Stop Getting Ready To Live And Live

“Putting things off is the biggest waste of life: It snatches away each day as it comes and denies us the present by promising the future. The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today…The whole future lies in uncertainty: Live immediately.” — Seneca

Procrastination sucks. Why? 

Because all of the great things that you could be able to accomplish in your life, not happening, because of procrastination. Procrastination is the thief of time, Charles Dickens said, and our time is limited. 

Imagine how cool it would be if you practiced a musical instrument, learned a new language, and worked on a business, every day, for the next 5 years. Do you think you would get somewhere? Surely, don’t you think? I mean, you’d do it every day. 

We all want to do great stuff in our lives. It feels good to share and contribute and to learn and to nourish your curiosity. It just feels very good. What skills do you currently have because of working on them fairly often? I’m sure they are a source of pride for you. 

I have to confess something. I’ve been “working” on a product (course) to help people understand why they think the way they think so that they can change it if needed and live a healthier, more meaningful life, mentally speaking. 

I know I know enough now to make it happen, but I’ve been putting it off and off and off. I know I would love to spend my time writing and getting better and better and learning more and more so I can do my part in the best way possible, but I just haven’t even started. 

I’m stuck at writing articles here and there, some of them successful, almost all of them just generic. But just that, just little articles. 

How awesome would it be if I’d get serious at my craft, and do it every day, seriously? How awesome would it be to make a living doing the stuff that I love? I’ll tell you. Fucking awesome. 

Why am I stuck in just doing articles here and there then? 

I mean, I know that putting things off is the biggest waste of life. I know that every day I don’t perfect my craft I am wasting my life away. 

Why do I keep putting things off then? 

I’ll tell you why.

Negative Reinforcement

You know, we humans, we are great at two things, seeking pleasure, and avoiding pain. 

This is a good thing of course. As a kid, you touched a hot thing, you got burned, which was bad. Then, you came about the same thing, but this time you didn’t touch it, so you didn’t experience pain, which was good. And afterward, you learned to avoid touching hot things. 

That was positive reinforcement. You learned something that enabled you to avoid pain, the bad type, and so you learned the behavior and applied it from then on. 

Now, what I’m about to tell you is a bit trippy. 

When you put something off, you experience the same pleasure that you experience when you avoid some kind of pain, in this case, that kind of pain is a negative emotion. So, every time that you have to do the dishes, to give an example, and you take your phone out to look at Instagram, just for a little while, your head experiences the same pleasure it experiences when you avoid, say, touching something hot. This is negative reinforcement, and it is addictive. 

This is scientifically true. The same area that experiences pleasure when you avoid a type of pain, like the hot thing I was telling you about, lights up when you avoid doing a task that you dread, such as doing the dishes, or….

Taking on a huge project. 

For me, going all-in on my website Stoic Answers is scary. Who am I to teach people, you know? How can I take on such a big thing as a course that actually helps people and is not just another internet rip-off? 

The project looks too big. And so I put it off. I write small articles that show some success already, such as this one, and I stay here, in my petty comfort zone. 

I know I’m wasting life by not taking on it. But every time I write a small article instead of doing the big things that need to be done, I experience the pleasure of avoidance, and I believe I’m now addicted to it. 

So, for you, and your projects, and the things that you want to do with your life, it might be happening the same as with me. Success is scary and also hard. It’s easier to do some other dumb, easy task, or even stuff that doesn’t get us anywhere but also gives us a good, although momentary, emotion, such as scrolling down on Instagram. 

We want to do awesome stuff, but our brains trick us into pursuing the wrong kind of stuff because it is pleasurable, and then it gets addicted to them. 

Haha, awesome, isn’t it? 

So, what’s the way out? 

Break the fuck out of your tasks

Sorry for the language, but I need you to remember this. 

Making an internet course is a big, scary task. At least for me. So, every time I think about getting started, I don’t know where to begin. 

This gets me anxious and makes me think I’m dumb and that I don’t really know what I’m doing. So what do I do? I do something else that gives me that pleasure of avoidance, like writing a small article or reading about Stoicism, or worse, playing videogames or Instagram. Every time I do this I get even more addicted to my avoidance tasks, and it gets scarier and scarier. 

The problem is that, because it is too big, I can’t handle it, mentally speaking. So what I need to do, is divide it into something so stupidly, so paramountly stupidly simple, that there is no way in the world I cannot do it if I sit down even for 5 minutes. 

I thought about it earlier in the day. I decided that after writing this article, I would write the first, say 5 chapters of the course. Just that, nothing else. 

I can definitely do that. 

I could do more, but I will not. Because wanting to take the whole thing in one gulp is what is fucking me over and making me addicted to avoiding it. 

The answer is to get addicted to the stupidly simple tasks that you can take over easily if you divide the fuck out of the big task. That way, you turn the game in your favor. You’ll still be addicted, but that addiction, will be to progress, and it will take you further and further. In no notice, you’ll have ended your task. Be it finishing a book, learning a new language, whatever. 

Now, it’s your turn. What have you been putting off? What would you like to be or learn? Now think about the stupidest, most simple thing you can do right now. Can you make it? If so, get on it, and break the cycle. 

Now, I have to leave you. I’m honestly angry, I want to start. I’m predicting that I’ll finish it in 10 minutes. It will definitely feel good to start. 

“Well-being is attained by little and little, and nevertheless is no little thing itself.” — Zeno

Thanks for reading, 

Ricardo

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3 Comments

  1. Thanks Ricardo
    Negative reinforcement could explain why I never tidy my flat, or write the novel etc.
    Best regards Terry

    1. I’m sure it will be a successful venture, even if it just means that you’ve at last done something that you’ve always wanted to do, and no more than that.
      You write articles with examples of your personal experience at times, which makes it easier for the reader (like me), to identify with.You’re doing a great job, don’t doubt yourself!

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