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In procrastination, what gets postponed? || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2015)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
11 min
96 reads

Question: How can we learn not to procrastinate? Because usually, the theories are very pleasant but it is very hard to put it in real practice. So how to really achieve that?

AP: Will you say that you that procrastinate… What is procrastination by the way? Would somebody tell about the meaning of this word? Procrastination?

L1: Sir Procrastination is the process of doing your work later, not at that moment.

AP: So postponement of something. Right? The question is, why do we procrastinate? Why does the mind have a tendency to procrastinate? Alright!

What do you want when you undertake any task? Whenever a human mind, whenever a man or a woman, does anything, what does he want?

Ls: (In unison) Sir to complete it.

AP: To complete it. To come to a completion. Completion means… relaxation! Once you have completed something, how do you feel?

Ls: (in unison) Relaxed.

AP: Relaxed. Completion means no more of striving. Peace! Whenever the mind undertakes a mission, a task, it wants peace. We do not do anything in order to become more restless, more agitated, more disquiet. All our activities are aimed towards completion, fulfilment, peace. Are you getting it?

But we always choose some way to reach to that. What do I say? I tell myself that I will be peaceful only when certain conditions are met. Now you will tell me what kind of conditions do we impose upon ourselves?

You look at yourself and you look at the people around you and tell me how do we impose conditions upon ourselves? How do we put resistance in front of ourselves? How do we not allow ourselves to feel peaceful right now?

(Audience remains silent)

Okay, I will drop you a hint, “I will be peaceful when I get a good job, I will be peaceful, when I build a big house, I will be peaceful only when the entire world respects me, I can relax only if she marries me.” What am I doing?

L 2: Putting the fear and conditioning.

AP: I am putting conditions. I am saying that I will come to the end, to my goal only if certain conditions are met. So, in order to reach the goal, first of all I have to…

L3: Fulfil the conditions.

AP: Fulfil the conditions. And those conditions have been imposed upon me by myself. I have said that if these conditions are not met then I cannot be joyful. It is self-imposed. Is it not?

Listeners: *(in unison) Y*es.

AP: Now where is procrastination in this? What have I done? Remember, procrastination means postponement. Now tell me what have we postponed?

Listeners: The condition we follow.

AP: No, we have postponed the real thing. What was the real thing? Peace and fulfilment. So that has been shifted to the future. Future! And for today, what has been taken? What has been allowed? For today, what has been allowed?

Listeners (In unison) : Conditions!

AP: The conditions. This is how the human mind works. That is why we keep postponing. Remember, that we are always postponing the real things. And we are always filling our lives with that which is usually rubbish. Have you not seen that if something beautiful is to be done, how we postpone it? If you have to get angry, you get angry… right now. Have you ever seen somebody postponing anger?

Listeners: (in unison) No sir.

AP: When you get angry, you immediately strike. You immediately shout out. If you postpone anger then probably anger will go away. But we don’t postpone it! But if you have to do something nice, something really good. What do you do with it?

Ls (*In unison): * Postpone it.

AP: You postpone it. So, the real thing always gets postponed with the result that all the dirt and the rubbish keeps filling life. Peace gets postponed. Fulfilment gets postponed. Relaxation gets postponed. Truth gets postponed. We say, “Those things can wait. Right now, let me do something else”. Something else becomes our priority.

You very well know that the alarm is ringing and it is ringing because there is something important. That is why the alarm was set, otherwise the alarm would not have been set. Right? So something important is there, the alarm is ringing, but the waking up is postponed. For the sake of? For the sake of?

Listeners ( In unison) : Relaxation.

AP: Not relaxation. Half an hour of laziness. You have already slept enough. You have already slept for seven hours. But for the sake of half an hour more of laziness, the real thing, the waking up is?

Listeners (*in unison): * Postponed.

AP: Postponed. That is how the mind functions. Conditions are embraced, goal is?

Ls: Postponed.

AP: Is that not true? You sit with your book and then suddenly somebody switches on the television, and some titillating show is coming. What happens to the book then?

Listeners (In unison) : Postpone.

