Is it Just Laziness Or Could it be Something More?

The Psychology Behind Procrastination Perhaps the most lethal form of self-sabotage we face in our lives today is procrastination. It can cross over into all areas of our lives, leaving us filled with anxiety. Once we begin to put things off, the to-do list becomes overwhelming and we don’t know where to start. Instead, we procrastinate more and, thus, the snowball continues to gain momentum and volume as we roll downhill.

Over 20% of people consider themselves chronic procrastinators. When you really think about it, that is a huge number. We speak of obesity and AIDS as epidemics that threaten the well-being of our society – shouldn’t procrastination be placed in this category as well? And what is causing all of these people to put things off again and again?

There are many theories about what causes a person to become a procrastinator. Perhaps the most compelling is that it begins with a controlling parent who creates a schedule and requires that it be strictly adhered to. While this may work well within the family unit at the time, these regimented children will not know how to plan for themselves. Their barometer of how long things take and how much can be done in a certain amount of time was not given the chance to develop correctly.

While they often are labeled as just plain lazy, laziness is rarely the cause of procrastination. It ultimately seems to stem from a problem with self-regulation. Studies have shown that procrastinators tend to consume larger amounts of alcohol in a sitting, revealing an inability to know when enough is enough. According to well-known psychologists Dr. Joseph Ferrari of De Paul University in Chicago, there are actually three basic types of procrastinators: 

  • Thrill seekers who wait until the last minute to achieve a euphoric rush of having just finished in time
  • Those who avoid due to self-esteem issues caused by a concern of how others perceive them. Their fears could be of success or failure, but this is based in the fact that they would rather have others things they lack effort rather than ability.
  • Those who do not want to take responsibility for outcomes and so avoid making any important decisions.

Regardless of the procrastination type, breaking the cycle can be very difficult. The biggest hurdle is getting the procrastinator to admit that he/she has a problem. Part of this behavior includes lying to one’s self to the point of conviction. A procrastinator is sure that they will be in a better mood to do this or that tomorrow, that they are more creative under pressure or that a particular task really isn’t as important as it first seemed.

It is particularly difficult to “reform” a procrastinator whose behavior was formed in childhood. However, by paying close attention to procrastination-based behaviors and making a concerted effort to change these behaviors, it is possible for procrastinators to succeed and prosper.

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