Is it Laziness or Rest?

Sometimes we can’t escape it either – the whispers of shame saying, “you’re being so lazy; you haven’t done _x_ in _y_ days.”

In the equation, “x” could be any activity and “y” can be any duration of time. Filled in, this could look like anything from “you haven’t vacuumed in over a week!” or, more recently and very apropos to this article, “you haven’t written a blog in over 20 days” and even “you said you were going to get started with daily yoga like over a month ago” (sometimes the shaming voice sounds like a Valley girl). Whether you call it “gremlin voice,” “inner bully,” or something else entirely, we all have it and oftentimes the negative voice has a loudspeaker and commands our attention, while our “inner best friend” voice gets drowned out.

We teach our clients all about this, and we practice awareness of these two forces ourselves. So, when the inner bully voice recently came booming into our thoughts, accusing us of being super-lazy by not writing a post in our usual time frame, we thought this was the best opportunity to explore the the truth and to let our inner best friend voice weigh in.

The gremlin voice will tell you all sorts of lies and typically either push you to over-compensate, over-perform, over-do anything (and consequently burn out) OR it will paralyze you with why-bother or ‘Eeyore thinking’, overwhelm and perfectionism.

The first step we take is to evaluate whether the accusations are true. In this case, we did an exploration into what “lazy” and “rest” actually mean. Here’s what we came up with:

The definition of lazy is “unwilling to work or use energy.” Laziness can look like staying in one’s bathrobe all day and watching hours of TV. Laziness can have you feeling stuck, mired, and doing lots of passive activities or staying ‘busy’ while ignoring the larger results you want or need to accomplish. This results in feeling like you’re not moving forward in your life (and perhaps even feeling like you’re moving backward). Laziness also drains your energy and can feel like giving up and quitting, avoiding the challenges in work or life. It is not useful to us and is not a characteristic you want to embody. Lastly, laziness also does not not help us produce desired results in our life.

Rest is not laziness; it is to “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” In a word, it is restorative – and when you’re done resting, you feel energized and revved up to go. Adequate rest can help prevent burnout and will help you move forward in a ‘juicier’ state of being. Rest is useful, necessary, helps you recover from illness and produce desired results in your life. Here’s the rub…HOW you rest, and whether the rest occurs BEFORE or AFTER an important activity, matters.

Not wanting to do something is normal – and is part of the human condition. The feeling can exist; however, the difference is whether we still proceed to do the hard things in our businesses and our lives, or lay around watching Netflix and not produce the results we want in our work and relationships.

One of the best things we’ve done in recent years is calendaring our week with REST first. After that, we schedule the activities to get us the RESULTS we want. We desire to be proficient with our time and work against Parkinson’s Law. The alternative, we’ve found, is that we get distracted with Facebook or social media, only to find that we spent 8 hours on something we could have done in one hour. Keep in mind too – procrastination is the result of perfectionism and produces stress as we make ourselves do something.

Produce or create, then rest. Repeat and harvest the results you want – whether it’s completing marathon training or writing a book.

Examples of rest:

  • finishing a blog post or podcast and then sitting on the couch to watch a favorite show
  • running a few miles and then taking a nap
  • cleaning the house and then soaking in the tub with a good book

What all of these have in common is that there is a sense of accomplishment and feeling of having earned a reward, this rest, after completing a task. The rest activity is enjoyable and restorative.

Contrast this with examples of laziness:

  • avoiding homework by watching YouTube makeup tutorials
  • shopping online instead of cleaning the house in preparation for guests coming over
  • playing video games for hours while your essay for business school is due tomorrow

What these have in common is that the activities aren’t truly a form of rest because there’s the background voice of “you should do your project/homework/cleaning…” and after we’re done with the YouTube videos or online shopping, we quite often don’t feel better or fueled-up for the activity we need to do. We might just act only under time-pressure of now having a few hours to write the essay before it’s due. This is common in people who claim, “I do my best work under pressure”; however, in this case, the end result is feeling worse and drained.

The best way to overcome laziness is to acknowledge that we don’t feel like doing the activity that needs to be done, and doing it anyway.

If we aren’t intentional with our rest, it can become laziness. The place to aim is somewhere in the middle of these two – work hard and rest (and play!) when we need to.

Bottom line: do you feel restored or drained after your version of resting? Do you feel like you’re producing your desired results? These will be your clues as to whether rest or laziness is involved. Commit to resting well – in a way that feels restorative, earned, and in a way that takes care of you.

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