AP: “Half an hour later, I will study.” So what is important is shifted to the future, and what is not important starts filling your life. And if this keeps happening repeatedly then our lives become totally filled with all the crap. And that is the case with most people. They have postponed the real. Feeling sleepy? Setup the alarm! And when somebody asks you, why are you setting up the alarm? You say, “I am setting up the alarm because I want to study.”. Now think honestly, very honestly, do you set the alarm because you want to study or do you set the alarm because you want to sleep?

Ls (In unison) : Sleep.

AP: Had you wanted to study, you would have simply studied! But when somebody asks you, “Why are you setting up the alarm?” What do you say? “The alarm is being set so that I may study.” No, you are not being honest. The alarm is a technique to go to sleep. Now that the alarm is set, I can peacefully sleep. The studying has been postponed. That is how the mind is tricking us all the time. In fact the very thought of future is a trick to postpone. Next time when you think of the future, see whether you are thinking of the future so that you may just postpone the important. One day death comes. That is the end of all future, is that not? You keep postponing the important and it is getting postponed and postponed and postponed and ultimately?

Listeners (In unison) : Death comes.

AP: You have no more time left to postpone. That is standing in front of you and asking, “How will you postpone any further?” Now you cannot postpone! If it is important then it deserves to be done?

Listeners (In unison) : Right now.

AP: Right now. Ask yourself what is important. Cut out the future. What is important, get into it today, this moment? Do not unnecessarily imagine a future. Okay? Was that clear?

Listeners (In unison) : Yes sir.

AP: Sure?

Listeners (In unison) : Yes sir!

AP: Alright.

Listener2: Sir as you said in your first answer that we should not think about our future and we should live in present. But sir, I think that I am always worried about my future. Even I am here for my future and I chose this technical course for my future. So sir, am I doing anything wrong when doing all this thing? Even when I study, I just study for my marks.

AP: If you think marks are important, study for marks by all means. Study now! I did not really say in the first place that do not think about future. I mostly stressed upon the point that if something is important then it deserves to be done right now. That’s what I said. Right?

Listeners (In unison) : Yes.

AP: You have all the freedom to decide what is important for you. Use the best of your discretion to see what you think of as important. But if you have decided that it is important then commit yourself fully to it. And committing yourself fully means not using dishonest escapes. You want marks?

L2: Yes sir.

AP: Then why waste time hither and thither?

L 2: Sir I want marks because if I get good marks then only my future would be good, I would get good placement. Without any marks, things would not be alright.

AP: So you want good future?

L 2: Yes sir.

AP: So get that future right now! Why do you want the future in the future? If something is really good, do you want it right now or do you want it ten years from today?

Listeners (In unison) : Right now!

AP: If you are thirsty, when do you want to drink water?

Listeners (In unison) : Right now.

AP: If future is so good that you are dreaming about it all the time, get that future…

Listeners (In unison) : Right now.

AP: Right now. Why get the future in the future? If it is important, get it right now. Or admit that it is not important. What is important to you? Have you ever asked yourself what is really important? And I am not insisting that a particular thing must be important. If money is important, go get it! Why are you just planning about it? If money is really important, why are you sleeping ten hours a day? Go get money! But the intention, really, is not even to get money. The intention really, is to sleep (Smiles) . We won’t admit that, but that is what we really think of as important. That is our hidden priority. Do nothing, keep sleeping! And there is nothing wrong with sleeping either. Just admit! That that is the purpose of my life, to…

Listeners (In unison) : Sleep.

AP: To sleep. If you can live with this admission, alright! If you can tolerate having this purpose in life, wonderful! Existence does not compel you to have any particular purpose. If your purpose in life is to sleep fourteen hours a day, no Gods are going to come to punish you. You can very well sleep for fourteen hours a day. But honestly admit that. And if you have some other goal, some other purpose, then commit yourself fully to it right now. Do not make excuses, do not shift it to the future. You want to study, you say exams are important then you should study?

Listeners (In unison) : Right now.

AP: You say you are thin, frail and weak., you must run and jog and gym, then you must run?

Listeners (In unison) : Right now.

AP: Today! Evening is such a good time. Run! If you say that it’s been six months since you met your father and your father is ill and you must meet your father then you should meet your father at the earliest possible opportunity. Not just keep making plans about it. If you are a third or fourth year student who thinks that he must enrol in some technical course, then why keep dreaming about it? Today evening is as good a time as any other. Go out, enquire and enrol. Is that not so? Be faithful to your priorities, whatever they are!

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