Redefining Lazy: A Problem-Solving Approach

Do you think you’re lazy?

I have to admit, one of my least favorite descriptors, particularly self-descriptors, is the word, “lazy.”

“I’m so lazy.”

“I can’t seem to get this project done because I’m being lazy.”

“I skipped the gym again. Lazy.”

All too often, I hear these comments from folks who I’d actually describe as hard-working, ambitious, and driven. Even if I wouldn’t use these descriptors to characterize someone referring to themselves as lazy, I still question the label. It’s judgmental and fails to provide any information (or guidance) beyond self-attack.

Problem-solving what appears to be laziness:

There are number of reasons we might not engage in behaviors we’ve considered or verbalized to others. Here are just a few:

1) We’re tired, burnt out, or overcommitted. Feeling tired or overwhelmed might make it difficult to complete tasks or take on something new. Maybe there’s already to much on our plates. That might cause hesitation or avoidance. Perhaps taking action will require a rest, a pause, or removal of another responsibility.

2) We’re afraid. Fear can be immobilizing, with concerns about outcomes, failure, or judgments preventing us from taking action. It’s helpful to understand and either challenge or problem-solve potential fears before moving forward.

3) We’re ambivalent or conflicted. We might say we want to accomplish a certain goal, but maybe that’s not the full truth. Perhaps there’s a part of us that wants to forge ahead but another part that is hesitant, feels differently, or objects. Some folks benefit from fleshing out both sides of the ambivalence, weighing the pros/cons of moving forward, and checking in with their gut.

4) We struggle with mental illness. Psychiatric symptoms can interfere with plans, goals, and expectations. Maybe we’re not lazy but instead struggling with anxiety, depression, or another condition that interferes with our productivity. Proper treatment is essential, as is self-compassion around our experience and difficulty completing everything we’ve set out to do.

5) We’re perfectionistic. Some of us engage in black-and-white thinking, believing something must be done the right way or not at all. We don’t leave room for the value of starting a task, rough drafts, or inching forward in the desired direction. Experimenting with just starting or with planning for imperfection might be helpful.

6) We’re concerned about bias/stigma. We might be capable of taking on a particular task but stuck as a function of how we might be perceived or how we might succeed based on our race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or weight. These are very real barriers to action and shouldn’t be overlooked. Acknowledging bias and finding support and community that help us cope with oppression might need to happen first.

7) We’re rebellious. Rebellion is a natural part of the human experience. It’s possible that when we expect certain things of ourselves, our rebellious sides activate (“I don’t want to do that!”), preventing execution. Diving deep into the function of expectations and any resulting rebellion can help inform our next steps.

So the next time you think you’re being “lazy,” run through the options above and consider if there isn’t something else at play. Defaulting to “lazy” is critical and doesn’t engender problem-solving. Exploring what might be interfering with behavior can.

Published by