Embrace Lazy to Actually Follow Through On Your Goals

When did “lazy” become a bad word? I grew up believing that hard work was a virtue and laziness was the work of the devil.

In high school algebra class, Mr. Pescatore would proclaim that he was lazy. He was proud of it. He accomplished a lot in his life time. He won an Olympic medal in rowing. He was a high school algebra teacher and there had to be easier ways to make a living.

So why was he calling himself lazy?

I was missing the point.

This was his secret lesson on human nature — we are built to conserve energy.

He taught us to find the easiest and fastest path to a solution. Cut out the extra steps. Just admit you are lazy, and find the easiest way to get it done.

I am lazy. You are lazy. Our genetics tell us to be lazy.

Our brains use up about 25% of our total energy…and it is just a blob of fatty, squishy substance lounging around in our skulls. Our brains evolved to conserve and hoard energy because that helped our ancestors stay alive longer.

“Eat all those figs on that tree because you do not know when you will encounter food again.”

“Generalize and stereotype because it takes way more energy to actually think about the nuances of a politics/health/business/relationships/life.”

“Do it tomorrow because sleeping in right now feels better and facing potential failure is hard.”

Just admit it. You are lazy.

Lazy Me vs. Ambitious Me

Over the last year and a half, I went from running maybe 3 miles per week and only if it was sunny in Seattle and only if I was not too tired. I ran almost 50 miles last week, often starting at 5:30AM during the rainy, cold Seattle winter.

Who am I? How did this happen?

Well, there is the Ambitious Me and the Lazy Me.

The Ambitious Me wants to achieve things like running marathons, eating healthy, and feeling like I am doing something that matters.

The Lazy Me wants to check Facebook every 5 minutes, devour a bag of chips, and watch YouTube all day.

It is a daily tug-o-war between Ambitious Me trying to actually get things done and Lazy me trying to conserve energy for some future purpose…like staying alive just long enough to procreate or surviving a future famine that may or may not happen.

The secret is trying to beat Lazy Me at his own game.

Lazy Me likes to sleep in, but he also does not like to disappoint others. So, Ambitious Me commits to friends by telling them I will be there at 5:30AM to go for a run. Ambitious Me also realizes that Lazy Me likes to make excuses in the morning, so Ambitious Me takes 2 minutes the night before to lay out a trap of tomorrow’s running clothes next to the bed. Lazy Me is a lot like a puppy, so Ambitious Me rewards Lazy Me with coffee after runs. Pretty soon, Lazy Me is salivating at just the thought of coffee when he hears “let’s go for a run!” It works every time.

Lazy Me also loves salty, crunchy chips and gummy bears and eats whatever is in reaching distance. Ambitious me knows that Lazy Me always feels like a sluggish blob after devouring the whole bag and complains about it incessantly. Ambitious Me makes sure that we have eaten something before going to the grocery store so Lazy Me is too full to think about snacks. Ambitious me also keeps healthy lazy food around because Lazy Me would rather eat celery and almond butter than drive 10 minutes to the store.

Lazy Me likes to dream of all the great things he will accomplish, but it is way easier to just deliberate, read, and talk about it. There are just so many great ideas to make Lazy Me feel like he is actually working when nothing is actually being produced/created/written/shipped! Ambitious Me loves ideas too, but realizes that action is what actually matters. So, Ambitious Me blocks out time on the calendar and leaves a little note for Lazy Me to see exactly what he needs to do. Lazy Me does not like to think, so being told what to do feels really great. Lazy Me is happy to comply when someone plans for him.

Make the “Lazy You” Happy

It is easy to feel sorry for ourselves for eating all that ice cream or skipping the gym for the last month, but what good is that?

Self loathing is easy. Doing something about it is hard.

By accepting that we are lazy by design, it is easier to cut ourselves some slack when we fail and figure out ways to play to our nature in ways that benefit us.

Understand that when you skip out on exercise for too many days in a row, ignore that book on your night stand for months, or spend the last two hours on Facebook avoiding things that actually matter, this is the Lazy You getting its way, and the Lazy You is not getting you any closer to who you want to be.

Lazy You loves getting its way but also loves to complain when nothing actually happens.

Ask yourself:

What do I want to accomplish but have not started?
How can I reward Lazy Me for taking action AND feel good while doing it?
How can I remove barriers to make it simpler for Lazy Me to succeed?

With some practice and training, Lazy You will be less of a whiny, self-loathing brat knocking books off shelves and more like a focused, curious child engrossed in a coloring book.

It is a matter of guiding the Lazy you in the right direction. Lazy You may start picking up on this game you are playing, but by then it is too late. The Ambitious You will be in the driver’s seat and the Lazy You will just be along for the ride.

Lazy You is screaming and whining for attention and just wants to be led. Embrace lazy and stop fighting yourself. Put the guilt and the shame aside that you might associate with being lazy.

You are lazy. Accept yourself as you are right now. Only then can you begin to actually do things you want to do instead of spending all that time and energy pretending not to be lazy.

Life is hard enough as it is. Why make life harder than it has to be?

Stay lazy, my friends.