Published: The Good Men Project (August 13, 2015)
If you’re reading this article and consider yourself to be lazy, ask yourself one question:
Why would someone choose to be lazy?
There is a considerable stigma attached to the lifestyle associated with laziness: Out-of-shape both physically and mentally, someone who doesn’t contribute to society, mooches off others instead of supporting themselves, and is generally regarded as a sort of stunted adolescent rather than a respectable adult.
Make no mistake about it, no one chooses to be lazy. There are many possible reasons why someone would become lazy against their will – mental illness, lack of experience in developing time management skills, various addictions and bad habits – and this article isn’t going to address them all. What it will do, however, is offer five simple tips that can help people who are inclined toward laziness (for whatever reason) lead successful professional and personal lives.
1. Recognize that you choose to be lazy because you associate work with servitude.
There is a line from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that captures this point perfectly:
“Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”
When someone who is lazy avoids work, it is because they would prefer to have free time instead of feeling shackled by stress, anxiety, and the other unpleasant emotions associated with “working.” The way to get around this is to try to restructure your life so that the feelings that cause an aversion to work are minimized. They can’t be eliminated entirely, of course, but if you reduce them to a manageable level, those occasions when you do need to deal with drudgery don’t feel as onerous.
One great way to start doing this…
2. Forget about having a work ethic… Develop a good play ethic.
Returning to Mark Twain (if you didn’t know that he was the author of Tom Sawyer, then shame on you):
“The work that is really a man’s own work is play and not work at all. Cursed is the man who has found some other man’s work and cannot lose it. When we talk about the great workers of the world we really mean the great players of the world.”
When considering a career that will make you successful, do not focus on variables like money and recognition – at least, not at first. Your foremost priority should be finding a job that you can enjoy performing, one that excites you when you wake up in the morning, engages you throughout the day, and leaves you feeling satisfied when you go to bed at night. Money and recognition are important components of this, but they can be grossly overplayed in our culture. Forget about the people who wind up spending so much time earning money and accruing status that they wind up being miserable (I know plenty of lawyers who fit this description); if you fantasize about getting a job that will make you rich or famous, instead of one that will make you happy, you’re more likely to aim for a career that seems “cool” rather than one that you’re good at. Ironically, this actually makes it less likely that you’ll be rich or famous – the people most likely to become rich or famous at a particular vocation are those that happen to be really good at what they do. Being good at what you do, in turn, comes about when you enjoy what you do… which is why that must come first.
3. Be smart: Err on the side of honesty.
Now we’re going to switch from Mark Twain to another American icon, Abraham Lincoln:
“No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.”
You may notice that ol’ Honest Abe doesn’t talk here about the moral virtues of honesty; he knew them, I know them, and it’s safe to assume that you probably know them as well. That said, the most common arguments against honesty are practical ones – what if being honest somehow harms me, hurts someone else’s feelings, comes across as rude, etc. The problem with this type of thinking is that it encourages people to search for reasons to lie, embellish the truth, and employ hyperbole, when the most logical way to handle any given situation is to try to make your words as accurate a reflection of the objective truth as you can. Not only does this make you a more reliable and trustworthy individual, but it also significantly reduces your stress. So much of the negative energy we build up over the years comes from needing to maintain illusions and deceptions, or figuring out how to effectively “play the game.” Being honest cuts that down to an incredible degree.
This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Because you’re human, and thus fallible, you will inevitably make mistakes; being wrong isn’t the same thing as being a liar. Having said that, before deciding to exaggerate or fabricate, make sure you have first exhausted every conceivable way that being straightforward and honest could have helped you.
4. Surround yourself with people who make you comfortable.
Just because something isn’t technically considered “work” doesn’t mean that you don’t experience it as work. This is particularly true for our relationships with the people closest to us. In romantic relationships, for example, it is very common to hear people discuss checklists of the qualities that they want in a significant other – physical attractiveness, career success, money, etc. While there is nothing wrong with creating a “dream man/woman,” the danger here is that you will focus so much on fulfilling an ambition for your personal life that you’ll overlook actual day-to-day compatibility. If your goal is to live a relaxed, stress-free life, the best bet is to come up with a checklist of what you would want in a significant other when it comes to your immediate needs. Do you feel more comfortable around people who are funny and outgoing or quiet and introspective? Is sex incredibly important to you or are you satisfied with only a couple of encounters a week? When you go out, would you prefer a quiet night at a nice restaurant or an evening of bar hopping? When you have free time alone, what would you like to do?
A very similar set of standards can be applied to non-romantic relationships as well. There are plenty of friends and family members who we grow accustomed to, but don’t necessarily enjoy being around. Instead of keeping people in your life because you’re used to them, ask yourself: Does this person make me happy? When I am around him or her, do I enjoy myself or do I feel like I’m working? In the end, our notions of how things “should” be can be the biggest impediment to achieving actual happiness. Figure out what makes you happy; as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, the chances are that is how things should be for you.
5. Keep a schedule.
The rest of the advice on this list is pretty general, but I need to be specific here: Once the stresses of having a bad job, being dishonest, and maintaining the wrong kinds of relationships are gone, the last major emotion that makes life feel like work is the sense of being overwhelmed. Even before we become adults, we are bombarded with obligations from school, extracurricular activities, our families, and countless other areas. This only gets worse as an adult, and the feeling of being overwhelmed can wear many people down to a nub.
There is no way to get rid of this quantity of work, at least not without extreme lifestyle adjustments or shirking important responsibilities. By keeping a thorough schedule, however, you will never feel like the workload is quite literally more than you can handle. There will still be periods in which you are particularly hard-pressed, of course, but even then matters are less likely to seem out of control if you always have a single place where everything important is not only written down, but organized.
Perhaps one of the reasons I appreciate this last point so much is that, to quote my final subject (author Lois Lowry), “Writing is self employment, so you can make your own schedule.” While not every job gives you that much liberty, I suspect that most jobs can be properly reined in with a sufficiently disciplined scheduling system.
This may be a mundane way to end an article, but then again, it’s the keystone to any effective way of both feeling relaxed and lazy while being simultaneously productive. Besides, what better way to end an op-ed on laziness than on a “meh” note?