*This article was revised and updated on 6th September 2023
Killing Your Dreams
It’s unfortunate when procrastination—aka ‘The Thief of Time’—stops you from doing what you want to do or gets in the way of becoming the person you want to become.
It’s even worse if you suffer a loss or you miss a big opportunity to advance yourself because of procrastinating habits.
But it’s an even bigger problem when chronic procrastination stops you fulfilling your potential and living the life you dream.
I know exactly how you feel. In fact, I procrastinated for OVER 15 years before I finally wrote the first words to my book, The Golden Chalice.
Yep, 15 years. I was 15 years old in high school when I first said I was ‘gunna’ write a book, but didn’t do it until I was 30!
Ever since I could remember, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write books. I wanted to write screenplays. I wanted to write for a living.
I was the kid at high school who always had a book under his arm. I had a love of reading and a love of stories. I devoured books by the dozen, and one day I was going to write a book.
I was going to be just like my favourite authors, Stephen King, Wilbur Smith, John Irving, and later, Paulo Coelho. I was going to make it as a writer one day. One day, when I finished high school.
But it didn’t happen.
I was just a ‘gunna’, someone who was going to do something but who in fact did nothing about it.
I had the dream but not the drive, and when I graduated from high school, I was accepted straight into the Adelaide University Medical School. I didn’t want to be a doctor, I wanted to be a writer, but writing wasn’t ‘a real job’ and everyone knew that doctors made a comfortable, safe living.
So I spent the next eight years studying anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, haematology, and telling everyone I was gunna be a writer one day. One day, when I’d finished all my studies and graduated from university.
But it didn’t happen.
I then moved to Sydney and completed my internship, still telling everyone that I was gunna be a writer one day. By now over a decade had passed and I hadn’t written a single word of the book I was gunna write.
How could I? I was too busy working, and with what little time I had to spare I spent socialising and traveling. There was simply no time to write. But one day I would. One day, when I could find enough time.
But it didn’t happen.
In 1994 I flew to London for a six-week holiday and stayed for ten years. I found work at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, The Royal London Hospital, and other NHS hospitals.
Then in 1998 I was accepted into the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) training program. I began working extremely long hours, as well as studying for my specialist exams, all the while telling everyone I was gunna write a book one day. One day, when I passed the exams and became a consultant paediatrician.
But it didn’t happen.
By now I was thirty years old and had successfully postponed my dream of writing for over fifteen years, more than half my life. Not only had I achieved a double degree in medicine and surgery, I was now the Professor of Procrastination.
I knew everything there was to know about fooling yourself and killing your dreams. When friends and colleagues asked me why I hadn’t written anything, I always had an answer: no time, no money, no resources, no support, no knowledge, no opportunity.
But I was still gunna write a book one day. One day, that was, when I had more time, more money, more resources, more support, more knowledge, and more opportunity.
But my favourite excuse of all time, the excuse I kept coming back to again and again, was this: ‘I don’t have a computer.’
I used this excuse for four years straight. It was so good I didn’t bother with other excuses. It worked every single time.
In the 90s, home computers were not staple items, and even though I could have bought one, I didn’t. I made excuses instead.
‘So I can’t write my book until I get a computer,’ I told everybody.
Why nobody told me to just pick up a pen and piece of paper and start writing, I don’t know. Perhaps they felt sorry for me. Or intimidated by my vastly superior mastery of procrastination.
Nonetheless, the excuse of not having a computer kept the pragmatists at bay and my sense of victimisation brimming.
Because that’s what I was, wasn’t I? I wasn’t just a gunna, I was a victim.
I couldn’t help it if I didn’t have the time to write. It wasn’t my fault. I was a victim of circumstance. A victim of society’s expectations. A victim of life.
What I didn’t realise was that I was just like everyone else with a heightened sense of victimisation:
I was a victim of myself.
I was exactly where I was because of the choices I had made.
Who I was, where I was, what I was doing, every single aspect of my current situation was because I had made the choices that created the life I was living. A life that I was now utterly sick and tired of and would rather be dead than at work.
So, yes, I do know how procrastination can kill your dreams. I do know how procrastination can make your life a misery.
They say procrastination is the thief of time for a reason… and it stole 15 years of my writing life.
The No. 1 Cause is Fear
But here’s the unfortunate thing—I knew I was procrastinating but I didn’t know why.
Now I do. It was the fear of failure. Or more precisely, the fear of being rejected.
As Jack Canfield, bestselling author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, said:
Fear is one of most common reasons people procrastinate on taking action toward their goals. We fear failure, or rejection, or being embarrassed, or disappointing or angering other people, or getting hurt. So we play it safe and avoid taking risks or trying new things.
The fear of failure was certainly my number 1 reason for procrastinating on taking action toward my goals, which was to write the many books that were shelved like a virtual library inside my mind.
My mistaken reasoning went like this: If I don’t have a computer, I can’t write. If I can’t write, I can’t fail. If I can’t fail, I can’t be rejected.
So it was better if I didn’t write.
The only problem was, my fear of failure was causing me to fail.
My fear of failure reinforced my bad habits—excuse-making, lying to myself, lack of commitment, taking the easy option, inability to delay gratification, pleasure-seeking—and these bad habits kept me from doing the things I needed to do to write the books I wanted to write.
My fear of failure kept me mired in failure.
But fear is just one cause of procrastination. There are lots more, but if you don’t know what’s holding you back you are oblivious to how to stop it.
And another day passes and you have not taken the steps towards fulfilling your dreams (or in my case, written my book)…
This is why you need to uncover the real reasons you procrastinate. Procrastination is just a symptom of something underneath it, and it’s usually something to do with how you think, feel, and react.
One of the best ways to uncover the reasons you procrastinate is to discover your Life Purpose.
As Mark Twain once said:
The two most important days of your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.
There are 4 facets or types of purpose—personal, family, community, and global—which are the four elements of your Life Purpose.
Some people don’t even know there is such a thing as a Life Purpose, or they do know it but find it difficult to acknowledge they have a Life Purpose.
But when you know your Life Purpose, you can uncover the real reason you procrastinate and discover the 1 thing that can free you from what’s been holding you back.
Because when you discover your Life Purpose, you discover more than just meaning:
You discover the source of peace, vitality, harmony, zest, enthusiasm, freedom, and wonder at the core of your being.
It takes a while to reflect on your Life Purpose and discover the true reason you were born. It certainly wasn’t an easy process for me, but after much consideration and reflection I eventually discovered my Life Purpose as a transformational messenger—you already have what you’re looking for.
Knowing why I am here on this planet and why I was born has helped me immensely and I know it will be of invaluable help to you too.
Okay, yes, of course I still procrastinate now and then, but I have never again wasted 15 years of my life doing it.
So, if you want to breakthrough procastination and discover what’s holding you back from living the life you desire, the best way to do it is to follow Mark Twain’s advice and find out why you were born.
When you seek, you shall find.