Death by a thousand procrastinations: how we slowly give up on our dreams

Death by a thousand procrastinations: how we slowly give up on our dreams
Two people photographed walking out of frame in the Company Gardens on a moody Cape Town day.

Recently the Mrs and I were in the car driving through Stellenbosch. As we drove past all the farms we spoke matter-of-factly about how our farm will be the best in the area. It would be modern and well-considered, it would blend into its environment gracefully and make use of locally sourced materials. The finishings would be challenging but they would leave the crafts-people better off, indirectly raising the value of their craft. It would not be some white, old, colonial structure.

We spoke of this matter-of-factly because we deeply believe in the inevitability of our financial success. As the emotion of that conversation lingered in the air, she said something to me; “It’s a shame how people give up on their dreams.” This is something I think about often, so I added; “Right!? It saddens me more how most people don’t realise they are doing that till it’s too late.”

You see, most giving up is done in small actions — a needlessly missed workout, procrastinating on studying, delaying difficult conversations indefinitely, failing to stick to a budget — that build up into hulking reasons why a dream is no longer possible. Show me your to-do list and I will tell you what is important to you.

If you say that you want to travel and see the world, yet every bit of your disposable income is spent on frivolous activities, do you really want to travel?
If you claim you want to build up wealth, yet fail to stick to a budget month after month, do you not like the thought more than the work?
If you dream of a healthy relationship, yet refuse to do the difficult work of communicating effectively and making room for the other person in your life, how true is this dream?

There is a common way that people procrastinate; tomorrow I will wake up at 3AM and study, next month I will join the gym and start a new diet, I will put 50% of my next paycheque into an emergency fund. There is a belief that dreams must be pursued heroically and all at once — there is no room for incremental improvements. This routine performance of overcommitting is simply another way of making our dreams unattainable while affording ourselves the excuse of having had tried.

The accomplishment of our dreams occurs much like the forfeiture: slow at first then all at once. We are always casting a vote towards who we want to be and what we want to achieve. Ask yourself, am I casting a vote towards realising my dreams or building a case against their possibility?