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[Lecture] Procrastination and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Peking University, Dec. 11, 2014: On November 27th, a lecture entitled “Procrastination and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: the Spiritual Predicament of Contemporary Young People” was given by Dr. Li Songwei, who graduated from Peking University with a PhD degree in clinical psychology. Since 2007, Dr. Li has been working as a psychology consultant at Peking University Hospital and PKU Psychological Health Education and Counseling Center.

Dr. Li was delivering his address.


In his talk, Dr. Li tried to present a fresh perspective to explain the phenomenon of procrastination, the behavior which has bogged down many young people. He said that the title of his lecture derived from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a book written by Robert M. Pirsig in the 1970s. Li first touched upon the causes of procrastination. He attributed the phenomenon to the spiritual predicament which troubled the young, such as the sense of humiliation and the habitual tendency of self-depreciation. He took the word “loser” as an example and said that the students’ frequent use of this word in self-reference has demonstrated their hidden diffidence.


Dr. Li said that the fundamental reason for procrastination is “an obsession with tomorrow”, namely, an unrealistic expectation for tomorrow and an escapist attitude towards the present. “Daydreaming is the mortal enemy of today and the core of procrastination,” said Li, “If you want to be happy, you would have to smash up the fantasies.”


Later, Dr. Li elaborated on several snares which could induce people to daydream and procrastinate and provided some anti-procrastination strategies. He said that among the typical snares are escapism, narcissism, excessive anxiety and boredom. The best way to get rid of them is to accept the status quo and achieve mental tranquility by meditating and unloading all the troubles from one’s mind. Just as the motorcycle needs to be refueled and its chains need to be lubricated, everybody needs a few moments for quiet contemplation.


Written by: Yu Xiaohui

Edited by: Chen Jiayu