I Don’t Believe in Laziness

I talk to a lot of people.

We talk about all different kinds of problems – a seriously diverse set of problems: work, relationships, next steps in life, grief, body image, overwhelm, loneliness just to name a few.

Despite this variety, in our topics, I hear one sentence an awful lot: “I’m just lazy.”

It always gets thrown in with a list of other reasons for WHY something isn’t happening or being done, like this is a statement without consequence: “I’m so lazy.”

I have a couple of problems with this “lazy” verdict: the first problem that I have with it is that I don’t believe in laziness as an explanation. I don’t believe that laziness is a root problem, a fundamental characteristic of humans, a fatal flaw. How about that? I bet everyone is thinking of someone right now, someone who makes you think: “No, for real, laziness is a thing. I’ve seen it.” Is there a hammock in that mental picture of yours, maybe a TV, lots of lounging going on?

You aren't lazy.Here’s the thing. When I say laziness isn’t the cause, what I mean is that what we see as laziness is just a result of an internal thought process for a person. For some folks out there, the ones we’re judging from out here on the outside, what we see as laziness may just some straight up acceptance and contentment, maybe even some good planning. There are people in the world who feel good enough about themselves to relax and not have it be about avoiding anything. They allow themselves that pleasure. They allow themselves to experience down time. They allow themselves time off from everything and feel darned good while they do that.

For some of us this laziness label is what we call not being motivated enough to do the thing: the thing we SHOULD do, the thing that we’ve decided will make everything better, the THING – you know that thing, right? What is it for you? Working out? Eating better? Finally finishing that book you’ve been working on? Putting together a resume? What is the THING?

I want to tell you all, the ones stamping yourselves with that laziness label, you are not lazy. The “problem” lies underneath that; there’s something that’s sucking up all of your motivation, all of your energy, all of your will to do the THING. And that something is a thought. How do I know that? Because this is how the brain works. We have a thought, we have a feeling, we act (or don’t act). So if “laziness” is code for not acting, it’s because of a thought you are having. not because you are just this way.

And I’d like to add here that thinking you are just this way – that is some damaging ish right there. “I’m just lazy.” If you ever say this about yourself I want you to take a minute and think that on purpose right now. Just think it, say it out loud if that makes it easier and notice how you feel. I can’t speak for you, but when I call myself lazy, which I did just for a second there so I could share this with you, I don’t feel so good. I feel heavier. I feel slow, but not in a relaxed way, like I’m stuck in molasses. I feel a little sad. I feel like I’ve already failed. I’ve got news for you, none of those feelings are going to help me get anywhere today. Not a one. The thought that you are lazy might be enough, in and of itself, to stop you in your tracks. But you likely judged yourself as lazy when you were already stopped, so we have to go down a layer here.

So what are you thinking, besides that you are lazy, that is stealing your energy? What’s running around in your head that’s making it hard for you to do the THING? Is it that it won’t work anyway, so why bother? Is it that good things don’t happen to you? Is it that there’s something wrong with you? Is it that succeeding at the THING will cause a problem for you or for people you care about? What is that thought? What do you have cooking in your amazing brain that’s keeping you stuck? Wouldn’t it be great to actually have the energy to do the THING?

What are you thinking?
If you’re not sure about all of this, I challenge you, I challenge you the next time you stop yourself from doing whatever it is you are trying to do, to stop and take a deep breath and listen to what’s going on in your head. What are you telling yourself? I challenge you to do this for a couple of days, to see what tapes you’ve got playing in there because those tapes? They are what’s got you stuck; they are what’s getting in the way. They are stopping you from doing the THING.

If you get that far, maybe you’ve jotted a few of those sentences down, I’d love to hear about it. Drop me a line at julia@juliajones.com. I’d love to help you find the energy to do your thing.

If you think you have an idea what you’re telling yourself – if you know what the culprit is, and aren’t sure what to do next, why not try rewriting that story? Just click on the graphic below to dig a little deeper.

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Where Does Your Energy Go?

I can’t even put a number on how often people tell me that they are tired. It’s almost like this is the assumed first part of the answer to how they are doing, and then we get to the rest. We are a nation of exhausted people (I’m speaking of the U.S., although I’m fairly certain we are not alone here). I think there are a couple of reasons for this.

First and foremost so many of us don’t get enough sleep. If you’re about to argue with me, ask yourself if you’re feeling argumentative because you’re tired, and then google sleep deprivation or sleep deficit and you will find all of the research you need to accept the reality that a huge number of Americans simply don’t get enough sleep. This is something I struggle with.

pexels-photo-269141-2My husband is a night owl. We have children. I need quiet time. These three circumstances don’t always play nicely together with the idea that more sleep is good. I HAVE, over the course of the last couple of years, taken the time to notice my own sleep patterns. My conclusions: the amount of sleep I usually get is not enough – period. How do I know this? When I have the opportunity (and an eye mask and ear plugs, yes I am high maintenance), I will sleep longer than my usual allotted time by at least an hour. I also know because I feel tired a lot. That’s a pretty good indicator.

Now, I have a lot to say about why I don’t get more sleep. Some of it is cultural, some of it is micro-cultural (my family), and some of it (probably the most important part, duh) is what’s going on in my own head, the messages I send myself, the stories I tell myself about my priorities and how I should be using my time. And those messages don’t just impact how much sleep I get. They also set me (dare I say “us”) up for fatigue in other ways.

There are other bits that are making us so very tired. I was reminded of the rest of this equation when I was reading an article that mentioned James Clawson’s book Powered by Feel. The premise of the book is that we spend a lot of time doing things that actually make us feel drained, tired, just plain BAD.

What?! Who would do that?

I do. Yep, I do. When I’m not paying attention I most certainly do. Extended time on Facebook makes me feel bad. Certain television shows (well, whole categories of television shows) make me feel terrible. PTA functions… yep, you guessed it.

How did I figure this out? After all, it’s not like these things make me feel straight up sick. For the most part the impact is more subtle, but cumulative. It all piles up to one big lethargic ache. So what would it look like to figure out what activities are draining the life out of us?

It would look like checking in on how you feel as you go through your day.

As you finish activities, take 5 seconds to notice how you feel. Keep it basic; are you sad, mad, glad, tired, frustrated, energized? Check in on the body and the heart. Take 2 more seconds and make a note of it.

Why all of this data collection? Because the way you feel is telling you something. It’s begging you to consider how you are spending your time. When you actually notice for a few days or for a week, you can sit down and really see where your energy is going. You can really see what your choices about how you spend your time are getting you.

Can you eliminate all of the stuff that doesn’t make you feel amazing? I don’t know. Maybe not. And so often that’s where the conversation ends, right? Well, adults just have to do ___________. Yeah, maybe. But do YOU have to do all of those things? What is flagging itself as purely obligation without payoff? What is making itself known as an activity that makes you feel crappy and yet you continue to do it? Is that time you are spending helping you feel the way you want to feel? When you are honest with yourself, you have the power to make some adjustments. When you are honest with yourself, you can tweak pexels-photo-595747things without tipping the whole adult responsibility apple cart. When you are honest with yourself, you can actually address the choices you are making that are draining you of your precious energy. When you are honest with yourself, you can pursue the feelings you WANT to feel.
What’s the use in that? Some of that is pretty obvious, but there is another layer (I love layers). When you choose and pursue activities based on the feeling you get, the outcome – your ability to win, score, be the best – becomes less important. Life really does become more about the journey, the moment you are in, your connection to everything that makes you undeniably, inimitably YOU. And THAT feels amazing.