The “When I feel like it” reason sounds like this:

“I know. I know that’s important. But to call that person – that requires some guts. That requires some pushing of myself. I’m not sure. I know I’ll do it. Maybe tomorrow. I just feel that I have to feel confident before I make that call. I feel like I have to be sure of it.”

Surprise, surprise! Nothing in life in certain. Nothing in life is sure.

What are you going to do later today? And after that? How about even later?

Daniel Gilbert writes in Stumbling on Happiness, “Later! What an astonishing idea. What a powerful concerpt. What a fabulous discovery. How did human beings ever learn to preview in their imaginations chains of events that had not yet come to pass?”

Gilbert says the reason that “the human being is the only animal that thinks about the future” is that we have a well-developed frontal lobe. Alvaro and Caroline write wonderful entries about the interesting aspects of the frontal lobe all the time at SharpBrains (see here, here, and here). Gilbert says, “The frontal lobe – the last part of the human brain to evolve, the slowest to mature, and the first to deteriorate in old age – is a time machine that allows each of us to vacate the present and experience the future before it happens.”

Why do we care about the frontal lobe anyway? It turns out that without the frontal lobe, a person would not be able to plan. The words “today” and “later” would be blank concepts. A patient who suffered frontal lobe damage in a car accident at age 30 was asked to describe what he thinks about when he is asked to describe what he is doing tomorrow or even the concept of the word “tomorrow”: “Blank, I guess … it’s like being asleep … like being in a room with nothing there and having a guy tell you to go find a chair, and there’s nothing there….”

We think about “tomorrow” and “later” because we can – because our well-developed frontal lobes love that kind of activity, says Gilbert.

So, back to the original question: suppose you know that something is important. Suppose you know that you ought to do something. But you want to WAIT until…. until you’re better prepared, until you feel more confident about it, until someone else suggests that you do that action….

Let me tell you something briefly – the only context in which “until” is a beautiful word is in this quote by Jim Rohn:

“How long should you try? Until.”

If you don’t want to do the task that you know needs to be done… if you want to wait until you’re better prepared, you can blame your frontal lobe for its imagining just how prepared you’ll be tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. It does a great job of imagining – down to the details like the stains on the carpet if you’re imagining giving a speech… BUT… but your imagination can be very-very-super-very wrong, says Gilbert. “Imagination works so quickly, quietly, and effectively that we are insufficiently skeptical of its products.”

The next time you want to wait until –

  • You’re better prepared
  • You’re dressed better
  • You have your materials with you
  • It’s sunny outside
  • It’s exactly 2pm when you place the call
  • Your voice sounds good

- the next time any of that happens, just stop yourself, and say, “Why not now?”

Waiting for the Muse
Once of the most interesting pieces of advice I ever received was from a former reality-TV-star who I knew from years back, who said, “You know people can’t really tell if you’re having a bad hair day, or if you haven’t shaved… those things that to you seem like a big deal and a big difference relative to how you like to present yourself, are just a SMALL, SMALL PART of what other people see about you. So there’s no point wanting to look perfect before you walk up to someone. Go up to that person the way you are.”

Try this. Avoid the “when I feel like it” reason. This is the what Dave Seah writes about here on waiting until you’re motivated (Hint: this is part of a list Dave comments on; the list is “10 Steps to Guarantee Failure”).

Try avoiding using the “when I feel like it” reason. Try using the “I will do it anyway” reason. Try it – see how you like it!

Image: Waiting for the Muse


5 Comments

  1. Posted Wednesday April 18, 2007 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Another great post. I have applied your ideas to Toastmasters (public speaking organization) and posted a related article on my Toastmasters blog, http://www.areaA4.blogspot.com.

    Keep up the good work !

    Dave Wheeler

  2. Posted Wednesday April 18, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Great post Senia! If you want to read more about the frontal lobes, try Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg’s book The Executive Brain.

  3. Posted Wednesday April 18, 2007 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Dave, I like your post very much – you also suggest what to do to increase motivation – specific action steps. Nice!

    Caroline, that is a great book. Highly agree.

    Thank you both for your comments,
    S.

  4. Posted Tuesday April 24, 2007 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Hola Senia, great post!

    take a look at this article, with some thoughts on the frontal lobes…

    https://alumni.mckinsey.com/alumni/default/public/content/jsp/alumni_news/20070420_AlvaroFernandezWhosNews.jsp

  5. Posted Monday May 7, 2007 at 2:44 am | Permalink

    Guess what? The very first quote in the beginning of this post resontates totally with me! I was always stuck in that spot!

    Thanks for such an amazing post Senia. Please keep doing this to make more differences in our lives.

    Cheers!

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