Question: Is Being Lazy Any Good?
Of course, we have all been told by our parents, school teachers, our friends, colleagues, and friends that laziness is bad with a million reasons why we should stop being lazy.
But what if laziness is actually misunderstood for its healthy nature?
What if we can harness laziness to turn it into a useful character trait?
What if laziness is good?
We wouldn’t call a tree lazy for not growing fast enough. We wouldn’t view it as negative things when our cats decide to sunbathe all 12 hours and do nothing for the rest of the day. We wouldn’t pull up motivational videos for our dogs when they are less active than usual.
I would like to invite you to a thought experiment that may challenge our usual perception of laziness and hopefully will lead you to start living life with less friction and more enjoyment.
Isn’t it odd that being lazy is only negative when we are talking about productivity levels?
When observed closely, there is an abundance of laziness in everywhere in nature. If you don’t believe me, start having some cats.
As author, architecture, theorist, Christopher Alexander notes in his book (The Nature of Order, Vol. 2): “Many systems do evolve in the direction that minimizes their potential energy.”
This kind of laziness, coined as Deep Laziness, is the natural way to change, adapt and transform with harmonious balance.
Ribbonfarm made this elegant illustration:
Deep Laziness respects the already existing set of limitations, boundaries, center points and builds on top of that, strengthening the structure as a whole while constantly changing itself to more complex structures.
Deep Laziness allows us to change and grow harmoniously through intrinsic motivation.
While on the right hand, the column of “structure-destroying” transformation is where our problems lie.
I would say what is actually bothering us are neurotic laziness: which means the unwillingness to take action or show effort because of inner psychological turmoil.
Like the “structure-destroying” transformations, we are battling between our existing set of habits, routines, behaviors and the ideas we have picked up somewhere on how we “should” behave.
We all know about those “should”s, whether it is from all the cultural touch-points or school indoctrination or from our parents. To the point that the desire to be more productive, more fit, more capable, read more books, make more money, speak up more feel like self-evident truths.
They are mostly extrinsic motivations and standards placed upon us throughout our lives.
And we put a label of negativity and judge ourselves when coming short of those “should”s.
This is where it breeds neurosis:
The circle of neurotic laziness continues, driving us miserable and self-destructive.
So when we are feeling down, now we resort to procrastination or inaction that actually serves no purpose but to freeze ourselves.
Do you find yourself often even more tired after binging on food, Netflix, television?
The Paradox of Laziness
Looking for How to stop being lazy may actually end up making you even more lazy.
Since you are still looking for extrinsic “should”s, the chances of motivation depletes and willpower exhausts are far too high, which will make the transformation even harder and harder, the more you hold on to it.
Pushing you deeper into the territory of Neurotic Laziness.
To break out of being lazy, I say we accept that we “should” be lazy to an extent; I say we should honor and respect the structure of our current life; I say we stop putting the “should”s so high on the pedestal and start searching for our personal center points.
By accepting that we all can be and should be lazy, you and I will drop a big weight on our shoulders called Guilt and Shame which is the nasty products of Neurotic Laziness.
With Deep Laziness, you and I will have a shot of living a harmonious life that is still filled with growth.
So let’s get practical with Deep Laziness.
Step 1: Identify the Centers
The centers are the base structure for all activities to build up and flourish.
They are the foundations where you feel at ease, restful, peaceful and quiet. Your centers can be a place, a person, an activity or a combination of all.
But Peter, what exactly is my center?
No one can answer that but you. That’s the hard and the beautiful part of Deep Laziness.
If you don’t feel like you have any center at all, I would recommend starting from the smallest point. Imagine yourself as a hound dog, hunting down this treasure of yours. But the prize is deep within the dense jungle and you have to smell out through the faintest hint.
Center will be the place that reflects most truthfully on what you authentically take interest in: the roots for intrinsic drives. You may find it helpful to ponder on what you enjoy doing as a child when you were least affected by extrinsic motivations.
Do you enjoy reading novels? What kind of novels in specific that have moved you?
How about dancing? What aspect of dancing did you enjoy?
Where do you feel most comfortable in?
Personally, I find myself enjoying walking alone in nature. There is something about being among the trees, listening to the birds singing while the wind is dancing on the leaves bring a deep sense of peace and calmness.
Be careful of False Centers: there can be activities or places that can provide a feeling of escapism, which is similar on the surface level with a center. So not to delude myself, I would question the legitimacy through contemplation of the question: “Is this thing really bring me deep calmness?”
Step 2: Build a Routine around that Center
From the center, now you can start building the routine that works for you.
Let’s take an example of resting as the center for a lot of athletes.
Arnold Schwarzenegger would famously state he only needs 6 hours of sleep every day, even during his peak as the World Champion Bodybuilder. And on another spectrum, we have Roger Federer, legendary tennis player saying: “If I don’t have 12 hours of sleep, it doesn’t feel right.”
Plug and play. Experiment and take reference from other’s routine but we can’t be sure 100% that it would work for you or not.
A few rules of thumb I would recommend for routines are:
#1 Start with the center: develop a routine you want to build align with your centers.
I actually find myself easily scaling up my daily routine with push-ups, contemplation, reading because they are all aligning with the core center activity: habits. But when even just inserting 15 minutes of learning Chinese, I keep slacking off, pushing aside, feeling drained from just seeing the notification.
Turns out, I was trying to learn Chinese because I saw my friends were starting to learn other languages and didn’t want to feel left out. A Should.
#2 Start really small: routines are made from habits, habits are made from actions that we repeatedly do.
I started with a strategy called mini-habit, scaling every new habit I want to insert with a 2-minute miniature version that I will have absolutely no reason not to do.
All of them are too small to make any excuse, ensuring repetitions in the early days.
Then each day, I would try to scale up the habits slowly but surely, to the point that it now is one hour of “me time”: 20 minutes of meditation, 20 minutes of reading, 10 minutes of contemplation and 10 minutes of pushing up every morning.
Step 3: Adapt to Seasonal Change
When you are Deeply Lazy, you will act differently during different times.
Because to maintain a strict routine throughout the year, throughout the different phases of your life would be succumbing to another Should: you should have a routine every day!
How you act during times of stress and a heavy workload can greatly differ from how you act during your summer break from university, so expecting you would maintain the same exact routine doesn’t make much sense.
Routine and Centers can fluctuate.
The person who’s embodying this concept of going with the seasons the best is Elliot Hulse.
I find inspiration from him to not hold on and get attached to the routines or the centers that no longer serves me.
So it can be changing things up, strengthening your routines or drop the routine entirely, depending on your specific situation.
It is very easy to demonize and criticize ourselves for not taking enough action. The Shoulds of extrinsic motivations are heavily indoctrinated and marketed to us from the day we are born until we are all tangled up to different between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations in our life.
Embracing Deep Laziness will take open-mindedness, the courage to think for yourself and start questioning your value system of what we actually should be doing with our lives and how we should grow.
Deep Laziness can find itself from the current work of Christopher Alexander or dating back to the ancient routines of philosophers, living the life stripped down to the core essence then rebuilding our life from that center while at the same time ready to change, adapt at any time.
It may take weeks, months or years for Deep Laziness to bear its sweet fruits in our life. But when that happens, we would know that we have designed a unique and individualistic life that tailored just for you and you only.
This article was written by Peter Vu, CEO, and co-founder of Unstatic LLC., brining the Habitify app to more than 700.000 users who improve themselves every day through habit tracking. Peter enjoys learning about history, business and shares his findings through Habitify Blog.