Our Town: Don’t procrastinate — dare to live your dream

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Procrastination is one of those words that everyone can relate to. People avoid all sorts of things ranging from asking for a job, pleading for a raise or stepping up to ask someone out on a date. People procrastinate due to a fear of rejection, laziness or the dread of shameful failure. Procrastination and avoidance may be the most costly psychological problem there is.
One thing all the anxiety disorders have in common is the word avoidance. People with bridge phobias avoid bridges. People with post-traumatic stress avoid anything that reminds them of the initial trauma. People with agoraphobia avoid the outdoors and kids with separation anxiety avoid separation from the mother.
A primary reason that sport is a part of culture is because it gives people an opportunity to learn how to face fear rather than avoid it. In baseball when it’s your turn to bat, you have to step up and swing away. You can’t tell the umpire you feel too tired or too busy or too scared.
The biggest difference between sport and life is that in life you can always put off what you’re afraid to do indefinitely. And the opportunity to avoid ones fears forever makes for a life filled with boredom, regret and a lack of achievement.
What is so devastating about placing yourself in a position of going for something in life and then failing to make the grade? Why are so many folks afraid to take the leap? Well, if you tend to be perfectionistic, you can’t take risks because there is no guarantee you will succeed. The shame of failure can be so scary that people spend a lifetime ignoring or suppressing their dream and making no effort to achieve their real goals.
Much art is attuned to this issue and offers up encouragement to the dreamers. The film “La La Land” had the song “Fools who dream,” which went “Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem.” It was about the courage and craziness it takes to do something special.
Frank Sinatra introduced the Sammy Cahn classic “High Hopes’ back in 1959, which went “Just what makes that little old ant, think he’ll move that rubber tree plant?” This song became hugely popular and was covered by the likes of Doris Day, Bing Crosby and Ricky Nelson. In fact, the popular song “High Hopes” by pop star Brendon Urie borrows heavily from the sentiment of the Sammy Cahn original.
When in graduate school I remember the first draft of my dissertation I submitted to my dissertation committee. It was thrown back in my face and when I complained to my adviser, Dr. Herb Kaye, he told me that following parable. He said: “Tom, it’s like you’re in an Olympic high jump competition and the bar is set at 7 feet. On your first attempt you jump only about 3 feet high and you run over to the referee and ask him to lower the bar a little. The ref looks at you and shakes his head no and says try again.” And that is where he came to my rescue. My advisor just encouraged me to keep trying and like the little train that could I plugged away and after 13 drafts my dissertation was accepted.
We all have fears of failure and we all tend to procrastinate, believing that we will live forever and that someday when we have enough time we will grab hold of our dream and go for it. But, alas, we will not live forever. So what to do about this whole avoidance issue?
The answer can be found in the great stories, myths and legends of the recent and distant past. Don Quixote was an old man who had an impossible dream of becoming a knight errant and he had Sancho Panza as a partner who believed in him. Emma Stone wished to be an actress in the film “La La Land” and she had Ryan Gosling to provide encouragement to her and not let her quit. In fact, all of our heroes had a partner to give them guidance, solace, encouragement, hope and feedback. The “Lone Ranger” had Tonto, Roy Rodgers had Dale Evans, Abbot had Costello and Laurel had Hardy.
So if you have a dream and you notice you have procrastinated about it for the last 20 years or so, you had better find yourself a good partner to keep yourself on track. “Hi ho silver and away!”

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