1st Root Cause of Procrastination: Lack of Desire

This is part 3 of my 5-part series on how to overcome procrastination. If you are new to this series, start with part 1 first.

Lack of Desire, 1st Root Cause of Procrastination

Procrastination happens because there is a lack of desire. For example, someone who procrastinates on his work because he lacks passion for it. Someone who procrastinates going to a networking event because he is not interested in networking.

What should you do to get a never-ending flow of desire? In Anti-Procrastination Program, I teach my participants 3 steps to do this:

  1. Uncover your WHY. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to achieve this goal?” The most powerful WHY is not a logical reason, but an emotional one.
  2. Recognize implications of non-action. Imagine if you made 0 progress in this goal for next 10 years. What would your life be like? How would you feel? 
  3. Create your ideal vision. Think about your ideal vision. What is your ideal vision that inspires you from within?

How I Used to Procrastinate in School

For example, when I was 15-16, I was disinterested toward my studies. I was much more interested in working on my websites, which was my hobby then. In school, I barely paid attention nor touched my textbooks. I was never prepared for my exams. There was a point where I hated school and would avoid going to school by feigning illness! Needless to say, I underperformed vs. what I could have achieved.

My underperformance in my studies led me to be discriminated by peers and society, where people label you based on a number on your results slip. It was an eye-opening experience.

When I entered junior college, I continued to be disinterested in my studies. The junior college I went to was a new one, and because it had no national ranking yet, was considered one of the worst junior colleges in the country where “rejects” would go. Such focus on ranking, numbers, and results is a consistent issue where I live. They call this a “meritocratic” society, where people constantly judge others based on their results, which is only one aspect of a person’s achievements.

Because I rejected how hung up people were over grades, and how zombified the students around me were — constantly studying, hating life — I resisted the notion of studying. My school environment was also very toxic, and I was surrounded by negative schoolmates and teachers. I continued to hate studying, and procrastinated doing so.

However, I eventually reached a point where I became sick of procrastination itself. I thought about what I wanted out of my life. I realized that if I hated studying so much, I could simply quit school. Sure, it would create immense stigma. Sure, my parents would probably hit the roof and be very disappointed. But there was always the option for me to quit if I really wanted to. And if I chose not to quit, then why not make the best out of this, rather than waste my time mucking around?

By discovering my WHY (getting clear on why I want to study, which is to make the best out of my life) and recognizing the implications of non-action (continuing to be a push-pull procrastination situation; wasting my life away), I became naturally motivated to study. I didn’t force myself to love studying, but simply recognized its role in my life.

I later enrolled into the National University of Singapore, Business School, which is one of the top business schools in Asia. Because I was naturally motivated to study, I was proactive in my coursework. Procrastination was hardly an issue, except for certain modules I was not interested in (like Finance). There was hardly a moment when I wanted to avoid school work. I greatly enjoyed my varsity life. I was on the Dean’s List every academic year, an honorary roll reserved for the top performers, and eventually graduated as the top student in Marketing. I share studying tips here: How to Get on the Dean’s List (series)

Working with My Clients

Likewise, when working with my clients, one of the biggest reasons for their procrastination is because they have not figured out their WHY. They may say that they want to achieve X in theory, but they can’t articulate why exactly they want it. The most powerful WHY is never a logical reason, but an emotional one. One that reverberates deep in your heart, that stirs you up inside, that creates a deep resolve in you to charge forward. My coaching sessions with them involve digging into their deepest WHY, to uncover their true reasons for wanting that goal.

When you connect with your deepest WHY, procrastination becomes hardly an issue. That’s because you have connected with your deepest self — your true fuel for your goal. The times when procrastination does come up, would be due to fear which is the second root cause of procrastination. Read Part 4: 2nd Root Cause of Procrastination: Fear

This is part 3 of my 5-part series on how to overcome procrastination.