Hello. I am a procrastinator. I procrastinate. I have known this about myself for a long time, and I have come a long way toward understanding the mechanisms behind this ridiculous and self-sabotaging phenomena. I've figured out a few things: 1. No matter how long I procrastinate, I ALWAYS come through and get the job done. 2. I procrastinate more when I'm working on something personal, and less when I am working on something professionally or when any person in my life is counting on that thing I am working on, and 3. As agonizing as procrastination is, I get something out of it. You see, I procrastinate for two reasons. One is that I need time to percolate and allow creativity to seep behind my ideas, in order to create. Sometimes my procrastination isn't me not wanting to do whatever it is I should be doing. It's that I don't have it fully fleshed out yet. I don't know what to do yet. So I think about it in little spurts and bits here and there until I hit a spark. And then I get to work. It is not an efficient process, and I am glad to be learning more about being proactive. The other reason I procrastinate is that I am an extremely busy person (as we all are) and I look at some tasks as things that can be done later. I am constantly prioritizing in the moment, but many times with the little things in my life I create much more work and the need for time-consuming effort with my procrastination. For example (no judgments please), I go to wash my hands and realize that the soap dispenser is empty. It would take me 30 seconds to refill the bottle, but I am in a hurry. My actions are purposeful, and refilling the soap was not in my plan. I'll do it later. But seriously, sometimes I will deal with thinking about that stupid soap bottle and not being able to wash my hands at that particular sink, for days. I am not proud of that fact, which is why I write about it here and now as I contemplate my new efforts at the new skill of becoming proactive. I can alleviate much agony and inconvenience by acting in the moment instead of putting the task off for later.
What I like about the habit of being proactive is that it refers to taking action, but it also refers to not reacting in a situation. Being proactive means taking stock of any situation, pausing to consider the situation and its options, and then making a conscious decision to act in a particular way that is consistent with one's outlook and philosophy. That is powerful. We give all of our power away when we simply react and allow our emotions to control the situation. Being proactive involves acknowledging "It is what it is," which allows some of the emotion-charging energy to drain away, and then making a decision to proceed in the best possible way, given the particular scenario. In her book Devotion, Dani Shapiro wrote, "We can't control what we're given, but we absolutely can control what we do with what we are given." Just yesterday I watched an interview with her, and much of what she talked about was in line with this concept of being proactive. It really is about taking charge of the situation. In Dr, Pumpian's words, the idea is to "Gain control over circumstances rather than being controlled by them."
So this week as I focus on the art of being proactive, I will look at my life, both personally and professionally, through the lens of being proactive. Where can I be more proactive? Given a tough situation at work I will try to remember to pause and reflect before I act. I intend to insert a breath before I speak when asked a question or when hearing a comment by my children, husband, friends or co-workers. "Pause, breathe, reflect, act"- my new mantra.
I plan to teach this habit to my children. This is an incredible life skill that I wish I had had instilled in me when I was younger, so I will take this opportunity now. We often talk and philosophize at the table during breakfast and dinner, so I will utilize that already established family norm as a place to teach my boys about being proactive. We'll begin today. I'll talk with them about the concept of being proactive, go through some examples from their lives, and ask them how they think this skill can help them in their everyday lives. We will write the basics of this skill on our family dry erase board, and then I'll ask each of my three sons to pick one area in their lives in which they think this skill will help, and we'll write that down on the board as well. At the end of the day we'll chat about how it went, celebrate the victories and reflect on what was difficult.