New Year Resolutions? Consider the Value of Procrastination

We’re sure you’ve seen all the programs, courses and exhortations about making New Year resolutions and setting your goals to accomplish in the coming year. That is all well and good, as far as it goes. It just doesn’t account for what inevitably happens when we embark on the tasks of goal accomplishment. That’s why we thought it would be a good idea to look at that dreaded guilt tripper procrastination from a slightly more enlightened and expansive perspective.

The following is by David Whyte, the acclaimed poet, author and lecturer originally from the United Kingdom, now living in the Pacific Northwest.

David says . . .

“Procrastination is not what it seems.

To see procrastination as undesirable, especially in the initial stages of an endeavor is to say that Job was procrastinating by wrestling with his angel; that a woman feeling her first birth pangs should simply get on with it; that a bud should be broken open to reveal the full glory of the flower.

What looks from the outside like our delay; our lack of commitment; even our laziness may have more to do with a slow, necessary ripening through time and the central struggle with the realities of any endeavor to which we have set our minds. To hate our procrastinating tendencies is in some way to hate our relationship with time itself, to be unequal to the phenomenology of revelation and the way it works its own way in its very own gifted time, only emerging when the qualities it represents have a firm correspondence in our necessarily struggling heart and imagination.

Any creative frontier is by its nature a conversational frontier, it is a meeting of the inner and the outer worlds we inhabit, it is a knitting together, a growing together, a surprising arrival with its own, to begin with, unknown unfolding, caught within it as part of its genius. Procrastination when studied closely can be a beautiful thing, a parallel with patience, a companionable friend, a revealer of the true pattern, already caught within us; acknowledging for instance, as a writer, that before a book can be written, most of the ways it cannot be written must be tried first, in our minds, on the blank screen, on the empty page or staring at the bedroom ceiling at four in the morning.

An endeavor achieved without delay, wrong turnings, occasional blank walls and a vein of self-doubt running through all, leading eventually to some degree of heartbreak, is a thing of the moment, a bagatelle, and often neither use nor ornament. It will be scanned for a moment and put aside.What is worthwhile carries the struggle of the maker written within it, but wrought into the shape of an earned understanding.

Procrastination helps us to be a student of our own reluctance, to understand the hidden darker side of the first enthusiastic idea, to learn what we are afraid of in the endeavor; to put an underbelly into the work itself so that it becomes a living, satisfying whole, not a surface trying to manipulate us in the moment.

Procrastination does not stop a project from coming to fruition, what stops us is giving up on an original idea because we have not got to the heart of the reason we are delaying, nor let the true form of our reluctance instruct us in the way ahead. To procrastinate is to be involved with larger entities than our own ideas, to refuse to settle for an early underachieving outcome and wrestle like Job with his angel, finding as Rilke said, Winning does not tempt that man, This is how he grows, by being defeated decisively, by greater and greater beings.”

Please feel free to share your thoughts and questions about this post and even your own “creative frontier”.

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