Many people come to my office complaining that they are “lazy”. They believe they would have achieved more in their lives if they didn’t have this character flaw...
I’m thinking right now of this particular client of mine named Aiden who liked to watch TV every day, all day. In the past Aiden had jobs in the entertainment industry as an extra and a show runner (the bottom of the totem pole kind of jobs) but really he always dreamed of becoming a TV writer. By the time I met him, he was stuck (to put it mildly).
When he graduated college he entered the workforce with gusto, “ready to make sh*t happen” as he would say. But as time went by and he didn’t feel like he was progressing, he started to lose his motivation. His mind started telling him how much the odds were stacked against him and that his dream wasn’t grounded in reality. On top of that he said to me, “I’m just too lazy, I’ve always been a person that does the minimum to get by, it’s actually a miracle I even got a college degree, I always leave everything to the last minute and squeak out what I have to get done.”
I said, “What if I told you I don’t believe in lazy? Lazy is a term we label ourselves when actually we are afraid. How many people are actually as successful as they want to be? Not very many. This is not because there is not opportunity, it is because people are not in touch with their fear.”
Aiden and I then worked together replacing his dialogue about what his limitations were with labeling what he was actually afraid of...
Instead of allowing Aiden to say he didn’t work on writing during the week because...
- he didn’t have time
- he wasn’t going to ever make it anyway
- he was feeling lazy
I helped Aiden identify his fear...
- I didn’t write this week because I’m scared if I put all my effort into going after my dream, and I don’t make it, I’ll feel like a bigger failure than I do now.
- I’m scared I’m going to let my parents down after they paid for my expensive education.
- I’m scared my writing isn’t good enough.
As Aiden became able to feel his fear; he was then able to work with me to calm his fears. Like once he realized he was scared of letting his parents down, he could have a candid conversation with them where they reassured him all they wanted for him was the ability to be a self-sufficient adult in whatever form that took.
Or when he got scared that his writing wasn’t good enough, he reminded himself of the positive feedback he got in college from his professors. He also told himself that it was okay if he wasn’t an expert writer yet, he would continue to work on it.
As Aiden got better at swapping out self-blame for understanding his emotional process, he became more and more productive and had more and more action items he could complete on his weekly task list.
And after 2 years of working this process - of redefining his laziness as fear - Aiden landed his dream job in a writers room on a popular sitcom!
That’s the key, if you just look at yourself as lazy there is nowhere to go from there. It is part of your identity and there will be little hope of things ever being different.
On the other hand if you replace your lazy with identifying your fears (and actually allow yourself to feel the fear), you can then start to figure out how to calm and work through those fears. There are no limits to how far you can progress if you have both emotional awareness and a plan!