I recently watched a TED Talk on procrastination, or rather how not to. The speaker Tim Urban, a popular blogger, does quite an entertaining job at narrowing down the cause of procrastination.

He likens it to a tug-of-war between two little creatures in your head: The first is a mature, focused creature, wanting to get the most out of life, work hard and get stuff done. The second is a wild little 'instant gratification monkey' who lives for the moment, always putting instant pleasure ahead of getting important stuff done. Procrastination, he says, comes from letting that little monkey take control.

You hear the crowd giggle and laugh. Even from the video, you can sense that their laughter is one of those guilt-ridden chuckles which come when we hear a comedian or speaker joke about something that we know all too well we commit quite often.

I found Mr. Urban's analogy quite meaningful because he happened to express one of the fundamental building blocks of character refinement in Chassidic philosophy. 

Chassidic philosophy, a world unto itself in spiritual study, is based on the book called the Tanya by Rabi Shneur Zalman of Liadi. It speaks of two animating souls which we have in our bodies. (The basic fact that every person has a soul is quite evident: it's the difference between a living and dead person.) 

The first soul is an 'animal soul', and Mr. Urban couldn't have done a better job at explaining it: An 'instant pleasure monkey' that seeks whatever brings us instant gratification without much consideration for the future. The second soul is a Godly soul. This soul wants nothing more than to do what's just and right, to do Mitzvot, study Torah and be kind to every person we meet. 

Mr. Urban sums up his demonstration with bringing a third, frightening character into the story - a scary creature he calls the 'panic monster'. The panic monster springs into action when... it's time to panic. When it's the night before the thesis is due and we haven't started yet, the day before an important presentation and we haven't started preparing yet. Then we panic, and work with such zeal that we manage to finish the whole task overnight.

The point of his talk? Don't wait for the panic monster. Is there an opportunity to spend time with family, a possibility to do a Mitzvah, a few minutes to study Torah, or a chance to give Tzedakah? Then don't wait for it. Even if the opportunity might still be there tomorrow, there will be other fresh opportunities that will arise that we'll need to miss to make up for yesterday. More importantly, every moment is a gift bursting with potential waiting for us to unleash. Each and every moment is a world unto itself that we have just one opportunity to maximize. 

Life is about making sure the 'instant gratification monkey' doesn't get the best of us. Nor should we wait until the 'panic monster'arrives - when it's almost too late.

Life is long, but life is also short. It's in our hands to make the best of it.

Rabbi Avrohom