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Postponing happiness


PROCRASTINATION is a terrible thing, particularly if it involves facing something bad. Because we all know that life is not static, right?

The bad thing you are refusing to face is unlikely to just sit there, growing wrinkles and getting dusty — it is more probable that it will get worse; and the longer you leave it, the worse it will get.

But I do understand the psyche that makes us not want to deal with bad things. It’s quite logical in its own lame way.

What I struggle with is procrastination which involves things I enjoy. For instance, I might think about baking a cake on my way home on Friday evening.

“I am too tired to do it tonight, and besides I don’t have all the ingredients at room temperature, let me set it up for tomorrow. Yes, I will get up really early and have it in the oven before the kids are up. They may even have it for breakfast.”

So goes my self-talk. But when the alarm goes off on Saturday morning, I reasonably tell myself that Saturday is the only day I have the luxury of waking up late, so why not leave it till a bit later.

In fact, I reason, it will be more fun for the kids if I bake the cake together with them. By the time they get up, they have formulated their own agenda, which may or may not include my cake. There are errands to run, friends to visit, hair to be braided and groceries to be spent on, and before we know it it’s Sunday, and we are making sure homework is completed, and uniforms are clean, and the ingredients for the cake are now so accustomed to room temperature, they may as well be part of the kitchen furniture.

Why oh why does this happen, given the fact that I actually enjoy baking cakes? Once I get started, I am absolutely delighted and full of positive feelings. It’s a bit like how I used to feel about running and even going to church.

Once I am on the road, though, I am so happy I did it that you would never imagine that I could put it off again. And yet I do. Experts on the subjects tell us that the core of procrastination is fear. Perhaps we fear failure. Or we fear disappointing others.

Or we fear that once we are happy, we may want something more that needs even greater effort. The perfectionist postpones doing something he enjoys because it may not be perfect this time; or perhaps the conditions for doing it are not quite, well . . . perfect.

But in fact, postponing happiness may result in happiness disappearing altogether.

Like the philosospher William James said:
“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an unfulfilled goal.” So go on and do the thing that makes you happy: Today!

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