I discourage my clients from using certain words. “Lazy” is one of these. Because what are you really saying when you call yourself or someone else lazy?
My dog, she invented lazy. It’s not like she’s forgetting to pay bills or avoiding going to the gym. But mostly she lays around, waiting for something to happen, dreaming of squirrels or world domination or whatever Beagles dream about. As a culture, Americans seem especially bothered by the idea of “lazy.” Isn’t it interesting, then, that we seem to envy our pets? “I wish I could switch places with my dog.” What dog owner hasn’t thought that?
To call a dog lazy is one thing. But when you call a human lazy, there is judgment implied. You’re saying he should be doing something difficult/unpleasant, but is instead doing something easy/fun. “She could lose wait if she’d turn off the TV and take a walk.” “He could make more money if he worked more instead of going out with his friends.” But suppose you forget about what you and others should be doing. If you’re watching TV instead of taking a walk, it’s because you prefer to watch TV. You’re making a perfectly understandable choice. Feeling guilty about it and calling yourself lazy isn’t going to get you off the couch.
Is it your job to be as physically healthy as possible, to live as long as possible? Is it your job to make as much money as possible, to save and invest everything you can? Is it always wise to go for an A+ when a B- will do the trick?
Probably you’ve learned that hard work is a virtue. This is a strange idea, given that most people work hard so that they can–in theory–not work hard in the future. Instead of waiting your whole life for permission to be “lazy” when you retire, or get the kids into college or complete your 10th marathon or whatever, why not be a little bit lazy now? Or don’t be. But reconsider what you’ve learned about “work,” and who you’ve learned it from. Doing the easier/more fun thing doesn’t mean you’re refusing to be an adult. It’s a choice, a strategy. If you want to sleep in and eat bacon every day, I have no problem with that. Your doctor may give you a stern talking to about your cholesterol, but you’re under no obligation to please the person in the white coat. He or she is working for you. Same goes for your financial planner, accountant, therapist, personal trainer, etc.
All human behavior is a strategic attempt to get the most joy and meaning out of your life. No one is going to give you a report card as an adult. (Although some people may try). Your worth as a person isn’t determined by how many hours you devote to curing cancer and feeding the hungry versus how many hours you spend watching reality TV. You’re a person. You’re doing your best. Being more productive won’t make you happier–just more productive, meaning “producing more products.” A clean-house, well-behaved kids, a perfect bill of health. Products all.
But look. No one’s watching right now. So take a moment. Pull up a beam of sunlight, stretch out on the floor and dream of squirrels or world domination. Whatever Beagles dream about.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.