Q: I developed an issue of procrastination during graduate school. The problem is getting worse. If I am facing a lot of stress, for example, if I have several assignments I need to submit on a certain day, I only start doing them on the very last day before the due date. I have graduated, and I am going to start working. My work is in research, so I am very worried that I am going to continue the bad habit of procrastination in my work. Do you have any suggestions?
P: Actually, you maintain the habit because you really don’t want to get rid of it. For example, when you try to wake up in the morning… Let’s say you usually wake up at 6 am. You decide to wake up at 5 am in order to pray, but you fail to wake up at 5am. The next day, you can’t wake up at 5am either. So, this is what we tell ourselves. “I want to get up at five in the morning, but my body isn’t cooperating.” But that’s not true. You go to sleep, and the alarm rings at 5am. You think to yourself, “I need to wake up, I need to wake up, I need to wakeup….” Let’s say you say that ten times to yourself. What can you discover? Does it mean that you want to get up or that you don’t want to get up? It means that you don’t want to get up. That’s why you are not getting up. If you analyse it, your thought or your conscious knows you need to get up, but your heart or your subconscious – because it has become used to waking up at 6 am – refuses to wake up. That’s why there is conflict between your conscious and your subconscious. Who wins this battle? Your subconscious usually wins. So, your subconscious is much more powerful than your conscious. There’s an adage in Korea, “When you resolve to do something, the resolution only lasts three days.” When you decide to form a new habit or start a new activity, you can rarely continue doing it for more than three days. That’s why you have to change your subconscious. Changing a habit is not a matter of choice or decision.
P: You have to admit as a first step that when you are not doing something, it means that you don’t want to do it. Let’s go back to the moment you wanted to get up. You should just get up at 5 am. Then, there’s no need for that tension of wanting to get up but not being able to. You make the decision to want to get up only when you don’t want to get up. All thoughts are distractions. To stop being distracted, when the alarm goes off, just get up right away, instead of thinking that you need to get up. instead of deciding not to procrastinate anymore, just do it. Instead of thinking about going, just get there. Instead of thinking about giving something, just give it. Your action must come before your words. Only then will you be able to change your karma. However, it is true that it is extremely hard to change your karma. When you don’t change your habits, it means that you can still bear living with your karma. Although you procrastinated, you were able to graduated, right? When you begin work, you will continue to procrastinate, but you will still be okay. You can just live the way you are, and don’t worry too much about your procrastination. Of course, there are some consequences for procrastinating. If you don’t want those consequences, you have to change. Instead of thinking of doing something, just do it. Then, you will change. However, this is extremely hard, so I am not sure whether you will be able to change.