A few years ago we were in the desert South West enjoying a winter holiday. As we drove through a small rural town we saw a sign in front of the lone, dusty tavern that read:
Free Beer Tomorrow.
After a few seconds, we finally got the joke and both laughed out loud. Now, many years later when either of us is tempted to procrastinate, or fantasize that everything will magically be better tomorrow, we remind ourselves of the “free beer tomorrow” sign.
What attracts the beer drinker to this sign is the lure of “free beer.” Whether it’s free beer or a free TV, there’s something exciting about getting a bargain without sweat or toil.
What creates the twist is the idea that what we want will never really be available if we always look to somewhere other than today. We will spend our lives in the illusion that what we want will magically appear tomorrow, relinquishing ourselves of responsibility today for our own thoughts and actions.
Procrastination and putting off until tomorrow what we can do today is a common strategy to deal with anxiety and stress in the moment. When this illusion takes hold, we may hear different voices in our head depending on the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)™ role of a victim, persecutor or rescuer that we take on. Remember, all three of these roles are simply strategies to manage the anxiety, stress and pain in the gap between what you want and what you actually have. And these voices are very subtle — you may not hear them if you don’t stop and listen.
The person with primarily a victim mentality may say: “Well that sign confirms it. I will never have what I want and life just taunt’s me with a free beer sign.”
The persecuting voice, which is controlling and critical in nature, might say: “I want what I want and I want it now. This sign just ticks me off.” And finally, the rescuing voice which manages stress by accommodating and pleasing might say: “Oh, that’s okay. I will wait until tomorrow to get the free beer.”
It is so easy to manage our drama and stress by just putting things off hoping all will be free and clear tomorrow. Sometimes that works perfectly well because many situations clear up on their own without our action. The trick is to understand when we are not taking responsibility for what is ours to do, today, and when it is time to step up and do it.