Rewards without the sacrifice. What could be better than that?
When I was working on my CBC Ideas program In Defense of Procrastination (yes. That’s also the title of my forthcoming book), one of the most enjoyable interviews I did was with psychology professor Dr. Timothy Pychyl, who heads the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa and is the author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle. He’s a genuinely interesting and very funny person. I will be referring often to him both in this blog and in my book.
I was happy to read that Dr. Pychyl is now investigating the relationship between procrastination and resolution-making. In a recent article in the Hamilton Spectator, Pychyl pointed out that humans tend to see the future as “a true blank slate.” I know from personal experience (repeated personal experience) that this way of looking at the future is a slippery slope.
By allowing ourselves to put off acting on our (very worthwhile) decisions to make new beginnings, we get a double-whammy bonus: 1) we get to feel great about ourselves, and 2) we don’t yet have to start the hard work associated with the resolution itself. As Pychyl points out in his example, we can pat ourselves on the back because we are going to go on a diet, without actually having to go on the diet… yet. To put it another way, we can easily overestimate our ability to achieve in the abstract: the ongoing drudgery of changing a habit makes reality far more challenging.
So, if procrastinating brings us the kind of immediate rewards (e.g., permission to indulge in our less-than-productive activities while also feeling good about ourselves) that we probably won’t get for a long time if we actually try to change our lives, maybe we simply need to keep rescheduling our resolutions instead of trying to act on them. 😉