Periodically, I get this question. And I tend to roll. My. Eyes.
I don't believe in "lazy". My clients know I have a few pet peeves like this…
Because when it comes to terms like “lazy”, rarely is the whole truth, or even part of a useful picture covered. There is always a cause for behavior, and while a term like “lazy" can sound nice when trying to explain things, can seem to give an answer to our problem of motivating ourselves or for understanding a frustrating loved one, when trying to understand why a behavior is happening, it simply does not capture much.
What is Depression?
Very often what looks like "lazy" is driven by depression or a lack of reinforcement in the environment. As an example, maybe an individual was in school and was motivated by peers and the structure of school and that totally fell apart when they graduated. Or perhaps a stay-at-home mother whose children grow up and move out might no longer have those reinforcers for their previous behavior. It therefore becomes important to look at what motivated a behavior before or learn what could motivate behavior now through trying out different activities and seeing whether they give us a sense of pleasure, meaning, or accomplishment.
Understand that behavior has to happen in order for motivation to show up, not the opposite direction as people typically think. Intuitively, people often wait to feel better or more motivated before doing something. However, the driving force between not doing stuff is the attempt to avoid discomfort. So as long as we are following the lead of this effort to avoid discomfort, we will continue to feel less motivated and want to avoid and isolate even more. When we feel down and unmotivated, it is not helpful to follow that intuition and wait until we feel more motivated to begin to do things.
So…What to Do?
Research shows that actually deciding to do things, to do the opposite of the urge to avoid and isolate, and instead to do something in line with our values and goals, is a prerequisite for that down mood to change.
Really, lazy has nothing to do with it. This is a natural phenomenon that works across all our behavior. In the case of “lazy”, it’s just about missing out on the “doing stuff” part that is making us unmotivated to do stuff. Start with something small, something pleasant, something social, or something that gives you a sense of accomplishment, and keep at it until the motivation comes. It will come!
Choice and Responsibility
Let’s talk a bit about the idea of choice and responsibility. I have a very counterintuitive approach to choice and responsibility, as anyone who works with me can attest. On the one hand, no one really has freedom of choice if they are not actively honing their mindfulness muscles, because without mindfulness we are just responding to reality as it comes.
At the same time, however, we have a lot of responsibility in this world and our choices are completely ours to make. There is nothing that we “should” do or “have to” do or “can’t” do. I can choose to do whatever I want, although there may be strong reasons why I’ll choose one way or another. Really, everything is within my choice. This includes poor choices. Poor choices, such as the choice to harm others or oneself, are still choices. There may be strong influences on our choices, making it very difficult not to make poor choices, and those choices are still ours to make.
My Choice Alone
It is my responsibility to make the best choices I can make in each moment - to be a bit more gentle, a bit more kind, a bit more connected and present, following ratzon Hashem as best I can. I’m not always matzliach. And that’s my responsibility. That is my choice alone.
We create and control our responses, if we are conscious and aware and intentional. Hashem deals out the cards, and it’s our choice how to play them.