Like most ideas and dreams, ikigai too is susceptible to life’s most common adversary, procrastination, a self-inflicted wound that comes in all shapes and sizes. If you don’t stop procrastinating and start living, it will kill your ikigai.
Prevalent among us, many have procrastinated to some degree, sometimes for short periods, sometimes for longer. Usually, we break out of the rut and get back in the game. However, long periods of inaction can serve to enhance your anxiety and delay positive results.
Piers Steel concludes in the 2007 report, ‘The Nature of Procrastination: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review of Quintessential Self-Regulatory Failure‘ procrastination has but one purpose:
to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay…
Therefore, it is important to make an effort to understand what causes procrastination and how you can prevent it from happening. Otherwise, you may unwittingly sabotage yourself and your ikigai.
Causes of procrastination
Why is it that some people thrive at adversity while others shy away?
Although some studies suggest that biological or genetic traits may play a role in procrastination, most psychologists agree that our personality is the main factor in determining whether or not we procrastinate at any given time. The above-mentioned Steel report does well to analyze this.
The basis of the report comes from the fact that people do not procrastinate at random. Indeed, the nature of the task in front of the person plays a major role in whether or not the task is put off. Depending on one’s personality combined with a high level of adversity towards the task, the risk of inaction increases.
Using that logic, Steel has identified two characteristics that can be associated with tasks.
1) Timing of rewards or punishments
The first of the two task characteristics is the timing when one receives a reward or punishment. In other words, the further away the perceived outcome is from the present, the less urgency there is to complete the task.
Regarding your desire to pursue ikigai, this is perhaps the most likely characteristic that will influence your success. Simply because it can often take a considerable amount of time to achieve a personal level of satisfaction.
Therefore, it is important to note that the rewards of finding and living your ikigai should not be defined as one achievable goal. Ikigai is a lifelong pursuit for a meaningful and fulfilling life. The journey is never-ending. Ultimately, following your ikigai is also a conscious choice to manage your expectations.
Understandably, this is difficult in a world where instant gratification is common. So, it is worth practicing.
The second factor is the level of aversiveness one feels towards the tasks before them. Not surprisingly, if one finds a certain task unpleasant, their natural instinct is to avoid the task altogether.
While you may have some level of aversiveness in daily activities or in combative situations, the very nature of ikigai is contrary to this characteristic. After all, ikigai is essentially following your passion, right? By default, because your passion is pleasant to you, there would be no cause for procrastinating, right?
Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. Even with ikigai, there can be areas of personal doubt or fear of failure. Both of these are unpleasant and can quite easily impact your ability to move forward. So, you work hard to overcome such averseness, especially if you are following your ikigai.
Personality is an important factor in determining whether or not the task at hand is beyond a timely level of satisfaction or comfort carrying out the task.
A set of five personality traits, known as The Five-Factor Model of Personality (FFM), can explain some differences and behaviors in people and why they may, or may not, procrastinate.
Neuroticism or one’s tendency to be prone to psychological stress, worry, anger, depression, and vulnerability is a direct cause of procrastination. Understandably, such feelings towards certain tasks will create high levels of aversion.
In order to understand how neuroticism can affect your ikigai, it is important to recognize what is unpleasant about the task or why it creates anxiety.
Some common beliefs are:
- irrational or dysfunctional beliefs such as the necessity to be loved by everyone or obtain approval from them
- low self-efficacy or low self-esteem in that one must be competent, adequate and achieving
- self-handicapping oneself because there is no perfect solution, and regardless of the effort one puts in, nothing will really change
- depression or the inability to enjoy life’s activities because responsibilities and difficulties make it is easier to avoid them rather than face them head on
Openness to experience
For some, there is discomfort in the unknown and unless they consider the task beforehand, they might be less apt to accept new emotions, adventures, or ideas. They may find it difficult to begin a journey towards a life of purpose.
Constant self-discovery and exploration are essential to not only finding your ikigai, but also growth. Those who are more open to learning new things or and take on new activities are predisposed to ikigai.
In terms of ikigai, willful desire and thoroughness is often a positive trait. A person with a high level of conscientiousness might find that they are highly organized and able to achieve their goals. Conversely, a person who doesn’t bind themselves to diligence may find themselves to be more flexible and spontaneous.
In both cases, a person is surely able to withstand procrastinating. Unless, of course, their conscientiousness is at more extreme levels and restricts their own discipline or dependability.
At times, however, one may find it difficult to organize or achieve growth and as a consequence, they may be more susceptible than naught to pausing their actions.
Some consequences are:
- distractibility as it can lead one astray, far enough where it becomes difficult to return
- poor organization and lack of a specific ordering, structuring or planning as it causes confusion and demotivation
- low achievement can dampen motivation and cause one to easily lose interest in less-engaging activities
- inability to understand the gaps between intentions and actions can cause confusion and problems with adapting
AgreeablenessAgain, depending on the task at hand, your level of friendliness or compassion towards others may have an impact on procrastination.
In terms of ikigai, a person who is helpful and trustworthy in nature is also one who will live a more meaningful life. In contrast, someone who is argumentative or untrustworthy will not.
Also influencing one’s procrastination is their extraversion or how outgoing or solitary they are.
Generally speaking, people describe extraverts as sociable, optimistic, and energetic. Surely, it sometimes seems like nothing stands in their way.
However, there is a negative side, the tendency for impulsiveness.
Impulsive types may often seek immediate gratification. They may feel at odds with their attention and desires and seek out sensation, putting aside their responsibilities. In turn, the time it takes to receive the desired level of satisfaction might be longer than they are willing to wait.
Conversely, introverts who are less sociable can be somewhat lethargic or apathetic, not feeling the need or having the motivation to tend to their responsibilities. This too is a cause for procrastination.
More often than not, procrastinators feel underwhelmed with themselves and worse for having procrastinated. Regret sets in and a certain amount of depression as well. It is surely a no-win situation and one that should be avoided if possible.
But how can we avoid procrastination when it is a part of our very nature and is so darn easy of a trap to fall into?
Well, sometimes the simplest of methods are the best. Here are a few short and manageable tips. If practiced regularly you will form habits that keep you active and living a long and happy life.
Tips to manage procrastination
You don’t have to do everything at once. Take baby steps when you feel overwhelmed. Just remember to focus intently on what you are doing and why.
If you stop, then start up again. Start over if you need to. There is no rule saying you have to do things the same way over and over. Adapt as necessary.
Give yourself permission to be yourself regardless of whether or not you succeed in the eyes of others. Their opinions should matter not to your own.
When you are faced with obstacles, seek out companionship. Talk to your friends and family and let them know both what you are working on and more importantly, how you are working on it.
Take a moment to breathe and appreciate the little things in life. Look around you and try to appreciate where you are. Focus on what you enjoy and then try to enjoy more of it.
Understand that you are where you are now because you started at some point and have made it this far. If procrastination sets in, all you really need to do is get back on the horse.
With ikigai, it is not a zero-sum game or win-lose situation. You get as many chances at it as you want.
Now, think for a moment. What can you do right now to get you moving forward? What steps, big or small, can you take today to live with meaning and purpose? Write them down if you must, but act on the first one without delay.