The Secret Hidden in Your Procrastination

January 17, 2024

The Secret Hidden in Your Procrastination

‘So lazy.’ This thought often arises when you find yourself doing nothing but watching YouTube all weekend. But don't worry; the author of this article does the same. While the media seldom spotlight ordinary people, the reality is that most of us live like this. In a society that worships overachieving, it's important not to feel unnecessary guilt. If we eliminate such moments from our lives, we would quickly burn out.

What we need to scrutinize carefully is the 'laziness' that arises from 'psychological reasons.' The better term here is lethargy, rather than laziness. Lethargy is often observed in people suffering from clinical-level mental health issues, such as depression. Even those grappling with psychological issues, whether or not they have depression, may display lethargy. But why does this lethargy arise?

From a psychological viewpoint, lethargy is a type of 'coping strategy.' That is, it's a strategy developed to minimize the negative influence that 'something threatening oneself' can have. Jeffrey E. Young, who developed Schema Therapy, explains that three types of coping strategies exist:

  • Surrender: Simply comply.
  • Overcompensation: Strive to prove that it's not true.
  • Avoidance: Evade as if it doesn't exist.

Each strategy has its merits, respectively:

  • Surrender: If you can't win from the get-go, why not save unnecessary energy and comply?
  • Overcompensation: Fight to the end—defeat it, get rid of it.
  • Avoidance: Isn't it enough to avoid facing it and act like it doesn't exist?

Then, what does 'something threatening oneself' indicate? It refers to the root and central thoughts that torment oneself. While Cognitive Behavioral Therapy calls them 'core beliefs,' Schema Therapy refers to these tormenting thoughts as 'psychological schemas' in a broader context. Despite the variations in terminology, the meanings are same. There are central thoughts tormenting us, and due to the sheer agony they cause, we execute coping strategies.

Let's consider an example. Suppose there's a promising entrepreneur who has secured a substantial investment. Major success seemed imminent until the business suddenly began failing, culminating in a company shutdown. Despite six years of devotion, the entrepreneur had nothing to show for it. In the face of profound disappointment, he formulated the following thought: "I am a loser." As this thought was excruciating, the entrepreneur unconsciously executed a coping strategy.

  • Surrender: Act like a real loser from here on out—embrace mediocrity and laziness.
  • Overcompensation: No way, I am not a loser. I can achieve perfection, and anything less is meaningless.
  • Avoidance: Getting a job? I'll do that later. There's no rush, and more opportunities will come.

The problem is that these coping strategies create a cycle of negativity. If you surrender, the thought "I am a loser" becomes stronger. If you avoid, you lose the motivation to change and end up in the same situation. Overcompensation may seem somewhat plausible. However, if the motivation for change is overcompensation, it is bound to collapse eventually. It's like a tower built with sand. And when it collapses for the second time, you will be even more devastated.

Therefore, if issues of laziness or lethargy stem from 'psychological problems', it's necessary to identify the central thought and distance ourselves from it. Motivation for change should not hinge on concealing an unstable ego or forcing oneself to prove something, but should be driven by the values of the life one truly desires. If this can be achieved, regardless of failure or outcome, we can strive toward the life we want, ultimately finding satisfaction within the process.

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