3 Key Reasons People Procrastinate Achieving their Goals and Dreams

“A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance”~ Hunter S. Thompson.

We all know that People procrastinate on their routine things as well as on their Dreams too.

And strangely, this is despite being aware that the work being postponed or delayed will cost you much more in the mid or long term, but still, people do. This procrastination disease is all pervasive in diverse areas of our all lives, we can categorize it into two different categories though.

Two Categories of Procrastination:

  1. Category #1- Time-bound activities.
  2. Category# 2 –Activities without any timelines.

Category# 1 covers all your actions, which need to be completed by a specific date or time. This category includes a range of activities from your daily chores to the most important activities.

Your activity could be preparing for your next examination or interview, or your next important client meeting or a board meeting of your company or it could be submitting an important report to your bosses.

You can go on and the list can continue, as per your own life circumstances and specific environment.

The key point is people procrastinate.

But Category#2 comprises of activities which are not bound by any timelines.

Think about it! Any example?

Let me help a bit!

This category covers your dreams and ambitions!

  • It could be your dream vacation!
  • It could be your dream adventure trip!
If you have seen the movie “The Bucket List”, you would remember the two men on the verge of their death due to cancer meet each other in the hospital. Realizing that death is not too far away, they decided to live fully in whatever time left with them. So, they made a list of all their desires to fulfill, before they kick the bucket. It covered all kind of funny or most adventurous dream, they could have thought of, in their “bucket list”.
And the best part, they really “LIVED” life, only while ticking their list of dreams on their bucket list.

So I was talking about those bucket list dreams, which are “Our Someday Goals or dreams”.

There are no timelines attached to them, right?

How many of us have put some specific timelines to our dreams and ambitions?

Not too many! Most of the people procrastinate in this category.

Even those who have taken steps to put timelines, there comes a general tendency to postpone that to next best possible date.

Okay, So What Next?

You would notice that even in the category#1 activities most of the population tends to delay the activity to the last possible hour if they could.

This is because of Parkinson’s principle, which states that

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”

But as you now that sometimes the ramification are too risky for not completing the task at hand. Therefore, the panic monster appears and we somehow manage to complete the category#1 activity (whether we like it or not)

But what about the category#2 activities i.e. about your dreams, your ambitions?

Since there are no timelines, no deadlines, we tend to procrastinate indefinitely on our dreams and ambitions.

Therefore, while time-bound activities still get done under the panic situation, but the real suffering is in the form of procrastinating to work on your dreams and ambitions.

But, the most important question is:

Why People Procrastinate?

There are 3 key reasons why most people procrastinate taking actions. Let’s look at them.

1. Fear of Failure

This is the first and foremost reason for people to put off even the most important activities of their lives. This reason alone accounts for the majority of the population for not taking any action further.

This fear appears to people to be such a stigma as if failure would mean that it would be a direct question mark on their capabilities. People tend to think that if they take some action and not succeed in that action, it would mean that there is something wrong with them.

Such people want guaranteed returns i.e. guaranteed success before they are ready to put in any efforts into some project. But there is a well-known principle of life:

No risk = no returns.
Or
Lower the risk = lower the return.

People would prefer to keep their funds in the fixed deposits account in their bank, rather than to invest in securities (which entail risk, but rewards too). This is the safest place for them and therefore offers the least returns on the investment (because of least quantum of risk involved).

Therefore, due to this fear of failure, people in this category rather choose to stay at wherever they are instead of moving forward and taking any action. Then, they feel safe in their current circumstances, but there is a cost for that as well i.e. no progress and no real growth in life.

But there is one different perspective to look at it- A SCIENTIST PERSPECTIVE

It is very enlightening to learn how scientists define the term failure, and that methodology can be very well applied to every aspect of our lives.

As scientists keep on experimenting with combinations and admixtures of various chemicals to see the reaction in their research activity towards any innovation.

But the key observation is that if some experiment fails, they immediately take it as a “data point”, that this particular process or combination does not work. Nothing more than that!

They never take it personally that there is something wrong with them or doubt their self-worth. Rather they learn from the data point and improve their processes better for innovation. They don’t get stuck over there, but move on to try another experiment.

One can think about his or her ‘so-called’ failure through this perspective and there are great chances to overcome this fear.

Okay, let’s move on to the next one.

