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  • Writer's pictureEmma Wood

Laziness - a useful concept?

Dictionary definition:

"Lazy - Unwilling to work or use energy

1.1 Characterized by a lack of effort or activity

1.2 Showing a lack of care"

(Oxford English Dictionary)

Lazy Dog

In our society, ‘lazy’ is a dirty word. It stands counter to a lot of our modern ideals - “work hard and good things will come to you”. Lazy people are dimly regarded - seen as selfish, antisocial or somehow lacking as a person.

I see things differently. I think we’ve lost the essence of this original meaning after layers of judgement have been heaped on it. Laziness isn’t something we are - it’s something we do. Cleaning away the murk, the key word in that definition is the word ‘Unwilling’. This suggests that the person actually doesn’t WANT to do something. Rather than writing someone off as lazy, perhaps its more useful to ask: “Why don’t they want to do this?” Sure, this could simply be because they don’t care or see the point - or it might have a much deeper root. Why don’t they care? What’s stopping them?

I’ll give you an example. In the run up to my GCSEs as a teenager, I barely revised. You could easily have called it laziness - especially if you’d seen me slumped on the sofa watching America’s Next Top Model reruns. If we drop through all of that though, what you’d have seen was fear. I was terrified of failing - so I just didn’t try. My unconscious logic was: if I don’t try and I fail, then at least I’ll have something to blame it on. But to try and still fail? That was something my 16 year old brain wasn’t willing to comprehend. This wasn’t laziness - it was protection.

So for me, calling someone lazy is overly simplistic and in some cases lacking in compassion. Given the above example, I wonder if shouting at that 16 year old for being ‘lazy’ would make her less afraid and likely to study? Maybe it would’ve been more helpful to ask her what she was afraid of, and help her identify the unhelpful thought patterns getting in the way...?

I believe that everything we do and feel has a positive intention for our welfare. Rather than demonise ourselves for being lazy - a more useful question to ask could be “Why am I so unwilling?”. Challenging myself in this way has been immeasurably more useful. Once you know the why, it's so much easier to work through things and move towards what you really want.

If you need any help with doing this for yourself, please feel free to get in touch with me.

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