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Laziness Isn’t A Personality Flaw–It’s Just A Habit

Laziness Isn’t A Personality Flaw–It’s Just A Habit

While serving as the Director of Mental Training for the St. Louis Cardinals, Dr. Jason Selk helped the team win their first World Series in over 20 years, and in 2011 he assisted the Cardinals in the historic feat of winning their second World Championship in a six year period. Considered to be one of the nation’s premier performance coaches, Dr. Selk helps numerous well-known professional and Olympic athletes as well as Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 executives and organizations develop the mental toughness necessary for high-level success. Jason recently shared his tips on learning to overcome laziness with

We tend to perpetuate negative behaviors by over-identifying with them–thus turning them into mindsets that then influence our behaviors. For example, we might say, “I’m disorganized,” or “I’m not very ambitious,” or “I’m lazy.”

Let’s look at laziness as an example. Laziness is not a personality disorder. It’s just a habit. Lazy thinking and lazy behavior, like any other habits, can be broken. Laziness isn’t something we’re born with. It’s a behavior we learned along the way.

To become mentally tough, we need to overcome obstacles such as the bad habits we’ve learned that are keeping us from achieving our goals.

How Laziness Breeds More Laziness

When you start the day by sleeping past the alarm or cutting corners in the morning, you’re more likely to continue that slothful attitude later in the day. For example, perhaps you had a choice to fix a healthy salad and pack it for work, but it became too much time and trouble because you overslept. Instead, you stop at a fast food joint on the way to work and buy a greasy, caloric breakfast sandwich. By mid-morning you figure you’ve already blown it, so you grab a sugary treat someone brought for the office, reasoning that you’ll start over tomorrow. Now you feel genuinely sluggish and a bit sick, so you might was well have a drink or two after work to get numb.

There’s a good chance you’ll oversleep again tomorrow at the rate you’re going–and then the cycle starts all over! It might not be with food; tomorrow it might be that you’re too tired to make phone calls, so you put off the important tasks for a day, and decide to leave work early after a day of low productivity.

Learn to Be Industrious

Just as you learned to be lazy, you can teach yourself to be industrious. Replace laziness with high productivity by following these three guidelines:

Stop “being” your habit. You’re not lazy. You’re a person who has adopted lazy habits. Start seeing your habit as just a behavior–a behavior you can change. You practice getting 7-8 hours of sleep, doing regular exercise, and eating healthfully so you’re filled with energy. You get in the habit of making to-do lists, prioritizing tasks, and working through them. You return calls and emails promptly. Every one of these new behaviors counteracts a lazy behavior.

Sacrifice early, reward later. When the alarm goes off, get up and get cranking on your daily to-do list. Only after you’ve checked off all of your daily need-to-get-completed tasks do you reward yourself by lying on the couch, turning on the TV, or browsing the Internet. Earn those rewards, instead of turning them into an escape.

Visualize productiveness. Run a mental reel in which you project yourself being productive. Highlight specific, key scenes, such as getting up when the alarm first goes off, completing tasks early in the day, maintaining energy in the middle of the day, and finishing the day strong by wrapping up on time. Be sure to include in your visualization the positive feeling that results from being productive.

Certainly, changing the habit of laziness into the habit of high productivity and industriousness takes work. If mental toughness were easy, everybody would succeed all of the time.

Part of mental toughness is understanding that the only true obstacles in life are self-imposed. You always have the choice to overcome and rise above. You have the choice to see yourself not as lazy, but as energetic, focused, and driven.

Dr. Jason Selk/Forbes/July, 2014