Four years ago, I made a public promise to my former graduate adviser, Walter Mischel: within the year, I would publish the results of our five-year collaboration on self-control. Walter had called me out on my procrastination tendencies, and here I was, in these pages, claiming that I would change and make him proud. Walter died suddenly, on September 12th, at the age of eighty-eight. The research results, to my chagrin, remain planted in my dissertation.
Walter wouldn’t have been surprised. Nor would he have been surprised to learn that I had intended to turn in this remembrance of him to my editor some three weeks ago. I imagine that my tardiness would have pleased him, for it affirms one of his greatest findings: once you find a diagnostic situation—if a particular set of conditions are met, then a particular response will follow—that situation will continue to elicit the same response time and time again. It’s called a behavioral signature. Here’s mine: if I have a commitment that I’m not excited about, then I will put off doing it, in favor of something else. The last thing in the world I want to do is write something in memory of Walter Mischel. I still can’t quite accept that he’s gone. And so I procrastinate, and with every day I don’t put pen to paper, I reinforce his life’s work with my reluctance.
Read the whole story: The New Yorker