Why do we procrastinate?

Why do we procrastinate?

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Synopsis : Some people cannot make up their mind on anything quickly so they procrastinate because they always seek the easy way out of their conundrums. This blog analyses the reasons and a way to break this habit that bedevils so many people.

Procrastination is very common among people who can never decide what to do and put it off for another day because to them it is a whole lot easier to procrastinate than to make a decision to do what needs to be done.

The classic case was when a fellow said to me that his water pump does not pump water to the second floor so they have to get water from the ground floor bucket by bucket and climb up the stair spilling some of it and making it a dangerous chore every day. They said that they had been doing it for the past several years.

I was very surprised and thought that there was something wrong with the pump itself but upon checking, I found it to be a new pump so I went to the dealer of the pump and explained the problem. The dealer then asked me if the pump had a one way valve attached to its hose called a foot valve  because it is the one way valve that keeps the hose always full of water that the pump then pumps up to any floor of the house.

I bought the valve for less than a dollar, fixed it up at the end of the hose and turned on the switch. The pump then pumped up all the water they needed that surprised them but they were also very happy that their water problem was solved so easily and cheaply.

It took a very simple solution to fix the problem they had for several years because they were the classic procrastinators who did not bother to check with the dealers of the pump who could have told them the solution just like the way they did to me.

There is another case that is interesting so I will mention it here as well. There was a gentleman who rented the second floor of my mother’s house and one day complained to me that his water cooler did not work so they suffered the terrible summer heat without any respite. I looked at the cooler and found nothing wrong with it except that they did not know how to install it on their window so I asked for a dollar to buy 4 J hooks.

Now the gentleman did not know what a J hook was so I explained that a steel hook that looks like a J is called a J hook and is available in any hardware store in various sizes. I then attached the fan to the window grill with the J hooks that I had to cut to size, put the cooler box behind it and filled the tank with water. I then turned on the cooler and it worked perfectly cooling the room like an air conditioner. The gentleman was very pleased but also very surprised that the solution was so simple that made their life easier.

These two cases are the examples of classic procrastinators who never could take the steps to solve their problems because they just did not know what to do. To me it is not a difficult thing to ask questions. If you do not know how to solve a problem then just ask someone who knows. No one knows all the answers but there are people who know and will gladly tell you if you explain to them your problem.

The third case is also classic but tragic. When I worked in Mali, we used to work in several remote villages where we had to stay for days and weeks so the farmers very graciously accommodated us by giving us their rooms which was ok at first but I realized that we should have our own proper accommodation in the villages.

So I called a meeting of the villagers and asked them if they could help us build a few round huts for us. They agreed and mobilized the village folks to build several beautiful round mud houses with grass roof and worked hard to do it. But the huts were never occupied. Do you know why?

It is because the project chief who was a Malian said that we must organize a feast for the villagers to show our appreciation before we can occupy the huts which was a great idea but he never gave the money to buy the food or designate someone to do it because he was a classic procrastinator who always put it off for another time. He later died in a car crash so I suppose the huts are still empty after all these years.

This habit is also called the mañana  habit that is common in people in many countries. It is very difficult for such people to make any decision that they can put off for another day or week or even months because it seems to them easier to just procrastinate.

It made me think of this topic and wonder why people procrastinate so I will now try to analyze this habit in people and understand what makes people procrastinate and why some people take actions right away to solve their problems.

In life we all face real issues that confront us daily. It could be a simple thing like changing a busted light or fixing a leaking faucet or a foot valve for a hose but some people find excuses even to do that because they put it off for another time. More than anything else, it defines their character and resolve in getting things done like getting a good education with good grades, taking some chances to get  an adventurous job in a country far from theirs or making changes in their lifestyle that make it better for them.

I know that the villagers in India still go to the fields to relieve themselves but to build a dry hole toilet near their homes and surround it with a wall for privacy is not such a big deal. It can make life a whole lot easier for them and the women folks but they still go to the fields because they cannot make that decision and procrastinate. May be they are waiting for the government to build toilets for them for free but it shows how lazy most people are to take care of their own problems and suffer needlessly.

I saw the video of an 18 year old Cambodian girl who built all by herself a very beautiful hut for herself by cutting the bamboo from the forest and gathering leaves and vines to put it all together. She also made a beautiful bamboo bed and a kitchen using stone axe and rocks. She could easily put all the procrastinators to shame and  teach them valuable lessons in self reliance.

