Procrastination

crossroads

 

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build. Ecclesiastes 1:1-3

 My simple definition of procrastination is putting off until tomorrow that which you should do today. We don’t often procrastinate about things we like to do.  Instead, we tend to delay doing things that are not so interesting or fun.  In my case, I never like to get ready to do my annual income tax return.

A friend of mine who was chairman of my law firm had a description of something he called the “green monster”.  A “green monster” was a file on every attorney’s desk that had sat untouched for so long that it had started to be covered with green moss.  We all have green monsters in our life.

We live in a world where procrastination is rampant in the next generation.  I’ve written about the delay of young adults’ emergence into adulthood.  The millennials are often increasing adolescence until their early 30’s.

What are the marks of adulthood?  Well, for most it involves leaving home, completing all education, being financially independent, and often getting married.

According to Robert Wuthrow, 77% of adolescents had achieved independence by age 30 in the 1960’s (these were the Baby Boomers).  That number has dropped to only 46% of women and 30% of men by 2000.

Pew Research studies in 2016 show that 40% of young people aged 18-34 now live with their parents. The studies attribute these numbers partially to economic factors, but part of it is because the propensity of young adults to procrastinate in making decisions or commitments.

The trend of extended adolescence didn’t just start with the millennials.  It also affected Generation X – the generation born before 1980.  In her book New Passages, author Gail Sheehy wrote about the delayed emergence of adolescents into adulthood in 1985.

Sheehy’s thesis was that the usual benchmarks of life which the Boomers observed have been pushed back by 10 years. Adulthood for a Boomer was achieved by age of 21, whereas the newer generation had their emergence as an adult delayed until age 30.

The issues for the millennials are more complex because they have so many choices arrayed to them. For some reason, they are paralyzed when making decisions with the result that they often spend time trying to “find themselves” first before they make a commitment.

I am currently meeting with one young man who is struggling to reenter the workforce having volunteered for a disaster aid agency. He is looking for meaningful work which matches the level of fulfillment he received by working for a non-profit.

He’s struggling with choices and has deferred making commitments. Based on my research and personal experience with other millennials, he is not alone.

In my prior life, I call this the paralysis of analysis. It came from observing young lawyers who could argue both sides of an issue.  But in the real world, the client wants your opinion as to the best course of action, not an evenly balanced presentation of all the options.

We often hesitate to commit based on what is God’s will for our life.  What I have found is that often God’s will is best seen in hindsight, not as something directly from God as to what direction or choice I should make. It’s a clash between God’s will for our lives and our free will which He also gave us.

Kevin DeYoung has written a pithy book entitled Just Do Something. As the title suggests, he advocates that the next generation make a decision even if one is unsure if it is the right or best decision. He notes that God rarely tells us what to do, so waiting around for that “word” from above may prove fruitless.

It’s our job to make the best decision we can, relying not just on our own intellect, but also getting the benefit of the wise counsel of a mentor or a Godly friend. No matter what the decision is, we know that God will be with us regardless of the outcome.

Ultimately, it is a leap of faith – deciding and then relying on God to be by our side and rely on Him for the outcome.  At an early age, most decisions are rarely fatal or irreversible if they prove to be wrong.

Our challenge is to help the next generation take baby steps towards decisions and commitments. Sitting on the sidelines waiting for the perfect job may be an exercise in futility. The role of a mentor is best exercised by drawing on relevant experiences or scripture to illustrate how they dealt with something similar.  We don’t make the decision for the mentee – that’s their job.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You can be a valuable sounding board for the next generation who get stuck trying to overanalyze decisions or commitments. Sometimes there are no bad answers, and just being there to help them consider the options is an invaluable resource.

FURTHER STUDY:  The Pew Research study on millennials living at home: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/30/the-real-reason-so-many-millennials-are-living-at-home/?utm_term=.ffac09bf0642

WORSHIP:  Join Passion sing “Better is One Day in Your Courts”

COMMENT:  I would be delighted at comments on this or any other post. You can comment by clicking on the icon at the top of the page, or emailing me at otterpater@nc.rr.com.

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