Monday, 27 February 2012

Just smile and do it

There are times when I'm convinced that no one in the entire world procrastinates the way I do. It's like I'll KNOW how important it is to do something... to complete a task or to follow through on a project... but I'll have absolutely no inclination to do it. Then I'll find every excuse not to do it and will even become absorbed in the most mundane activities - it's ridiculous. And I'll always end up wondering why on earth couldn't I just get to it. I mean, I recognise the urgency and the need, but I just.can'

I'm not always like this though. There are times when I can forge ahead with such a force that the devil himself doesn't stand a chance. If only I could be like that all the time, and not only when I'm desperately wanting things to go my way.

Three months ago I enrolled in an Advanced TEFL (Teaching English to Foreign Learners) online program that cost a small fortune. And for days, weeks and months following my enrolment I just sat and looked at my screen quite vacantly. I'd read the first line, get bored and then go on Facebook instead. And when I got tired of that, I'd go and read everything on The Daily Mail - because even something as stupid as Victoria Beckham making her way through LAX was more interesting than Phonemes and Teaching Methodologies.

It reminded me of my second year at University more than a decade ago - when I spent a good deal of my time incarcerated in Linguistics and Literary Science, a pre-requisite pain-in-the-ass kinda class if there ever was one.

Sure there were modules that were interesting and I wouldn't have been able to have long semi-impressive conversations on Post-Modernism, Matisse and Dali, Impressionism, Rembrant's artistic style, brush strokes, abstract art and everything else in this world that is a whole lot of information on nothing.

But a large part of it was mind numbing and painful. It felt like my mind was being repeatedly assaulted and violated and there was nothing I could do about it. Staring at the seemingly endless list of modules on the Advanced TEFL course was very similar. I would have rather opted to have my eyeballs skewered while I was being skinned alive than read another excruciating page.

And so the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months. Then finally, last week it dawned on me that I had a deadline date looming after which my allocated time would expire and it would be all over. I wish I could say that this did it for me. But no.

It was actually my Mother. See, Mother kept on asking me about it and I kept on deferring. Then she went away and I missed her so much that I thought it would be awesome to surprise her when she came back. So I made up my mind to get it done and that's when I just sat down and did it... in less than 5 days. And every single HOUR, I had Beto Perez's words echoing in my mind:

"Just smile and do it"

I managed to shut out everything for some time and got it done. And then I wondered why on earth did it take  me so long to get down to doing it. I would have been done ages ago and saved myself a lot of anxiety and stress. Anyways, my aggregate is 78% which ironically, I'm disappointed about because I know I could have gotten 90% at least. But it's done and I can breathe again without feeling the weight of Kilimanjaro on my shoulders.

It got me thinking about the reason I procrastinate so much. Perhaps it's my fear of failure... or even more so... my fear of success that prevents me from getting it done. Because when we succeed, we push ourselves beyond our own physical, emotional and psychological limits into uncharted territories. And uncertainty has always been a breeding ground for fear. The trick is to find the courage to succeed and trusting that we'll be fine along the way.

For some reason it seems that lately, there are more and more things where I'm forced to just smile and do it. It's not a pleasant place to be. But at least some things are getting done.


  1. It's never easy to force your brain to think about something it doesn't want to think about. It always finds a way of changing the subject.

  2. " seems that lately, there are more and more things where I'm forced to just smile and do it. It's not a pleasant place to be. But at least some things are getting done."

    You're keeping me company in the same boat lately.

    Congratulations on finishing your TEFL, though!! *Celebratory dance* It's one more thing out of the way. ;)

  3. I totally get you! :) I am very much the same way. I think it is always a mixture of both the fear of failure and the fear of success that keeps us walking in place, not moving forward, or marking time.

    It's so much easier to stagnate than it is to risk. You were right to JUST DO IT!

  4. Wowzers, it was like reading my own thoughts. Mine in this case is a web design course. blehhhh.

  5. What could be MORE interesting than phonemes, Mother? Don't be too hard on yourself... unless you want to be perfect.

  6. I find that actually starting the task you do not want to do the hardest part - once it is started then you sort of get into it.

    But alas, I tend to have my moments of procrastination too. And man, do I disappoint myself! :-/ I ended up giving up on my online writing course eventually - after much lazying around, and a small fortune was forfeited too.

  7. You're absolutely right about the fear of both failure and success. Most of what I now procrastinate about is re: things that are deeply important to me/pivotal to my future livelihood.

  8. It may seem that I'm shallow, but I personally would rather watch Posh/Victoria Beckham making her way through LAX than read about Phonemes and Teaching Methodologies on a computer screen...

  9. Hi there, stranger. Well, I just smiled and did it: my first week back in class after a six-month 'break'. I'm dead tired but at least I'm back in the saddle again. Say you knew I could do it... Have a nice weekend.
    - RC

  10. Good Job, taking care of that TFEL / I did not know what it was until now.
    "Procrastination is a very bad thing, I will take care of it tomorrow!" hee hee hee. I should be ashamed of myself for saying this, as I am sixty one.

  11. GB
    Yes that's true.

    Thanks hun! I wish we were in a boat that was more like a yacht in an exotic location :)

    I wish we could abandon fear - leave it in the dust for good!

    I empathise! But good luck...

    A raging fever, work stress and about 1000 other problems reign. I do wish I was perfect though *sigh*
    Really glad for you that you're back in the saddle. Hope it's all good and you're feeling better!

    I'm sure you were disappointed. Sometimes, I have no problem starting a project. It's seeing it through that kills me - especially when the subject matter is so boring I'd rather watch paint dry.

    Roving Retorter
    I wish I could overcome this fear for good. Doubt is never good. And I'm chronically afraid of making a grand mistake - which is another reason I procrastinate so much.

    I agree, watching Victoria is much more interesting than watching most things on the news.

    I often find that when we leave things for the last minute something always creeps up and we don't have the time we thought we'd have to carry out the task. I wish it was easier to "seize the day"!

  12. Well, who says you're not?

    Works stress is a problem that I deal with in a very simple way: I never work on Mondays. I tried not working on Fridays but all I did was check the clock, waiting for my friends and family to knock off. Monday's much better. You should try it. And as for your fever... stay away from me - charming bling bling goggles or not! ;)

  13. I'm very guilty of this. Excellent at coming up with "excuses" as to why it gets pushed back. Sadly, these excuses are very flimsy when looking back later on.

  14. RCB
    I really really wish that I didn't have to work on Mondays. But, TIA (this is Africa. :(

    I think most people are guilty of this to some degree. There are very few people walking around thinking "yeah I nailed it" lol

  15. 'This is Africa...'? So? If you feel you shouldn't work on Mondays then you shouldn't. It's a freeworld (where we live). Just think of it as being ahead of your time. :)