"It’s a question of discipline."

I was at a Borders bookstore yesterday, wandering through what remained of its store closing sale and fighting off the blues as I mourned the loss of a decent chain bookstore and wondered what would happen to all the store’s employees.

I was surprised – because the store was so picked over already – to find a 60th anniversary copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince, one of my all-time favorite books, and I simply couldn’t resist bringing it home.

If you haven’t read it, you should. It’ll take you one sitting to get through the whole book, but its messages will stay with you far longer. I don’t really think it’s a children’s book, although that is typically how bookstores categorize it. For those of you who have read it, what do you think: more for children or for those of us who were once children and have perhaps forgotten it? (You gotta read the book’s dedication to get that reference.) 

In one passage, the little prince is explaining life on his very small planet, where baobab seeds threaten to grow out of control every day. He insists to the narrator that:

It’s a question of discipline … When you’ve finished washing and dressing
each morning, you must tend your planet. You must be sure you pull up
the baobabs regularly … Sometimes there’s no harm in postponing your
work until later. But with baobabs, it’s always a catastrophe. (pp. 15-16)

Get the book, and you’ll see from the narrator’s illustration the havoc that unchecked baobabs can wreak on a small planet. More important, though, is that we take away the message about discipline and the dangers of procrastination.

I’m a terrible procrastinator – or a great one – depending on how you look at it. I can get a bazillion and one mindless little things done while I’m procrastinating the important tasks – like making sure my world isn’t going to split apart because I haven’t been vigilant about pulling up the baobab seedlings.
I especially love when I can find a magazine article about procrastination to read. Because that gives me one more excuse to avoid the important work ahead of me.

For some reason, I’ve been finding lots of articles lately about the why’s (and how-to’s?) of procrastination. The most recent one is in this month’s issue of Real Simple, and I managed to put off doing the dishes or walking the dog or folding the laundry long enough to follow the very elaborate graphical intro to the article. It was like those old “Family Circus” strips when Billy wanders all over the neighborhood just to find a pencil he left on the living room floor.

Anyway, now I’m procrastinating here on this blog. The point is that procrastinating can become such a great problem in our lives that we have a truly difficult time accomplishing our must-do’s and have-to’s, those things that fill our days, as well as those things that give our days meaning.

Does that strike a chord with any of you out there? If it does, I’m guessing I probably won’t see a comment from you, unless you’re trying to procrastinate reviewing that last proof of the annual report, or having the conversation with your spouse or teenager that you’ve been dreading, or calling to schedule that appointment with the doctor, or doing your Bible reading that you promised yourself you’d do every single day during Lent. Whatever it is, go do it. Go tend to your planet. Avoid catastrophe. But once that’s done, come back here and post your thoughts.

One thought on “"It’s a question of discipline."

  1. Pingback: Weeds or treasure | The Flourishing Tree

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