This habit is also strongly tied to the culture people have where they tend to live from day to day and just continue the way they always have because they are too lazy to make the effort to make their own life better.

There is a story that goes like this:

There was once a king who ordered to find the laziest person in his kingdom and bring him to his court so  people started looking for the laziest person and one day found two people sleeping on the ground where a bushfire was raging near them. When one of them said that he could feel the heat on his back, the other said that he should just turn over. The king’s men were surprised how lazy these two were and hauled them to the court but the king was not convinced although he ordered them to be thoroughly whipped.

So the men started again to look for the laziest man and one day found a man sleeping on the ground with his mouth open when a dog came by, sniffed around a bit and then peed into the mouth of the fellow but the fellow still did not close his mouth so they hauled this fellow to the court to be punished anew. I don’t know how the story ended but believe me when I say that there are people who are worse than these lazy people.

Some get into bad habits early in their life like drinking, drugs and gambling and totally destroy themselves and the ones who depend on them while others take to smoking or snorting powdered tobacco called snuff that are very bad habits and cause cancer. Some take up very dangerous sports like rock climbing with bare hands or walking on a wire across the Grand Canyon or very tall buildings while others take up deep sea diving without oxygen and go 300 feet deep by holding their breath.

I have seen people walk on fire, put live charcoal on their tongue or  swallow a sword while others chew razor blades so there are all kinds of weird people who do all kinds of foolish things just to get a kick but ask them if it is worth it. They may say yes because it gives them a temporary sense of exhilaration which pumps up their adrenaline so they take enormous risks and some die doing it.

The drug addicts and people hooked on alcohol say the same thing but they end up dying of overdose one day or hang themselves just like some Hollywood people because they lose all hope in their wasted lives. The allure of temporary euphoria drives such people to destroy themselves while others succeed in their life because they are wise and have learned the value of hard work and diligence most likely from their parents.

So I come back to the issue of procrastination again and find that those who procrastinate have one thing in common. They have very weak resolve so they cannot make up their mind on anything quickly. It shows in their character so people start thinking of them as very unreliable and undependable so avoid them. In the workplace they never get promotion and often get fired by the impatient supervisors who want quick resolve.

Do you wonder why cadets graduating together from a Military College all end up differently? Some become 4 star generals and others just remain in low ranks because they cannot make up their mind and do not have the resolve to become a general.

This irresolute character of a person shows up early in a classroom where the teachers notice it and favor those students who are perhaps not very smart but do their homework and are eager to learn. The irresolute students graduate but with poorer grades and go on to live a mundane and mediocre life while their classmates one day become CEOs of big companies.

I think the environment in which a child grows up determines his resolution and character  as he learns from others around him the value of hard work and honesty but it is also true that siblings growing up together under the same environment grow up differently. Some succeed in life and others fail.

It is common to find here in the Philippines that the girls go to school and push on to college to graduate with honors that gets them good jobs often abroad while their brothers drink and hang around with the street boys due to the allure of alcohol and bad company.

In India where the girls were sheltered by the parents until they got married are now getting good education and very good jobs outshining boys in many families that makes me happy. If you look at the very smartly dressed female officers giving orders to men in uniform during the Republic Day parade in India, you will know that women are capable of rising to high ranks in the armed forces and do a very good job because they develop resolve and strong character and not just because they are women. Probably the fighter pilots who streak above in formation of their MiGs are also female daredevil pilots.

You cannot get ahead in your life if you are wishy washy and always procrastinate because it is perceived as a weakness in a person. The question to ask is why some people are that way while others do better? Does it have anything to do with the genes or does the society they live in makes them so?

I have written about the curse of sheltering in one of my blogs that is perhaps worth a look but people who succeed in spite of sheltering are my heroes because they develop a strong independent character that propels them to make quick and wise decisions that change their life.

They are also quick to identify and grab an opportunity that may come their way. I know a boy who grew up in a troubled home where his father was an alcoholic and a wife beater. One day he applied to be admitted to the prestigious air academy to train as a pilot in the Indian Air Force and was accepted. After several years of rigorous training he not only graduated at the top of his class but was given the award as the best pilot. He was later promoted to be the commander of his wings, retired from the Air Force and is now a commercial pilot of some airline.

So good things can happen to anyone in spite of the odds who has the resolve and does not blame others for his failures.

If you are a procrastinator then it is perhaps not too late to make a resolution that you will from now on do what needs to be done pronto and not put it off for another time. Good luck.

 

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