Ostensible laziness can be caused by any of five factors, each with its own cure

Laziness can be caused by a number of things. Here, I identify five and a way to address each.

Rational fear of failure. If I were told to try to land a job as a boxer, I’d appear very lazy because I know that if I landed the job, I’d be bloodied in the first minute of my first match. So being “lazy”–not looking hard for that job–is most appropriate.

Is your “laziness” is a rational decision?

Irrational fear of failure. Are you catastrophizing what failure would mean? If you tackled that project or got that job and failed, would it be as disastrous as you fear? Might it be more disastrous if you procrastinated so the work ended up a slipshod rush job? Or worse, you didn’t do the task at all, which guarantees you fail.

You can survive anything short of stage-4 cancer, certainly a failure on most tasks. And odds are you won’t fail if you take a deep breath, list the baby steps, and get help where you need it. Worst case, you fail, perhaps learn something, and no one can accuse you of being lazy.

Values-caused low motivation. Many people are lazy because they operate from the foundational principle, “Maximize happiness.” Even in a so-called cool career, much of the work is less pleasant than, for example, watching Netflix. Not-lazy people realize that the life well-led is about being productive or at least that ongoing laziness will cause more pain than pleasure: feeling bad about yourself, failing in your career and relationships, and perhaps poverty.

Might you want to replace “Maximize happiness” with “Be as productive as reasonably possible?” If on your job, the work is too often painful, do you need to look for a better-suited job? Or delegate painful tasks to someone who would find them less odious, for example, to an intern or part-time personal assistant?

Rebellion-caused low motivation. Some people rebel against orders. It have have started as a teenager, wanting to establish autonomy from parents. It may have become more entrenched when facing professors that required hard, seemingly unimportant assignments. It may have ossified further in response to an authoritarian, unfair boss. Certainly, you might be wise to quit a job with such a boss but overall, is your resistance to following orders, your “you-can’t-make-me” attitude, worth the price you’re paying?

Hard-wired low motivation. Some people seem to be driven or laid-back from birth. Most moms of two or more children are sure their kids emerged from the womb with a distinct personality. A friend told me she knew her kids’ different personalities in-utero and that they have retained that basic personality.

If you are unusually laid-back by nature, it probably won’t help to push yourself too hard. We all have our limits. Perhaps you need to look for work in which your laid-back self is only a minimal liability or even a plus.

For example, I appreciate a calm customer service person. Laid-backness can also be of great value in a healthcare provider, for example, paramedics, emergency room doctors, and surgeons. The high-stakes time pressure in those jobs make it  unlikely that even laid-back people goof off. And their calm personality is often a big plus amid that work’s stress.

So now, let’s turn to you. Do one or more of the above flavors of “laziness” describe you? Is there anything you want to do differently as a result? Or would you rather, for the time being, kick back, hang 10, and meditate on it?

Marty Nemko’s bio is in Wikipedia.

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© Copyright 2015 Marty Nemko, Ph.D., All rights Reserved.
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Named the San Francisco Bay Area's "Best Career Coach," Marty Nemko has been career and personal coach to 4,500 clients and enjoys a 96% client-satisfaction rate. The author of seven books (250,000 copies sold) including How to Do Life: What They Didn’t Teach You in School plus over 2,000(!) published articles, including on Time.com where he also writes, Marty Nemko is in his 26th year as host of Work with Marty Nemko on KALW-FM (NPR-San Francisco.) He was the one man in a one-man PBS-TV Pledge Drive Special. Marty Nemko holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and subsequently taught there. He is married to Barbara Nemko, the Napa County Superintendent of Schools. They have one daughter and one doggie: Einstein, whose name is false advertising: He's dumb as dirt but sweet as they come. The archive of Marty Nemko's writings and radio show plus an active blog and Twitter stream are at www.martynemko.com.