“Why do I procrastinate?”
It’s one of those questions we rarely ask ourselves.
Yet we need to.
Today, I was shown the answer.
I’m a perfectionist. No matter how hard I convince myself out of it, the bare truth is that I like to do things well.
That personality fact is a calamity when you are forced to combine time-deadlines into the mix of life.
In addition, I know how to do things well (mostly). I was taught well! So whether it’s essays, inductive Bible study, or writing. . . I hold myself to a gold standard, simply, because I know what to do.
You know how this gift, this drive affected me?
I saw what I could do, and it scared me. My standards of perfection were too high. Instead of seeing tasks as the brick walls they were– built block by block– I saw a massive ancient temple that was supposed to be pristine, proper, beautiful. I couldn’t do that in the time that I had. So I didn’t.
Yet deadlines (I’m thinking university assignments) would draw close, and my survival instincts of “I need to be liked by my lecturers” and “DO WELL!” kicked in. It’s not a bad thing. God carried me through those times and gave me the grace to carry on. But I would end up puking my guts out those last few days, striving to complete the most beautifully pristine essay imaginable (in three days).
The weird thing is, I succeeded.
As we’ve been learning about time management: When you say “yes” to one thing, you are saying “no” to another.
That is a sobering thought.
What was I saying “no” to, in holding on to my intense need for that precise sentence to be perfect before I turned it in, even though the time was clocking on, without my sanity following? What had I lost, in gaining an A?
I do believe God calls us do our work excellently.
But I also know He understands our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15), and wants us to be honest with ourselves, especially when peace is the farthest from what we feel.
I put off what I really wanted to do because I held on to that unattainable sense of perfection. “I can get it right, if only I had the time.” Yet now, I remember, only from adding these photos in. Two years ago, I traipsed around an ancient Cambodian temple that had pillars missing, stones crumbling, bricks breaking. Yet for some reason, tourists from around the world still come and snap photos, posting its glory on Facebook albums entitled “Angkor Wat”. Surely the builders of that pagan sanctuary understood that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and didn’t attempt instant perfection. Yet who could fathom that it would be honored today, regardless of its weakness?
This is what I learned: Just because I know how to do it well, doesn’t mean I always should.
Does that sound crazy?
Well, maybe it is. Yet I’ve discovered in saying “no” to perfection, I instead gained a sense of need and dependency on those around me, and above all, God. Not the “God I need to finish this or else I will combust” type of dependency (He does answer those prayers– He’s so kind!). Instead, I became calm through the give and take of relationship, sustained by the long-suffering and steady God and His children around me.
Yes, rather than “A’s”, it’s through that community that I have been granted peace.
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” –1 Corinthians 14:33 (ESV)
Why do you procrastinate?
It pays to think about it.
[Photos by Andrew Dong: Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia. July 2011]