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Procrastination is Perfect: Why having a mission changes all the rules

Stop the press! There’s a conspiracy in the personal development industry. The people selling you every flavor of “get rich/thin/happy” have an invested interest in making sure you know that you are broken.

That’s right. Big Personal Development wants you to believe you’ve got problems. Big problems. Problems like self sabotage, confusion, lack of focus and more! Problems that only we can fix.

I said “we” because, technically, I’m a vendor of Personal Development. I’m a hawker of insight, a peddler of transformation and an introspection merchant.

In this capacity, I’m here to confess the truth. There isn’t anything wrong with you. Even your most self destructive acts of insidious procrastination are all absolutely perfect… if you meet this one simple criteria:

Have a mission

If you’re embarking on a quest, in life and business, then you aren’t broken. If you’ve signed yourself up to a goal that’s bigger than you, then an extraordinary shift is occurring.

All those obstacles that personal development was supposed to cure – the procrastination, fear and self sabotage… they’re all going to change.

What used to be hugely negative issues (worth hiring a coach to fix) suddenly become an essential part of your quest.

That’s right. Procrastination (and the rest) become a valid, useful part of your mission to make an impact.

A mission changes all the rules

When you have a mission in life, a sense of purpose is added to every action you take. Every behavior you carry out. A mission isn’t just “work”. The transformation of purpose extends way beyond what you do during the hours of nine and five.

Don’t get me wrong. A lot of entrepreneurs have got problems. There are a ton of obstacles holding thousands of wannabes back, the world over. I’ve built a career around resolving as many of them as I can.

When someone who lacks a mission chooses to procrastinate, it’s because their unconscious mind doesn’t know what to do next. They’re lacking direction and the easiest next step isn’t obvious. Hell, forget the next step – the whole path and end goal is a complete blur!

In such circumstances, folks do tend to get utterly paralyzed by all the nasty psychological stuff. That’s a form of broken-ness and it can be fixed, by experts skilled in the art of transformation.

However when someone lifts their focus beyond their own needs, to a quest that matters, the meaning of all types of self sabotage is transformed.

Suddenly, everything becomes relevant

When your life is driven by the over-arching sense of direction that (only) a mission creates, everything you do is part of it.

That novel you were reading, for fun. It’s now a source of metaphorical and archetypal inspiration – driving you toward the realization of your mission.

That frivolous coffee date with your old friend? It’s now an opportunity for feedback, perspective and new ideas.

When you’re on a mission to change something about the world, there is a lot of preparation that has to happen. You have to extend yourself as a person. Ironically, this is a kind of personal development.

Fulfilling all your needs becomes “part of the mission”. Every action you take contributes, in some way, to the direction and momentum of the journey you are on. Even if you don’t know it.

Steve Jobs talked about this in his famous Stanford address. He spoke about how, in hindsight, the seemingly random actions he took in his youth were all an essential part of his (and his company’s) journey to success. Calligraphy lessons, chosen through sheer curiosity as a youth, formed a huge part of early Macintosh user interface design.

When you’re on a mission in life, everything becomes relevant. Procrastination is almost always perfectly timed and useful – your unconscious mind just needs a little more time to let ideas percolate, so it buys that time through procrastination.

Hesitation to take action is a signal that more preparation is required. Spontaneous distractions take you to new and interesting places that’ll prove to be key turning points in hindsight.

Taking time to eat food is critical – it nourishes you and fuels your mission’s success. Even total hedonism is important. Will a ninety minute massage derail your workflow or reinvigorate your mind and body to contribute even more?

Spend time with your significant other to nourish your spirit. Let your kids inspire you to make a world that’s better for them.

To contribute 110% to your mission, you’ll need to look after yourself. You’ll need to give the gift of allowing yourself constructive procrastination and hesitation.

It’s all part of it.

You need to trust that, so long as you hold a deep intention to fulfill a significant mission, no single behavior will derail you from your path. In fact, everything you do will lead you inexorably closer to realizing your vision.

Including the stuff that used to be labelled as “bad” or “broken” – like procrastination. It’s all part of it.

The only catch is losing track of your mission. If you abandon your quest, then the transformation reverses and all that stuff becomes just as bad and broken as before.

Stay focused on an ultimate purpose that’s bigger than you and all the details in between will fit into place. The rules change and things just flow.


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  1. I have a personal project I’m working on right now. For a long time, though (a LONG time)… I wasn’t. It was an “I’d really like to do this” idea that wasn’t getting off the ground. I’d take small stabs at it, but do nothing really worthwhile.

    I was procrastinating. And I figured out I was doing so because I was scared of failure. This project was *important* to me… so important that I’d stop myself from doing it so that I wouldn’t have to face it flopping.

    When I realized that – and realized I *couldn’t* fail, because simply creating it was its success (and mine) – I suddenly fell into “accomplish mission” mode. With passion. With exuberance. Stuff was getting DONE. A ton of stuff. Fast!

    And now it’s awesome. I am proud and pleased about this project and feeling very good with it.

