Procrastination affects everyone to a certain extent, but daydreamers may be particularly prone to it. If you would rather be daydreaming than doing just about anything else, it’s easy to see why you might put off important but unappealing tasks in order to indulge in your habit. But in the long term, procrastination leads to problems – missed deadlines, missed opportunities, a feeling of falling behind in life, and, worst of all, a sense of regret.
So, why do we procrastinate?
Some people procrastinate out of a fear of failure, convincing themselves that if they don’t try, they can’t fail. Other people procrastinate out of a fear of success, because they don’t feel worthy or don’t believe they are capable of the thing they’ve set out to do. As a result, they put off the task because either they don’t really believe they can do it or they fear if they do it, they’ll put themselves under pressure to live up to something they’re not.
Another reason that a lot of daydreamers procrastinate is because of low frustration tolerance, also known as frustration intolerance. Low frustration tolerance refers to an inability to tolerate discomfort, negative emotions, or anything that blocks us from getting what we want. If you hate being bored, want your life to always be easy and comfortable or believe you can’t be happy unless some specific thing happens then you could have low frustration tolerance. People with low frustration tolerance are often able to start projects because the novelty and excitement of doing something different can be a powerful motivator. But once the initial enthusiasm wears off, it becomes hard to sustain momentum, and more often than not the project is abandoned before it is finished.
Daydreamers are particularly prone to low frustration tolerance because we’ve never learned to tolerate life’s natural frustrations. We run away from our negative emotions by dropping into an alternate reality where our problems can literally just disappear. We don’t learn to tolerate the pain of working towards something because we can have it in our heads, effortlessly. If people and situations are not as we would like them to be, we simply edit them in our heads until we get what we want. And eventually we get so good at it, that when something in real life is going to take a bit of time or effort, we run away from it. We put it off in favour of the short-term pleasure of our perfect daydream world. We procrastinate.
But the good news is that low frustration tolerance isn’t something we just have to live with. It’s a sign that we haven’t yet learned to live with our frustrations, but that’s something we can do something about, no matter how old we are.
So, how do we start to build our frustration tolerance?
Accept that life isn’t, and never will be, perfect
We can’t always have everything we want. Not in real life. Practical considerations, other people’s needs and random obstacles will always get in the way. That’s how it’s meant to be, and everyone feels dissatisfied about it sometimes. But it’s by noticing and living through the bad times that we are able to appreciate the good times.
Practice living with the frustration
When something isn’t as you would like it to be or you are faced with a task you’d rather not do right now, take a moment to stop and notice how it feels. What is it about the feeling that you find intolerable? Can you sit with the feeling for a minute, five minutes, ten minutes, before you escape to the daydream? How does the feeling change as you sit with it? Does it get easier, more manageable? Do you notice that it’s not as uncomfortable as you thought? Practicing feeling the frustration will help your brain get used to the sensation so that you are more able to tolerate it next time.
Notice your successes
When you achieve something despite feeling an urge to procrastinate about it, take time to congratulate yourself for pushing through the frustration. Notice how you feel and take time to enjoy the feeling. Remember it. By building up a mental library of your achievements, you will be demonstrating to yourself that you are capable of getting things done, and you will start to shift your view of yourself as a procrastinator.
As daydreamers, we often blame our daydreaming for our tendency to procrastinate. We feel bad for not being able to resist the temptation. We believe that we would get more done if we didn’t daydream. But the truth is that everyone procrastinates. Normative daydreamers just have to resort to social media, surfing the internet or some other activity that is every bit as unproductive as our daydreams. Procrastination isn’t an unavoidable consequence of being a daydreamer. It’s something we all struggle with and something that, with enough determination and self-belief, we absolutely can do something about.