I’ve been noticing ways that people avoid doing the immediately “more difficult” thing in favor of the thing that will make life more difficult in the long run.
Two examples I observed recently:
My friend spent a day with friends that he loves, doing something he would normally love, but had a miserable time doing it.
He was financially strapped and trying to stick to a strict budget. He had plans to go to a bonfire the next day at a relative’s house. That evening, the relative called and suggested they all meet at a water front restaurant for food, drinks, and entertainment before heading to the bonfire.
Not wanting to disappoint the relative, my friend agreed, despite already being overdrawn financially.
That night and the whole next day, he was unhappy with their new plans and what it meant financially – spending money he didn’t have and increasing his debt.
By the time he left for the restaurant, my friend had had several hours invested into worrying about money and getting deeper into debt. It made him cranky and on edge. He even snapped at his girlfriend several times, which made him feel even worse.
My friend spent a whole day worrying and feeling miserable and not enjoying his life and his loved ones by putting himself in a situation he didn’t want to be in.
If my friend would have told his relative that he didn’t have the money to go to this place, the problem would have been alleviated. Either the relative could foot the bill, or come up with another thing to do, or something else.
But that small conversation would have probably lasted under 5 minutes and saved an entire day of discomfort.
How many times do we see people spend over their budget in order to please someone else (Christmas time, perhaps) only to put themselves into debt that takes many stressful months or years to pay off?
Example 2. I am visiting relatives out of town. One relative lives about an hour away from where I am staying and I don’t want to miss seeing him. I texted him asking how would he feel if I visited for an over-nighter with the kids. Four days later, he still hasn’t responded to me. I know this means “no thanks”, but I would have preferred an actual response.
A guy doesn’t want to date a girl that’s been calling. What does he do? He dodges her calls. He doesn’t return her texts.
And then he complains that she’s bothering him or that she’s “not getting the hint”.
If this guy said off the bat, “I’m sorry, you’re not my type,” he would save both of them a lot of negativity, time, and effort.
So I ponder this: What discomfort am I avoiding now that will cause more discomfort later?
Then I realize, every time I procrastinate, I am avoiding discomfort.
Every time we procrastinate, we are putting off the uncomfortable “hard-to-do-now” thing in favor of the inevitable “much-harder-to-do-later” thing.
Here are some examples: Quitting Smoking
Hitting the Snooze Button
Breaking any bad habit
Making that business phone call
Firing or confronting the employee who is not pulling his weight
Leaving an unhappy relationship
Starting that exercise regimen
Going to the doctor or the dentist
Organizing your office/room
In all of these examples, you can easily see how the situation will be harder to deal with in the long run rather than right now.
So what keeps us avoiding change?
I believe the answer is FEAR.
FEAR of change, discomfort, failure, imperfection, or rejection.
Unless you stop and look earnestly at the situation, your mind will give you a song and a dance around it until you are distracted into the next moment and then the next moment.
I believe a great spiritual practice will be to regularly ask: What am I putting off NOW that will make my life harder in the long run?
Then, take some time visualizing the situations out into the future, down both roads. How does it look to keep avoiding the discomfort of growth? How does it look to face the discomfort now and do what needs to be done?