How to Overcome Feeling Lazy

The causes and amelioration of laziness.

Posted Aug 17, 2020

Alejandra Acosta Brncich, Pixabay, Public Domain
Source: Alejandra Acosta Brncich, Pixabay, Public Domain

Some people assert that laziness mainly derives from fear of failure, rejection, of authority, etc.

But in my experience with almost 6,000 clients now, the following more often describes laziness's causes, and what helps people improve.

When a client self-describes as lazy, s/he usually says that laziness tends to run in the family—typically, at least one parent is similar. That parental predisposition toward laziness is demonstrated to the child, day in and day out. 

And because sloth is, by definition, easier than diligence, the child seeing that role-modeling along with most kids' desire to emulate their parents, means that the child is likely to get in the habit of being lazy: poor work habits, sloppy room, refusal to do chores, etc. But the lazy parent tends to lack the drive to make diligence a priority for their child. That’s true if only because s/he’d feel like a hypocrite demanding diligence when s/he is far from diligent.

The slothful child then tends to pick lazy friends and activities that are easy: friends who aren’t diligent about schoolwork and, after school, spending much time on easy activities, for example, listening to music, watching TV, playing video games, and later, premature sex, and substance abuse.

Schools and colleges reinforce laziness with the grade-inflation that has been increasing over the recent decades. According to the College Board, "in 1998, 38.9% of high schoolers had an A average. By 2016, the rate had increased to 47%. Meanwhile, the average SAT score fell from 1026 to 1002."

As adults, many lazy people are able to retain only low-level jobs. Even if they’re intelligent, they may impress in job interviews and quick ability to learn on the job, but soon fall out of favor when laziness takes its toll on their work’s quality and quantity.

Not surprisingly, lazy people tend to choose lazy romantic partners, which reinforces the laziness, and if they have kids, the cycle thus continues on to the next generation.

Approaches

Of course, there are no magic pills for personality change, but one or more of these tactics that have helped my clients might help you.

  • Foundationally, it helps to keep reminding yourself that a life's value is primarily in contribution. Until you believe that, you'll be unlikely to want to be more productive.
  • At work, aim for jobs in which your work doesn't require you to be a self-starter, and is closely monitored. One psychology-related example: employee-assistance professional, in which calls/emails come in and you’re expected to address a certain percentage each day.
  • Even most lazy people care what others think of them. If you show even moderate responsibility, you’ll get more respect and friendship from responsible people, and that, in turn, will motivate you to act even more responsibly.
  • Choose a not-lazy romantic partner. Lazy people may have other attributes: looks, intelligence, integrity. Show those and you may attract the sort of partner whose diligence will rub off on you.
  • As a parent, remind yourself that kids—for genetic and environmental reasons—tend to take after their parents. Of course, you don’t want your child saddled with the burdens of laziness. Tactically:

-- In an age-appropriate way, explain that, yes, all people have worth merely by virtue of being human, but we have more worth to the extent we're responsible and productive. The game isn't how to get away with doing as little as possible. It's doing the most possible.

-- Of course, what you do  impacts your child more than what you say. So do your best to model diligent behavior. Sure, that means regularly doing basic tasks such as cleaning up right after dinner but there are many other opportunities. For example, “That tree-crack in the sidewalk is dangerous. While we’re thinking about it, let’s go out, get a little bag of cement, and fill it so no one gets hurt.”

-- And while you needn’t be perfectly consistent, make clear that you expect diligence in homework, chores, etc, and, as deserved, give "attaboys/girls" or the schoolmarm’s look of disappointment.

The takeaway

Laziness usually takes a severe toll on a life. While dramatic improvement is difficult, perhaps these suggestions can help.

I read this aloud on YouTube.