Win the Lifelong Battle Against Procrastination and Laziness

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Chariots of Fire

Life planning is where all of comprehensive wealth management begins. We long to live lives of success and significance. Doing that requires small life-adjustments in the same way that financial planning requires small financial adjustments.

I firmly believe that when you run the race God wants you to run, like Eric Liddell you will feel His pleasure. But I also firmly believe that feeling His pleasure does not mean that you are going to love every minute of it and not have to work tremendously hard to achieve it.

Barbara Sher, author of Wishcraft and I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, talks about how “no one does anything hard willingly. … Nature wants us safe and fat. … There is danger in doing what you love or you would have done it already.”

Bob Veres offers similar advice in his column, “Lessons for Success“, in Financial Planning magazine in which he writes (emphasis mine):

Another of the lessons I offered in my speech is my belief that the most successful advisors have made a conscious decision to win the lifelong battle against procrastination and laziness. I don’t think there’s a person alive who isn’t afflicted with these two diseases; they are a natural part of the human condition. They are the tendency that keeps us watching television for four or five hours in a row, or surfing the web or playing digital solitaire when we have a project in front of us. I have seen these traits rob talented people of promising careers and leave others looking back, at the end of their lives, regretting that they never found the time to make a difference.

There are three parts to this battle. The first is to recognize that we all share this affliction to a greater or lesser degree, and consciously understand that it is a formidable enemy of our success and achievement.

Once you understand that, your next step is to recognize that you have within you extraordinary potential. There are more possible combinations of human genetics than there are subatomic particles in the universe. Not only are you unique, there will also never, ever be another person with exactly the same combination of talents and skills as you have – ever again in the long, infinite history of the universe.

That is something everybody should take seriously. If you waste or lose your potential, we may never get it back.

Finally, you need a strategy. The one I use, probably the simplest concept you ever heard, is to befriend your future self.

Whenever you find yourself playing solitaire on the computer, imagine that you’re talking to you, two weeks, six months or 10 years in the future. Get to know that person you will become. And ask him or her very serious questions:

What could I be doing, right now, that you would be glad I did when I become you in the future? What would you most like to have me do now so that your life, when I become you, will be easier, better, happier, more successful and more prosperous? What action do you really wish I would take right now?

This is not an invitation to workaholism. Your future self might ask you to delegate a task you don’t enjoy and get it off your to-do list forever. He or she might ask you to take up a fulfilling project. He or she will almost certainly want you to spend more quality time with loved ones, get more exercise and sacrifice the stuff that doesn’t matter, which have become a big part of the lives of too many Americans. I promise you that if you are listening to your future self clearly, it will not be a request that you spend more time reading The Wall Street Journal every day or watching more television or playing more solitaire.

In my experience, the difference between an extraordinary life and an ordinary one is hairline thin. These two simple yet powerful lessons — to turn your inevitable mistakes into trust-building opportunities, and to win the eternal war against laziness and procrastination — are proven ways to bridge that small but significant gap.

Professor Philip Zimbardo’s offers similar advice in his book “The Time Paradox” which I wrote up in the article “Financial Time Perspective“.

“It is vital to develop an optimal blend of several time zones, so that you are able to flexibly shift mentally from one to the other depending on the situation. When there is work to get done, call up your future focus–but not excessively so (that can lead to sacrificing family, friends, fun and sleep). When you complete a task, take a time-out to reward yourself, indulge the present hedonist in you (get a massage, manicure, hot tub, see a movie, read a good book, meet a friend at a coffeehouse) but only moderately so. And always make time to engage with your positive past, your family, your own identity over time, with your legacy and cultural foundation. The past gives you roots; the present hedonism supplies the energy to take chances, to improvise, to take risks; the future gives you wings to soar to new destinations, to imagine new visions. You can have it all if you work at creating this balanced time perspective.”

Sometimes the most important part of a comprehensive wealth manager is to act as a life coach and career asset manager in order to help a client find their personal area of genius, giftedness and calling so that they can feel God’s pleasure in their hard work.

Photo is a screenshot from the movie Chariots of Fire.

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President, CFP®, AIF®, AAMS®

David John Marotta is the Founder and President of Marotta Wealth Management. He played for the State Department chess team at age 11, graduated from Stanford, taught Computer and Information Science, and still loves math and strategy games. In addition to his financial writing, David is a co-author of The Haunting of Bob Cratchit.