Today marks a Happy Talent milestone -- my first guest post! James Emry is the CEO and Founder of The Best Practice Life and bestselling author of Positive-ly Uncertain: Learn the New Hack to Hit the Happiness Jackpot. Today, he shares some important thoughts and research on the instinct for idleness.
And that’s why it’s so dangerous! If we can’t or won’t put our finger on the issue we will never be able to conquer it and hold onto all those sensational things that give our lives so much value. But the thing is, putting your finger on it is oh so painful.
It’s like you’re applying pressure to a wound -- it confronts something that will make you squirm. You’d almost rather not feel the pain at all, but you know it’s for the best, for your own good.
And that’s just how you must look at what I am about to say to you. It’s not an insult; it’s an instruction to put pressure on a wound that we all carry, and research shows that applying the necessary pressure will help you remarkably in the end.
You must confront the fact that you are lazy.
You’d prefer not to do anything once you get home from work except sit on your ass and settle into the life laid out before you because you’ve gotten comfortable.
You’re done struggling for scraps, you finally feel established in life -- and it feels good, doesn’t it? You can lounge and enjoy your house or apartment because you earned it, you deserve to relax and it comes so naturally to you. But is that really why you have worked so hard: to gain the ability to be completely idle?
Well wake the hell up because you could have more. You know that, don’t you? More happiness, more fulfillment, better relationships… But you’re lazy.
“Wow, this article sucks… just some guilt trip motivational jump-start.”
Okay fine, if that was too harsh for you let me rephrase: you’re not lazy, we’re all lazy. In fact, you and I were hardwired to conserve energy in this way because that’s what was needed thousands and thousands of years ago.
Do you think your ancestors long ago played recreational sports? When they were done running miles on end to hunt down food, do you suppose they started a kickball league?
Everything was for fight, for flight, for food or for sex. Those were the times to expend energy, so we developed an “instinct for idleness.” There was significant evolutionary pressure, because idleness was useful for survival, and we passed this instinct on. [To discover how the evolutionary process has affected our ability to find lasting happiness in other ways -- and to learn the surefire way to automate more satisfaction into your own life -- check out my bestselling book “Positive-ly Uncertain” here. Or grab my upcoming book on body language FREE here until September 6th, when it goes on sale for $14.99]
No reward or expectation = no movement
Ok, so it’s not all your fault, and maybe you can find some comfort in that. But you really shouldn’t... You should realize that there are people that do keep up with their set goals and there are people that do make an active effort to maintain their relationships or hobbies. How do they do all these things if we are essentially hardwired for complacency?
Well, it’s true that you can’t destroy your instinct for idleness -- it will always be looming over you -- but you can overcome it so simply that you have no excuse to let it cripple you, as it often does.
How simply are we talking?
Studies have shown that when we are induced to start a task with just a small piece of candy, we start the task promptly and are far happier than those who sat by idly, doing nothing.
You see, we don’t need this “instinct for idleness” anymore. We have excess energy resources available at our fingertips (literally, you can now text Dominoes and have a pizza at your door in 30 minutes).
Currently, this instinct only serves to hold us back. We are no longer so short-sighted, focused only on survival. Instead we focus on long-term goals and our ability to thrive. This instinct for idleness is at odds with our true desires. We are paralyzed into doing nothing or performing the bare minimum, when the reality is that pushing for more and keeping ourselves busy is crucial to having a happier life.
What can you do today to triumph over your instinct?
Take charge, damn it! Your idleness is something you must be proactive about, or it will creep into your life and you will settle for less because that’s what you're born to do. You will tell yourself it’s what you wanted all along, even though we now know you would be happier with a meaningful objective.
Make obligations and become accountable to others. This is the easiest way to ensure you stick to those fulfilling activities that truly make your time valuable. Whether it be an obligation to meet up with friends for a weekly get-together or arrive to the gym on time to workout with a partner or trainer, making others rely on you is a powerful way to avoid idleness. Bonus points: having a social group that looks after you or cares about your attendance is a huge factor in increasing your overall life satisfaction.
Become accountable to yourself. This one is a little trickier, but really owning it can make you an unstoppable force. You can’t always rely on other people to help you or even care about your endeavor. If you build something into your routine, and it becomes a part of you, you will find that your inaction will feel like self-betrayal; talk about a miracle motivator! This is something that is definitely worthwhile to develop because mastery of yourself in this way will make no victory seem too far fetched.
You may not like being called lazy. I know I don’t. So do something about it! Don’t let your outdated brain imprison you and blind you to what true happiness looks like. You can overcome it, and you can do so starting today -- you really can. Take the accountability steps above, and better yet, leave a comment below TELLING us what you’re GOING to do within the week.
It doesn’t have to be inspirational, just something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t “gotten around to.” And say it with some damn conviction, because if you can’t make me believe you’ll stick to it, then I hardly believe you can stick to it on your own terms.
Go out and get your victory! It only takes one step to get started.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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