Welcome to part two of The Art of Taking Action series. In part one I wrote about the central ideas in the book The Art of Taking Action: Lessons from Japanese Psychology, by Gregg Kech.
As well as Kech’s own writing, the book also features essays by other contributors which also have some great insights on the topic.
One of these essays is by the late musician and educator Shinichi Suzuki on the topic ‘To Merely Want to Do Something Is Not Enough’. Suzuki really gets to the heart of how we end up with the habit of procrastination and why it’s so unhelpful. He asks:
“Why is it that so many people think of doing things and do not do them?”
And then he suggests a possible answer:
“From the time they are children, people are ordered about by their parents to do this, to do that. They develop resistance, and reluctantly do as they are told, or avoid doing it if possible. The resistance habit becomes subconscious, until they are unable to perform immediately even those things they think of doing themselves. They may think something is a good thing to do, but they have gotten so that they are unable to do it simply and naturally.”
For what it’s worth, I think there are other emotional reasons why people can become compulsive procrastinators, and these can be very complex, but the process he describes probably comes into play at some point with everyone who struggles to stay motivated.
The fact of the matter is though, as Suzuki suggests, is that this sad state of affairs stops people living the life they are destined to lead. This has been a problem in my own life, where I often feel I am not fulfilling my own potential.
The answer, he says, is to work at getting better at taking action immediately and not putting things off until tomorrow. Easier said than done, but as I suggested in the previous post, perhaps it is simply a case of practising.
In the quote below I’ve highlighted what I think is the key sentence in bold.
“Even small tasks should not be neglected, but completed right away. It is very important to be able to do this. People who get a lot done manage it because they have the ability to get each necessary thing done right there and then.
If you put a task off until some other time, you will never get it done, because “some other time” has its own tasks. Consequently you end up doing nothing and become a person who keeps putting things off.”
From my own experience this is very true. Putting things off creates a vicious circle which means we can never get caught up. We can’t predict what the future will bring, and we owe it to ourselves not to weigh our future selves down with past problems and worries. Otherwise, we will never be free to enjoy the precious moments of our lives!
There are a few more posts to follow discussing other ideas in the book, and Email subscribers will receive a summary at the end of the week.