it differently though. Instead of thinking of the future and how we want it to be, think about what you can do now (in the present) to move in the direction you want to go with your life. If you want something as straight forward as being rich, think about what you can do right now to ensure future prosperity. But sitting pretty and dreaming about all the nice things you will be able to do once the future arrives is a hopeless endeavour. If anything, it will lead to future unhappiness when you realize that you haven’t lived up to your imagined view of yourself.
All in all, true happiness isn’t something that we can buy. True happiness comes from within. Once your mind is at peace with the way of the world, you are free to embrace life for what it really is. We are the universe experiencing itself, we have every right to be happy about that.