Why do we procrastinate?

FEAR AND PROCRASTINATIONThe new year is often a stimulus for change. New Year’s resolutions abound. We may even be bold enough to share them with others. After all, we don’t want to still be eating Christmas cookies in February, nor buying Christmas gifts in March. We know we cannot live like December the other eleven  months of the year.

While we may start the new year fresh with resolutions intended to change us, by the second week of January a familiar friend shows up: procrastination. He reminds us:

  • It’s too cold to exercise this morning, you can always start tomorrow.
  • You can make up your Bible reading later in the week when there’s more time.
  • Why hurry with those resolutions, you  have the whole year ahead of you.

Often in my personal battle with procrastination, I’ve assumed I only needed to be more diligent. Work harder. Get up earlier the next morning. Only to discover, that when I got up earlier, I still didn’t get to the task I was supposed to get up earlier to do. That is because there is an underlying cause for procrastination that most of us fail to deal with: fear.

We’re afraid we might fail again. We’re afraid we’ll make the effort to change – really give it our best shot – and it will go unrecognized. The truth of the matter is we’re afraid, that while we really want to make a difference in this world, our life may not make much of a difference after all.  Starting something and quitting clearly feels like failing, but not starting something until tomorrow doesn’t seem to carry the same stigma. Still, whether we quit before we start, or quit after we start the end result is the same: we were unable to accomplish what God wanted us to do that day.

The Bible is filled with characters who sensed their own inadequacy, and were afraid, yet still stepped out on faith. Feeling a sense of his personal weakness, Gideon did most of his work at night (Judges 6:, 15, 27). One of the leading hero’s of the Jewish faith, Moses, claimed a stuttering problem (Exodus 4:10). Joshua feared he would be unable to lead as well as his predecessor (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9).

Procrastination could have played a part in these men’s lives. Can’t you hear it’s voice: Gideon, wait until you feel braver. Moses, work on your speech impediment for a few months before you go back to Egypt. Joshua, you need a few more years developing your own reputation before you lead.

Each of these men stepped out on faith, in spite of their fear, and God used them. One strategy for overcoming procrastination is to face that fear head on, and then act by faith not by fear. Procrastination doesn’t say “quit” it says “wait,” but in the end it’s all the same.

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