Procrastination – an Identity Crisis? | The Edge

People who have not yet achieved their Identity are more likely to procrastinate.

374064_493468600686591_855325188_nWhy is linked to the notion of agency and it’s connection to the development of the ego, according to Timothy Pychyl, associate professor of phycology at the Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.  Says Pychyl, “Agency is the belief that we are in control of our decisions and responsible for our outcomes. It means we make a difference, we make things happen, we’re agentic, acting on the world. The thing is, being an active agent depends on ego development. It depends on identity.” Identity is knowing who we are that allows us to interpret information about the world around us and execute the right response, according to Pychyl.

Matthew Shanahan  (Journal: Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 901-911), a Pychyl research student has established that the link between identity and procrastination could be explained through agency and its necessary constituent, volition. The traditional conception of volition has been that it is an act of the will. The link between volition and procrastination is made in the research literature especially with reference to action control. Specifically, research suggests that with regard to procrastination the ability to bridge the gap between intention and performance embodies volitional impairments in action control. Intention holds no commitment and no integrity.

Shanahan has established that the achievement and moratorium identity status scores from his research subjects were oppositely related to procrastination. Moratorium identifies with people exploring, but have yet to commit. This lack of commitment may hamper their ability to translate the improved base of knowledge and understanding that exploration has conferred to practical, purposeful pursuit of goals in a timely fashion, says Pychyl. However, achievement identity status associates commitment as analogous to “a kind of pruning of energies away from exploration towards only the most productive avenues of thinking and being that they have discovered”. The results of Shanahan’s research may be explained on the theoretical basis that exploration and commitment therefore work synergistically in contributing to a lower procrastination score and both these components of agency working together are required to predict more timely task completion, according to Pychyl. He concludes that knowing who we are benefits us in terms of the purposeful pursuit of our goals. These two aspects of ego functioning, synthesis and executive control, serve to help us sort out our priorities and act on them effectively.

However valid the argument for the association of achievement identity and volition of committed action, this may not serve our purpose.

Identity - pic by stef alexander
Identity – pic by stef alexander

By the very nature of Identity, it engages simultaneously in trying to resolve conflict between opposing forces to cope in the most adaptive way with the challenges of our environment. So says Marc Steinberg, author and creator of Consciousness Coaching. These opposing forces may once again lead to procrastination. For instance, while trying to fit in socially at a business function, Identity engages in trying to resolve the conflict between your inner desire to be the socialite and your inner sense of morality.

Within the Consciousness Coaching philosophy, Identity is seen as a functional centre and organising principle within the subconscious in the human being and acts as an indispensable mediator between opposing forces. From the discussion above and according to Timothy Pychyl, Identity is knowing who we are that allows us to interpret information about the world around us and execute the right response. Identity allows one to be aware of oneself or one’s Self – self-awareness being positive and essential to functioning as a human being. However, as Identity develops and evolves into an Ego – an artificial personality developed with our need to literally survive and perhaps thrive in a world of Egos that vary from narcissistic to unconsciously conscious.

The challenge is to be fully aware of the survival mode of the Identity that promotes negative self-talk that may lead to unconscious procrastination. Or the fickle self-esteem associated with narcissism that leads to the fear of failure and action procrastination due to peer pressure to perform.

Development of acute awareness  and becoming consciously consciousness along with achievement identity status leads to “You using your Identity” rather than “Your Identity using you.”

Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada,via Teenagers, Identity Crises & Procrastination | Psychology Today.

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