laziness doesn’t really exist

Why are people lazy? Actually, let me rephrase that. Why do people give up on their goals and settle for the minimum? “Lazy” is a term we hear over and over again, but what human genuinely desires to put in the least amount of effort? Theoretically, if we care, we will put in the effort.

That theory doesn’t always hold up though. There are plenty of situations where we do care and technically have the time but we still take the ‘lazy’ option. It’s terrifying to think about how often we become okay with the minimum. And we are okay with this minimum because it’s exhausting to go above and beyond.

This is a bit of a radical position, but I’m here to defend it: few to no people are actually lazy.

The main distinction between those who are determined and work hard versus those who slack off is that those who work hard have figured out how to handle their own emotions. Everyone has things they have to do that they don’t want to, and we also all have things that we care about. “Lazy” people, of course, have things they care about. It’s rarely a lack of desire and more of a lack of self-trust. To put yourself out there takes courage. It takes drive, and it’s risky. Doing the minimum feels safer.

Self-discipline and self-trust are emotional skills, and they take time to build up. One builds up self-discipline by doing things. Doing things takes commitment and being okay with failure. Self-trust is the same, it takes commitment to yourself and again, being okay with failure.

Whatever we do or don’t do is a result of how we feel. Sure, rationality is an important mediating factor, but we will find a way to justify our actions in some manner, no matter what route we take. Even if you are trying to go after the most ‘rational’ answer, you are beginning the search with an emotional basis and social context. We should research what we can, make sure we have the full picture of the situation, etc., but our emotions aren’t something to fear. Having emotions is what gives us the drive and purpose in our lives in the first place.

When it comes to laziness then, “Oh, go pull yourself together”, isn’t going to be useful advice for most people. Learning to trust yourself and follow through on the promises you make to yourself is a pretty massive undertaking. It requires confidence and acceptance of risk. It’s a big deal, especially for those who don’t have the highest self-esteem to begin with.

If you have difficulty being self-motivated and getting things done then, try to look within yourself. Forgive yourself. Be patient with yourself. Start with little things, and build up your own trust in yourself. Change is difficult but worth it.


Photo creds: Enya Callibuso

are you more of a Rothko or a Magritte?

When we think of art, we tend to think of something visual. A blue sailboat on a blue sea under a blue sky. Sometimes we may think of abstract sculptures, but even with those pieces, there is a tendency to think of them as their shape only. Part of what makes art fascinating, however, is even our traditional sense of what ‘art’ includes so much more. The texture of paint, brushstrokes, all add a three-dimensional aspect. The materials used can change our feelings towards the same object. The smells of paint or old books add to our understanding of a piece. Those who argue cooking is an art form can incorporate taste as part of their work. When we understand art, we understand it through any means of sensations, even if it’s not an overtly conscious choice.

Our understanding of ourselves is both limited in that we can’t see ourselves from the perspective of everything else we lay judgment on, and unlimited in that we are the only human that knows what it’s like to be us. Sometimes we need to ask if we’re seeing ourselves with a single sense. If art that is lifeless shouldn’t be boiled down to looks alone, then why do we have the desire to do the same to something that is living? We have to approach our understanding of ourselves like we do a work we see in the museum. What section are we in? What time? What author? Without context, how can hope to understand why we are the way we are?

Explanations aren’t justifications. Understanding how someone, for example, became an abuser or a killer doesn’t make what they did right. Knowing how you developed a problem doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to solve it. Even if you understand how a work of abstract art was meaningful for the time, you don’t have to like it. However, when we put things into context, it can make us think a little more clearly, and by thinking clearly we can figure out where and how to fix the situation. Say you look at yourself like a work of art and still don’t like what’s going on. That’s okay. We can improve. Even as we have our eye on the future, we can still realize that there is something in each of us to be grateful for. We can be both improving and appreciative of our strengths. Like art, sometimes things aren’t clear or even good, but they can have value anyways.

poof! there goes my pride

It’s practically magical how you never seem to realize how prideful you are until you see other people with the same problem. You think you must absolutely, 100% be right! And then poof! You see how much you’ve been building yourself up when you could have been more respectful and ready to learn. It’s like stubbing your toe, except the thing that suffers isn’t an extremity but a core part of your self-esteem.

The fact is, as much as we like to think of ourselves as objective viewers of our lives, we aren’t. We have emotions and experiences that add filters of meaning upon what we see. The same situation could make two people react in vastly different ways! It’s our culture, our habits, our hobbies, our values: it’s us. When we are forced to take a step back, it hurts because it makes us question the rest of the experiences we had overlooked. We begin to doubt ourselves and can become entangled in a mess of emotions.

We need confidence in ourselves. We need to have that positivity bias that encourages us to take risks. We need to be able to do our own thing and be autonomous. Especially in American culture, that individualism is so critical to our way of life and the ways we tend to think. However! There’s a reason we stub our metaphorical toe. It’s a helpful reminder that we need to listen. It keeps us centered around that important detail of life: we aren’t always right. As horrible and embarrassing as it is, we mess up. We make mistake after mistake. However, what we can also do is work through that and use those mistakes to grow into better people. Shattered pride can hurt, but it will heal and hopefully can be remade to something less inflated. It’s something we all go through! And it’s something we can all learn from.