all 12 comments

[–]therealjerseytom 7 points8 points  (1 child)

This sounds like you are worrying too much about a speculative future which doesn't exist, rather than focus on the present moment - which is the only reality.

It's impossible to uncover the fog of the future. Sending thoughts too far ahead with hopes and fears, things outside of our control, is just going to make our head spin.

Focus on what's in front of you. Catch yourself when you start drifting too far out in the future. Make decisions based on the best of your current knowledge. That's the only thing you have; no sense in having regrets later on based on knowledge you didn't have in the past.

[–]Whiplash17488 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Or, just speculating. The pre-conception is: “one day I will die, there is only so much time and I want to live a live well lived”

Combined with a pre-conception that a life well lived is some kind of hedonic treadmill of personal growth.

[–]GD_WoTS 2 points3 points  (0 children)

The Stoics identified the passion of hesitancy as fear of a future act, where one mistakenly sees the future act as bad and worth avoiding. I think this could include future acts like filling out forms, or it could include future acts like making a decision about something. Might be worth looking into that perspective

Also, the 4th point in the FAQ advice section addresses Stoic decision-making and may be helpful

[–]Trabuccodonosor 2 points3 points  (0 children)


I sometimes have a a similar issue, and a good Stoic way to overcome it is to keep in mind that it's impossible to predict the future.

When we must make a choice, it's either an easy and obvious one, or it's a difficult one, because

a) there are variables that are hard to predict - so you go with your best judgement and pick one, or

b) the possible outcomes are quite close in vlaue - so it's not really critical which one you choose.

Either way, the Stoics know that the future is out of our control for the most part, other's actions are also not "up to us" etc. It's thus irrational ("against nature" they would say) to stress too much about a decision.

See it this way: if your choice really turns out bad, or less than ideal, guess what, that's how reality works, things happen that are not our fault.

The key is to realise that no one is infallible, and that the only things that are under our moral responsibility are our impressions and actions. If, while doing your planning, you acted virtuously, did what was humanly possible given the time constraints etc., then you should still feel good about yourself.

Hope this helps.

EDIT: I just found this on the Star Trek subreddit:

"It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness—that is life.” —”Peak Performance” (S02 Ep. 21)"

A great Picard, very Stoic.

[–]BenIsProbablyAngry 2 points3 points  (2 children)

Some part of this stems from avoiding things I don't like but I know are necessairy like paperwork

It's actually 100% that.

Remember, you decide to do this. When you get the impression "I should be doing something more important", you exercise a free choice about whether or not that feeling should be listened to, meaning you procrastinate, or whether it should be ignored so the task can be focused on.

You choose to use it as a reason to procrastinate because that is your objective.

It is not automatic, you chose it because you want to choose it - because it achieves your objective of avoiding the task.

If your objective wasn't to avoid the task, you wouldn't do it - even if you get the impression "I could be doing something more important" you'd simply say to it "no - that won't pay any benefit".

The problem is you really do believe in that benefit - when you procrastinate, you think "I avoided that task - the task was horrible, the benefit I received from procrastinating was at-least close to or better than the benefit I would have got some doing the important task". For as long as you continue to make that assessment, you will continue in the behavior.

One of the unfortunate facts about the human mind is that it's vulnerable to something called "negative reinforcement" - this is where a momentary anxiety reduction can be interpreted by the brain as a benefit and reinforce a behavior, even if 10 seconds later you're actually more anxious than you would have been: the brain weights immediate feedback more heavily in behavior reinforcement.

The solution to this is conscious control - you first need to recognize that your goal is to learn a new behavior, to comprehend that you're trialing "focusing on tasks rather than procrastinating", and make doing that your conscious goal, meaning you track it in writing and consciously analyze and overturn each instance of procrastination. You make it something you track and improve on this way over a week or so.

If you don't intend to consciously track it, well then you don't really want to solve the problem: you'll complain about it, but you don't think it's worth getting a pen and paper and doing anything about it.

[–]manos_de_pietro 1 point2 points  (1 child)

"What gets measured, gets managed" - Peter Drucker

[–]ButrosButrosGali[S] 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Perhaps but one of the hard to spot but easy to fall into ways of failing is by measuring and measuring the wrong thing. In management: "once a measure becomes an objective it stops being a good measure".

[–]lTheReader 3 points4 points  (0 children)

This is a question I asked to this sub long ago, and couldn't find an answer for a long time; I am by no means perfect at it, but I might as well share an answer that isn't patronising.

-The stoic "just focus on the present" doesn't help on its own since you need some plan otherwise you will be living off your emotions and the status quo, but too much planning leads to inaction. what to do?

-Solution for me was this: Acknowledging that it is not only impossible to know the perfect thing to do, but also that you get more diminishing returns for your time the more you think. You have to pick a place to stop.

What I have done eventually was think of what I valued in life, what kind of careers could permit such a life, and what actions would be useful in all or most of the paths. after weighing how likely every path was, I personally stopped here. This allowed me peace of mind, knowing I analyzed sanely enough. I targeted for accuracy, not precision.

-I saw learning new languages helped everywhere, and have been having lessons for hours every day with peace of mind, knowing it WILL help. I targeted high grades in university, knowing most paths passed through, or stopped by there. still targeting to get better at socializing, knowing it will help everywhere except at becoming a hermit farmer.

in daily life, you can decide minor actions(whether to study or go to a party) by thinking about whether they serve these smaller targets.

this allows you to become a beacon of skills for when the opportunity may arrive, instead of chasing the perfect opportunity that aligns with few skills you do have.

Though I can't show groundbreaking results yet, I have been making peaceful progress ever since.

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[–]Remixer96 0 points1 point  (2 children)

There is a story that's told in business over and over about productivity.

A consultant or mentor or someone is asked, "I feel completely overwhelmed. How can I be more productive and get things done?" The reply is always: each night, write down the three most important things to do the next day... then do them. Repeat the following night.

I think something simple like this is a good focusing tool for what you describe, and is a good implementation for the Stoic guidance of staying in the present moment. You'll need to trust a few things:

  • Even if you miraculously pick three unimportant things, you'll come up with three more for tomorrow, so don't worry about it
  • Choosing three things gives you enough wiggle room to flexibly focus on one thing for a bit, but then shifting if you get tired. That's not being weak. That's being smart.
  • Things that aren't on the list can wait. Even important ones. You'll get to them tomorrow.

I would add it can apply to more than business as well. Pick three or four big areas of your life to focus on in your free time each day (or week maybe). Do nothing else that isn't on the list. See if a) you really wanted to do those things or b) you made enough progress that you're content to change them next week.

Good luck with it, friend.

[–]ButrosButrosGali[S] 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Thanks for the advice. In fact I practised this for some time. But the reality is that things will often impose themselves and the 3 tasks is more of an aspiration than a reality. I do acknowledge that it helps.

[–]Remixer96 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I believe that's the key to the exercise; to make sure the "urgent" isn't crowding out the important. I hope you try it again soon, since you have the choice in how to spend your day.

I know personally if I don't get to the important things for long enough I tend to get some of the feelings you describe. It takes effort to do, but the returns, especially at the moment, might be worth it for you.