    The procrastination and hedging? It was useful and served purpose. I learned from it. And I’m glad I had it, because from it came even better things: my mission, my accomplishments, my learnings and my success, both now and future.

    Side note: eating, sleeping and taking care of myself by taking breaks became *crucial* during development. When I skimped on any of them… it just hurt my potential.

    1. Also James, it’s worth noting that your end product (when you ship it out the door) will no doubt be *vastly* improved as a result of the wisdom and expertise you’ve gained in the time you procrastinated (and worked on other stuff).

      Of course, this wouldn’t be true if you had simply been sitting on the couch… but in your case, we all know that’s not what happened.

      This actually reminds of the corporate leadership training product we worked on last year. I procrastinated the CRAP out of pitching that to “the city” …. but my intuition was doing me a favor. It wasn’t until I connected with the genius Men with Pens that I got access to the design talent that enabled me to pull off the project in a way that *really* razzle-dazzled the client.

      Procrastination proven perfect, imo.

  2. Wow. Whoa. So glad I read this this morning. I do have a mission. So things are going as they should. And I took the entire weekend off. And that was good. And very helpful to my mission. Thanks so much!

  3. Hi Peter!

    I love this post because I believe we’re born with a mission. (What I call the Fearless Why …). From my observations, most of us get redirected away from our mission at young ages and towards being obedient consumers. Missions makes us feel alive. When I’m on my mission, I’m flying through the sky. I’ve got wings. I’m on fire.

    Why we want to beat that out of folks makes no sense. My mission? To wake folks up so they can wake other folks up and we can get one with our missions. Am working on my non-institute institute.

    Many thanks! G.

  4. This is such a great confirmation for me. Thank you!!!

    I was just telling my husband the other day that I think the very worst state you can be in is one of indecision. It causes all kinds of anxiety and thrashing about.

    I had an indecision problem a few months ago and it was causing me a lot of extra stress. I didn’t know which path would be best and finally I got so tired of being anxious about it, that I picked the one that seemed like the best choice even though I wasn’t 100% sure it was the best one.

    Wow, what a relief! The new decision has totally fueled my motivation for the last few months. And I quit looking to outsiders for guidance. And I’m beginning to think it was the right choice after all. 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing this perfect example of what happens when Purpose creates Flow, Naomi.

      As a previously burnt-out therapist, I can confirm: The majority of pain in people’s lives is caused by short term indecision when a long term focus is lacking.

      Great learnings.

  5. I used to work with a pretty well-known poet – the real kind – and he use to tell stories about how he did his work. Many of these stories revolved around him trying to explain to his wife (who had a day job) that lying on the couch all day was actually part of his job.

    He said there are two sides to writing: the art and the craft. The craft needs discipline and focus, but art can’t be rushed.

    1. The trick is to find a couch where your significant other can’t SEE you…. 😛

      Jokes aside, this is actually an interesting issue in terms of the impact on relationships. Creatives and entrepreneurs sometimes have a hard time validating their actions to their spouse, especially if that spouse is clocking in and out of a 9-5 job. Long term harmony relies, as always, on maintaining perspective.

  6. Love it Peter, great to see more people recognise the real reasons (and power) of procrastination. I believe procrastination usually has one of 10 major reasons and it serves us to figure out which one it is before we take appropriate, helpful action. In fact, I believe this so whole heartedly that I wrote a free ebook about it! Procrastination IS our friend indeed 🙂

    1. Hey Tia,

      To clarify, I think that procrastination is *sometimes* useful. It’s when we lose track of our mission or purpose that it becomes destructive.

      I’ll have to check out your ebook!

  7. Oh, so well said. Getting clear on the mission is so key to making sense of all the rest – which writers move me, which websites I revisit (Hiya, Peter!), who my “right people” are, who I admire, what causes move me, what angers me, who I love, what I’ve failed and succeeded at, and on and on and on…

    Once you’re on mission, every action you take contributes, sometimes in the oddest and most unlikely ways. The rules DO change, and it’s much easier to find flow once you find that focus.

    1. Hey Suellen,

      Interesting choice of words actually. *You* are always “OK”… if your mission is OK too, then my all means kick back a minute. Then spring into action to make things more perfect.

  8. Great post Peter, i was trying to figure out how all this procrastination was going to help me, and it dawned on me this morning after i woke up well rested. It’s really hard to be creative when your mind is running on empty cylinders. Thanks for helping me see how procrastination fits into the grand scheme of things!

  9. It’s interesting how things come together, even before we recognise any ‘mission’. What’s served me well is to do things for an overall purpose, rather than try to make predictions at how useful they’d be in the future.

    The stuff I did almost a decade ago because it seemed like a good idea at the time? Very important now, even if I had no clue what I was doing. When you do things with a purpose in mind, you tell a much more interesting story than “I did this because I thought I could make money”, and that gives you a lot to draw on in future.

  10. Hey Peter, I enjoyed your article, and it was a timely encouragement for me, as I’m not feeling 100% today. Your analytics will probably tell you this anyway, but this post has inspired (and been referenced in) my own. 🙂
    Thank you!

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