WRITING: ON HABITS, 5

Procrastination has haunted me for years. Late payment penalties are my default; mails can sit for months before I clear up; the laundry won’t start till I run out last pants; grocery shopping won’t happen till I empty everything in the refrigerator.

This chronic evil has a long history. In my childhood, my parents put excessive emphasis on sports and academic attainment; they never ask us to do any housework. We got a wrong message: as long as we excel in study or work, life would be just fine.

This single-minded mentality is further exacerbated by my work. In my field, the promotion takes seven long years of hard work, without clear sign in sight: it is a make-or-break-it deal. Under such pressure, people tunnel: they completely devote to work, keeping everything else to bare minimum.

Procrastination would be fine, if it only inflicts financial loss or daily inconvenience. But tragically, it hurts my credibility, ruins my self-esteem, and makes me unhappy.

Procrastination must go. Here is the simple rule I must engrain:
1) work on two todo (i.e., hated but necessary)  items, for at least 10 minutes each day;
2) post my plan and its outcome online daily.

This blog will record my shot on procrastination.

IMG_2020IMG_1975

[Niagara Falls, Canada, 6/10/2006]

WRITING: ON HABITS, 3

We tend to moralize in a self-serving way: we are righteous; others harbor ill will. Through this lens, we readily forgive our ‘bad’ behavior; others, well, they are evil.

This tendency leads to the ‘moral licensing’ effect. We reward our good deeds by self-indulging in ‘bad’ ones, often unconsciously. For example, when we exercise in the morning, we tend to reward us with a fatty lunch: we deserve a treat for our morning sweat and tears on the treadmill, don’t we?

If only our waist size is at stake, moral licensing would not be an issue. But too often moral licensing creeps into other matters. Indeed, hardly there is a week goes by without scandals of  infidelity, corruption, etc.

These falling celebrities, teachers, doctors, priests, politicians, athletes, they are  supposed to  hold higher moral ground. But why cannot they resist the temptation of an intern (Bill Clinton) or an extra-marital affair (Tiger Woods)? They may be drowned by power and fame, thinking they are beyond the law?

But at a deeper level, moral licensing may also play a sinister role:  since they have done sufficient ‘good’ for this world, they believe they deserve a treat, just as we treat ourselves a greasy lunch after morning exercise?

If moral licensing is a sneaky enemy we all face, what are our defenses? For one, moral licensing exists because we are more sympathetic to the self-indulgent self—a more authentic self?

To ward off moral licensing, we may have to toughen up our identity, making self-indulgent  so repugnant. For example, in a modern society, even mentioning of incest will disgust most of us,  although there is no other reason  beyond moral itself.

But for many other issues, subduing self-indulgence remains a never ending struggle.

IMG_3315

[Vancouver, Canada, Nov., 2013]

WRITING: WHY I MOVED

Three months ago, everything seemed just fine: Wake up at the same time, jog the same route, stop by the same coffee shop, go to the same office, lunch with the same colleagues, hear the same jokes…

It was just too fine, like Phil lives the same “Groundhog Day” again, again, and again—tomorrow never comes.

That is numbing,  that is suffocating, and that is terrifying. Others may be just fine with it. But that is killing me, bit by bit. I am just that boiling frog: unless jump out, he is cooked, slowly.

In hindsight, that frog cannot be happier about the jump. After all,

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

P1010759

[Jasper, Canada, Oct., 2015]