I want to change my insurance carrier. The papers have been sitting on my desk for nearly a month. I move them to the upper right hand corner, then to the left, then look for a drawer to hide them for a while. I really, really do want to take action but the task is too tedious. I have to make phone calls, or speak to answering machines or wait endlessly on hold — the kind of minutia that puts me to sleep. And so I procrastinate.
Why I prefer sloth over tedium is a question I ask myself. Fortunately, if one waits long enough, science will arrive at an answer. In this case, they already have. People procrastinate to feel in control. (“Prodding Our Inner Sloth,” by Sandra Upson, Scientific American Mind, Nov/Dec 3013, pg 46.) By inventing diversions, we mortals avoid what we want to avoid and by that avoidance feel as if we’ve made a decision. The sense of accomplishment doesn’t last long, however, and at some point, guilt and self-contempt return, plunging we sinners into another bad mood.
Self control is powerless against sloth. It melts like candle wax. In my case, I need a force ten times stronger and, according to Sandra Upson, who writes for Scientific American Mind, there is one. We must “change the meaning of a situation by altering how we react to it.” (Ibid, pg. 48) She uses herself as an example.
For almost a year, Upson kept a dead Christmas tree in her apartment. Each time she walked into the living room, she was embarrassed by the sight of it; but guilt couldn’t energize her. Finally, she hit upon a plan. The dread of removing a dead tree would be nothing compared to her friends’ ridicule if they walked into her apartment and saw tiers of bare branches bowed by colored lights and glittering ornaments. Her solution was to throw a party. The scheme worked. The tree disappeared and she felt rewarded by the success of her bash.
Lesson learned. I stare at my insurance forms that are becoming a little dusty and wonder what incentive I can give myself. The answer comes to me in a flash: a pint of Ben & Jerry ice cream. Yes-s-s! I love the idea! But wait. Isn’t gluttony another of the 7 deadly sins?
(Courtesy of emmashing.com)