Laziness, meaning, detection and management. What you need to know to identify it and how we can combat it.
Article originally published in the Diari de Terrassa.

In the dictionary the word laziness is defined as ‘the quality of being unwilling to work or use energy’. Most humans are guilty of it at some point in their lives, as it brings us rest, peace, tranquillity and happiness.

Who doesn’t remember those Sunday afternoons after lunch with the TV tuned to a channel with a soporific film, sitting on the sofa with the sun streaming through the window and wrapped in that drowsiness? Resting, or could we say lazing?

I would like to focus on continuous (not temporary) laziness, understood as the lack of desire, spirit or courage to do anything.

From time immemorial, religion included laziness as one of the 7 deadly sins for which men and women were to be punished. Therefore, the generations of us who went to school in the days when priests ran them were educated in the dynamics of work and not so much in the dynamics of pleasure. We called it the culture of effort, under the premise that in order to achieve something, you had to earn it by working and struggling, because nobody gives you anything for free in this life. Laziness is not an option that can be valid from this viewpoint.

I would like to clarify here that being lazy is slightly different from procrastinating, which is defined as ‘delay or postpone actions that should be attended to for other more irrelevant and pleasant ones’. The concept seems very similar, but it is really laziness that causes a man or woman to stop their development and potentially become a burden to the rest of society by not contributing anything of value.

Here is a question: Are people born lazy or do they learn to be lazy during their lives depending on their individual experiences? From an early age, each of us acquires a way of being influenced by the dynamics of our environment: family, school, neighbourhood, culture and society among others. Depending on these experiences we can come to ‘normalise’ dynamics that for the rest of society could be considered as lazy, such as dirtiness, lack of personal hygiene, lack of will to improve and lack of desire to be useful to society, etc.

Once the individual has acquired this harmful dynamic of laziness, the effort needed to make a change is greater and greater, as there is an inner emotion that paralyses us. The body itself quickly becomes accustomed to comfort and prevents change.

So, in order to overcome laziness, we have to take strong action that goes against what our body and mind feel like doing (doing nothing) and that requires a lot of willpower. The lazier we are the less we want to get out of it, and we enter a vicious circle towards a negative spiral that leads to this laziness becoming a serious problem.

It is said that willpower is a muscle that, like any other, must be exercised continuously to keep it in shape. The less it is used the weaker it becomes and the less capable it is of making us act.

The most optimistic people are those who live in a virtuous circle where there is no room for laziness and who have managed to develop the willpower that allows them to direct their lives in a constantly positive direction.

To begin with, we must know how to identify laziness and assign it a sense of urgency in order to bring about change. There are 3 possible symptoms that show we are facing laziness:

  • When we take forever to do something that could be done in a few minutes.
  • When we consciously decide not to do something we know we should do.
  • When we keep doing things that allow us to be comfortable so as not to tackle other things of greater value.

Based on these symptoms and for those who may be in a negative spiral of unwillingness/sluggishness/lethargy/inanition, I recommend this 4-step dynamic of change:

  1. Identify the laziness in us and be aware of it.
  2. Identify laziness in others and be able to collaborate with them from outside.
  3. Try to break the laziness by making small changes to our routine.
  4. Continually put into practice the ‘anti-laziness’ dynamic by setting an example to ourselves and our environment.

Some reasonable doubts that remain for me about laziness, and for which I do not have an answer based on facts but only on my own experiences, are that routine, abundance, wealth, pain and negativity are situations that can generate laziness in some people. If it is temporary it is understandable, but when it becomes chronic then it is a problem for the person and for society.

I would like to end this reflection by conveying a sense of urgency to everyone and so I quote a powerful phrase that I share in most of my course introductions and briefings: “Actions express our PRIORITIES”.

Obviously it’s easier to say/write down the things we would like to do in a list of priorities than to actually do them. Let’s not let laziness rule our lives and let’s take charge of our future by being consciously sociable and being valuable to the rest of our fellow citizens of the world.

So, let’s kick laziness out of our lives!