My advice is, never to do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.
Wise words to encourage us to do things now, written by Charles Dickens 150 years ago in ‘David Copperfield’, but eternally valid.
I believe they are wise words, but many people I know invest in the opposite way of thinking, pushing ahead of them a mountain of things undone, dreams unrealised, creative projects shelved. Only too often, this procrastination is accompanied by a deep-seated, possibly unconscious fear of failure, or sometimes a fear of success.
For all those who’ve been on a holiday to beautiful Spain, the words ‘mañana, mañana’ – tomorrow, tomorrow’, will sound very familiar and could give rise to a giggle, but possibly to feelings of upset and frustration. And what if tomorrow never comes? What’s wrong with doing things today…now, getting them out of the way, all over and done with, accompanied by a feeling of relief and satisfaction? We all know how the burden of an overlong to-do list can weigh us down.
Let’s look at some of the types of to-do list. There is the one for our mundane daily-grind-stuff, like shopping, cooking, cleaning…then there is the one we can ignore for a while, but suddenly-becomes-urgent, like repairing the dripping water tap, giving your home a new coat of paint, paying a bill, making time to play with the children…
Unfortunately, procrastination in either of the above can lead to serious stress situations.
And then, there is our bucket-list, the list for BIG projects, the ones we’re longing to do in order to prove to ourselves that we exist as a creative force.
This, I believe, is the most challenging category, as our feelings of regret often come too late for us to do anything about them.
I’ve reached a point in my life where both reflection and planning the next step, walk gently hand in hand. Some of my projects in the past have been like a spontaneous combustion. Bang, there was a new idea, something to throw myself into. This impulse could be sparked by many things, like listening to an inspiring person, reading a fabulous book, looking at the beauty of nature or just a thought arising from the depth of my being.
And…yes, I did fall flat on my face at times, especially with one challenging project, mistakenly placing my trust in people where none was due. In this particular case, failure led to a triumph, for that project saved at least one life I know about, and perhaps more.
Reflection tells me that I had to do it anyway, that the project was worthwhile and that it has benefitted many people over the years on many levels, especially spiritually and emotionally.
If procrastination had stopped me from following my vision, my documentary Chartres Cathedral – A Sacred Geometry would not have been around to save a life. Over the years, many people wrote to me. One of the most touching letters came from a father who had been concerned about his son’s mental and emotional wellbeing for some time. Just by chance he’d stumbled over an advertisement for the film I had placed in a magazine. He felt compelled to order a copy and invited his son, with whom he had a very difficult relationship up to that point, to watch the documentary with him. Almost at the end of the film, the Dean of Chartres talks about a young American who had contracted AIDS and who knew that he was dying. His longing to find inner peace before his life was over, led him to visit Chartres Cathedral in France.
After his death, the young man’s sister was given his personal diary. Under the chapter ‘Visit to Chartres’, she found the following words that touched her deeply and consoled her: ‘…here I found the grace to die in peace’.
Upon hearing these words, the young man hugged his father and burst into tears. He thanked him for his love and concern, and for the first time in years, father and son were able to communicate openly with each other. The father had written to me to say that the son’s depression and suicidal tendencies had lifted there and then.
You tell me, dear reader, was that not worthwhile taking a risk for? I’d say yes, even if the journey had been a very difficult one.
Feel the fear and do it anyway!
These words have been my motto for many years, despite a natural tendency to curl up, preferably not to be seen, heard or taken notice of. But none of this is really about me. This is about doing stuff that unknowingly may well be for the greater good, by listening to the voice within and following its guidance… fearlessly.
Of course, there have to be times in our lives of ‘nothingness’, watching the paint dry on the wall, watching a snail make its way up the garden path, of waiting until a raindrop finally detaches itself from a spider’s web and falls to the ground…there has to be a space in anyone’s life for contemplation, meditation and wonderful stillness, emptiness. These are the moments when we re-charge our batteries, before we carry on with new and exciting projects.
We do not know when our time is up, but we do know that it feels good when we tick off our ‘to-do list’ and achieve our goals, great and small. And remember Procrastination is the Thief of Time!
“Only put off until tomorrow, what you are willing to leave un-done before you die.” Pablo Picasso.
Article by More to Life Elder Louise Illig-Mooncie