Procrastination, or a simple propensity to postpone important things is now also known as “the illness of the century”. Nowadays, this problem has reached an enormous peak. Around 25% of adults are serious procrastinators.
We all put off the tasks that we should have done days ago, but we rarely realize what the reasons are. So, why do we procrastinate? While googling for an answer for this question I have come up with several popular explanations, as: fear of failure, fear of success, perfectionism and, interestingly, the human brain. The latter one caught my attention, and I decided to share with it on my blog.
According to neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean, to better understand procrastination and what causes it, you have to have a better understanding of how our brain works. In this sense, he developed the Triune brain theory.
According to this expert, humans have three brains, not one, that coexist and cooperate together.
The reptilian brain
The oldest of the three controls the body’s vital functions – heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. It’s also responsible for our survival and drive to reproduce.
The limbic brain (also called the emotional brain)
Responsible for our feelings and emotions. It records past positive and negative experiences that affect our current behavior.
The neocortex, or our so-called logical brain
This is our consciousness and thinking process.
MacLean states that in some cases, these three brains can also conflict with each other. We might want to do something logically, but we might not be able to do it because the other two brains are not letting us. For example, we understand logically that procrastination is bad, but there is nothing we can do about it. It turns out the reptilian brain has the largest influence on us – because it is aimed at ensuring our survival and reproduction. It wants to keep us safe and keep us away from any danger. The emotional brain, on other hand, dictates our behavior based on habits we have developed, past experiences and the emotions we’re feeling at the present moment. Consequently, in the end, we’re left with very little control. Thus, most of the time, when we think we have made a decision about something logically, we’re just rationalizing the choice made by the reptilian and emotional brains.
So, according to Maclean, procrastination is not preventable; since it’s out of our control and the decision has already been made.
The Tribune brain theory is my excuse for my procrastination 🙂 , and what about you? Do you struggle with procrastination?