Be honest with yourself, you’re just lazy.
Did you feel a slight chill run down your spine as you read that? Perhaps a tightening of your gut and a rush of blood to your face? Lazy is a trigger word for many of us. It creates a feeling of shame, even in the most accomplished of people.
For most of us, the shame surrounding laziness came early in our lives, possibly from our parent(s), a teacher, or an early work experience. And in all cases, it was born out of the expectations placed upon us by others. Expectations that we internalized, but that we somehow couldn’t cope with. We went all our lives asking, “Why can’t I just do the things people expect of me, without them asking? Why do I always finish things at the last minute? Why can’t I plan ahead? Why do I say I’ll do something, then abandon it when it gets hard?” We entered our 20’s and 30’s wondering how we’d ever make it in the professional world with procrastination and laziness as a crutch.
However, what you will come to realize, dear reader, is that laziness isn’t a crutch, it’s a superpower.
Recall the various school papers and projects that you left off until the last day or week, and the studying that happened hours before the exam. You had weeks or months to prepare, but somehow you left your tasks undone until it was nearly too late.
But somehow you (almost) always finished your tasks. Think about the times you received high or near-perfect marks on a paper that you wrote the night before it was due. Perhaps the teacher or professor even complimented your work in the margins, as has happened with my last-minute work on many occasions.
Then remember the assignments you never finished, the work projects that you didn’t complete, and the personal endeavors you abandoned. Actually, maybe you can’t recall them at all. It would make sense that you wouldn’t remember much about your abandoned work. That’s because the work that you never finished was subconsciously unimportant. At least not important to you, not at that particular time.
And this gets us to the point, which is that procrastination and laziness aren’t bad! They are, in fact, guideposts for purpose, meaning, and impact. Let me explain further.
Notice that you haven’t been able to pull off last-minute miracles in every case. For some subjects in school or projects at work, your procrastination ended in disaster. There’s a reason for that: the project or subject didn’t involve your natural abilities and inclinations. In other words, it’s not your calling. It’s not what you were meant to do.
At least in my case, I dominated last-minute term papers because I’m a writer. It comes naturally to me just like drawing or negotiating or making the best EDM this side of the Atlantic come naturally to other people. Laziness with group projects, on the other hand, doesn’t work at all like last-minute writing. Group projects involve other people, project management, and organization. A naturally gifted team leader could likely complete a team project without dedicating much time to it. That’s not me.
The mistake I made was not taking this as a sign from a much earlier age. Instead I, like many of you, struggled to find my place in the world of work. I tried to get better at things I just didn’t like. However, as I said yesterday, I believe the spark of what truly drives you is always there, trying to take you to the place you need to be. Furthermore, I believe that procrastination and laziness are the roads to back to that calling.
We know this because we’re not always lazy and we don’t always procrastinate. Not with the things we love doing.
Before my professional life, I worked as a waiter in a restaurant, but I wanted to be a chef. I offered the head chef at one high-end restaurant to let me work for free in exchange for training. To my delight, he said yes.
I quickly found myself taking days off from my paid job to work for free as a prep and line cook. I worked hard, I showed up on early, I stayed late, I learned, and I loved it. There’s a good reason I’m not a chef now, but that’s another story.
What are you working on right now that’s boring you to tears? In contrast, what do you find yourself lost in on a regular basis? Just because you get paid to do the former and not the latter doesn’t mean what you’re doing is bad. It’s a signal that there’s more inside you, art that’s begging to come out. And you’re suffocating it.
You may be thinking at this point, “Okay, but not everybody is lazy! I know plenty of people who set out to do something and do it. They finish things on time and they do what others expect of them. And they’re successful!”
This depends on your definition of successful. Sure, they are rewarded because they can be relied upon to do what they’ve been told. And sure, they can create a plan and stick to it no matter what, no matter how bored they get, no matter how much impact they feel they’re having. But do you really want to live that way?
Instead of comparing yourself to those people, recognize that you have something they don’t. Your intolerance of unimportant work will, over time, put you on a more impactful and fulfilling path, at least by your standards. And if you think about it, aren’t those the standards that matter most?
If you have an opinion or an example to share, I’d love to hear about it. Just leave a comment below.