2. Fear of Success

Some of you may find this quite absurd.

I too was feeling like this until I listened to the audio-book “The Big Leap — Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level” by Gay Hendricks, where he explained about a thing called Upper Limit Problem (ULP in short form)

I realized that most of the population suffer from this ULP in one form or another.

Let’s try to understand this by way of an example:

When we are very happy in a particular situation enjoying some great moment with our family or friends, suddenly, it happens that we get engaged in an argument with that loved one.

Why does this happen?
Hendricks has explained that each of us has an internal barometer of all the emotions, which has the limit up to which we can experience any emotions (the limits fixed by our own minds only).
Therefore, when we reach the peak limits of any such emotion of happiness or joy, our minds start giving us a signal that we are not entitled beyond that specified limit. This triggers us to take such action, which has the effect of reducing the level of that emotion, in order to bring it up to your own pre-set limits of those levels.

Some of you may relate to another example.

Assume you are at level X while measuring your financial status.

Honestly, ask yourself now.

Do you think that you are entitled to 2x or 3x of your current level of income?

I am sure only a very few people would be able to answer in affirmative.

Similarly, if you are into your own business, profession or doing anything of your own, it would be difficult for yourself to fathom the thought of 2x or 3x of your current level of income.

What is all this?

This is called fear of success.

Now one would try to rationalize it by saying that one has to be practical and look at the ground realities.

I have the answer and examples too.

The answer is that all rationalization is BS (bullsh*t) and it is just a game your mind plays with you all the time. The reason is when you are busy with your mind in buying such petty arguments, the game changes are already on the job to change the world and their own lives along with.

The world is filled with tons of such examples who have thought 10X of their existing situation and have got even more than 100X of what they are now.

To put it succinctly, the fear of going beyond our own ULP is something which keeps us restricted up to a certain limit.

If we think, we are about to exceed that ULP, then we sub-consciously start procrastinating the necessary activities required, which has the potential to help us cross that ULP

3. Fear of losing Comfort Zone

Another one of the most important reason, why people keep on deferring taking action on their dreams is that it requires getting out of their comfort zone.

“A comfort zone is a really beautiful place, but nothing grows there”~ Anonymous

You would agree that taking any kind of action towards your goals or dreams is precisely asking yourself to come out of your comfort zone.

It warrants you to show yourself up to the world (your world could be very limited i.e. only your boss or subordinates or your fellow workers or it may be the entire world).

For most of the people, they have strongly imbibed belief that there is too much pain and sufferings if they move out of their comfort zone.

But the irony is that the majority of the population is even not in the comfort zone. Their day to day life is not a comfortable one. See the people around, waking up early, rushing for their work, reaching home late in the night, with no time to have some cheerful moments to cherish. But despite that people don’t tend to take some serious action to address the situation.

Why is it so?

Because most people think that:

“A known devil is better than an unknown Angel”~ Anonymous

(So their comfort zone is “a known devil” because they can foresee or predict what known devil does).

Surprising,

No?

And that’s why they stop then and there.

They make their comfort zone only in such uncomfortable situations only because of familiarity. Being familiar with the outcomes of their day-to-day actions gives a sense of certainty to most of the people. This sense of certainty of outcome, even if the outcome is burdensome is still acceptable to most of us, because it keeps us guarded against some unknown or uncertain future.

People are busy applauding the events, but the process, which leads to any mega event, is an arduous task.

It requires more frequently coming out of comfort zones. The successful people know that staying in the comfort zone is the riskiest place to be in because that will make them totally stagnant. They know that:

“Iron rusts without use, stagnant water rots or freezes in the cold and the human mind withers likewise”~ Leonardo Da Vinci

They also believe that:

“Life begins at the end of comfort zone”~ Neale Donald Walsch

So, if you are too stuck with your comfort zone, then there is bound to be a tendency to procrastinate in any action, which leads you to your dreams.

If you want to explore this further, You may want to check out my book Just Get It Done, where I have addressed 11 most common reasons why people procrastinate. The book details 27 proven and practical strategies to overcome the menace of procrastination.

Call to Action

Would you want to grab some free resources including free books to upgrade your mindset and enhance your productivity? If Yes,

Click to Claim Your Free Resources Bundle

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 292,582+ people.

Subscribe to receive our top stories here.