In his TED talk, “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator,” Mr. Tim Urban explains that every human being, to one degree or another, is subconsciously a procrastinator. Be it a project they are working on, purchasing those new tablecloths we told ourselves we will buy or answering those gosh long emails, we subconsciously tell ourselves, we’ll take care of it tomorrow or sometime in the near distant future. It’s not that we are incapable of doing the above tasks; it’s that we are simply nonchalant about completing them.
To hammer his point home, Tim provides the following example: A college student has a term paper due at the end of his semester, but he doesn’t do anything about it until the very last day. He pushes it off the entire semester, and right before the paper is due, he buys a 6-pack of Red Bull, runs to the library, and makes the slow-motion movie-style dive to submit the paper 11 seconds before it’s due.
Where did this student with no energy to write his paper the entire semester suddenly finds the bullish stamina to work for 17 hours straight?
He really did have the strength the entire semester to write his paper. What’s different during those final 17 hours is his realization of an impending deadline that pushes him over the edge to spend an all-nighter. His laziness is knocked over by the anxieties of his upcoming deadline. When there are no hard deadlines it’s very easy to put things on the back burner. Mr. Urban concludes that to overcome our “subconscious procrastination bias” we must self-impose deadlines in order to accomplish our goals.
Throughout life, doses of inspiration for positive spiritual change hit us. We are inspired about a new class opening in our neighborhood, excited about a new charity project, motivated to learn a bit more Torah every day or stirred to help our friends in need. Yet it’s at the exact time that this inspiration comes that our “subconscious procrastination machine” goes into high gear and convinces us that there is always next time or next year to work on these projects. After all, we are so young and have so much more time left. We kick the can down the road and continue along blissfully with our lives. But that thinking is flawed.
Although we may look, act, and believe that we are in the best of health (and we should, please God, continue to be so), we obviously won’t live forever. Imagine a “life calendar” with 120 boxes, with each box corresponding to a single year of our life. If we were to cross off the 20, 30 or 40 years that are already gone, we would quickly realize that there aren’t so many boxes left. And as we roll around to Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) we once again check off another box in our life calendar. And the High Holy Day season, when who is sealed in the Book of Life and who in the Book of Death is being decided, delivers a powerful wake up call. We realize that our time on earth is not infinite and that there is no guarantee of many boxes on our calendar.
We don’t know when our “deadline” is, but we know we are moving closer to it. Let’s not be like the student in the story who waited until the last second to spring into action. The time for change is now.
Let’s commit TODAY to enact some sort of positive spiritual change, or better yet, don’t even procrastinate that long and commit RIGHT NOW.
To quote Dr. Robert Kelso from the hit TV sitcom Scrubs: “Nothing in life that’s worth having comes easy, so get off your keister and do the work”.
Shana Tova and may the upcoming year be one full of health, wealth and all the possible blessings,