We Are Too Afraid To Be Lazy

And too attached to being active

Photo by Zhang Kenny on Unsplash

We seem to be attached to energy levels. We judge others by it. We evaluate partners by the energy they show, our colleagues by how they use it and ourselves by the level we are at.

Active people are shamed when they are lazy

Tell someone you have low energy or you just don’t feel like doing something and you will generate several unfortunate reactions:

  • Parents and partners will immediately ask you if you are well. If you insist you are okay, they escalate their ‘concern’ by checking you all over for symptoms of unknown diseases.
  • Tell your colleagues you need a break and they understand. But sometimes, you might be judged if you actually tell them what you did on break. People may like you to have a personal life, but being too happy when others are loaded with work can create friction.

The definition of health and wellness has become doing what you do continuously every single day, without a break, without feeling bored, without feeling lazy. I propose, ladies and gentlemen, that we are not machines. Even machines break down and we are cool with it. But if humans break down, we overreact.

It is not possible for us to do the same thing every single day in the same way. If this had been so, we would never have gotten fed up of working. We would never have invented machines. We would never have written software programs. We would never have created teams or studied business hierarchies.

Boredom is good. Boredom leads to progress. Boredom shows you what you hate doing. Laziness leads to innovation.

When you become too active

At the other extreme, if we exceed our performance (at running, at work, at home) in any way, and do it consistently for a few days, that becomes our new benchmark. If you were doing 80% earlier, then with a sudden burst of energy you do a 120% for a few weeks, and then drop back to 80%, people start thinking you are sick.

Being too active makes people redefine what your laziness level should be. High energy is not sustainable- it always peaks. When it peaks in children, parents (the unwise ones) label it as hyperactive. When it peaks in adulthood, people feel you have entered the ‘prime’ of life (which doesn’t last anyway).

Returning to your normal level of activity after a peak downgrades others’ evaluation of you. Romantic partners ask why you no longer put in the effort to make them happy (can you ever make another person happy?). Employers feel you were a short lived star in their team. Friends start seeing you as ‘not so fun’ anymore.

A bit of psychology and statistics

It all comes down to the psychology of statistics. And also often ignored math knowledge. Statistics starts with collecting sample data, say blood pressure or heart rate. They then place this data on a spectrum (normal bell curve) and find the following:

  • The average heart beat is 72 beats/ minute for a healthy adult
  • It is around 120 beats/ min for babies
Source: Slideserve, ResearchGate

What it means is:

  • There are many adults with heartbeat above 72 and many with heartbeat less than 72. These adults are not unhealthy, they are different. But society says that since the average has shown up as 72, any deviation should be considered abnormal.
  • But wait, the sample that was taken initially was from healthy adults. So all the healthy adults who did not fall near the average have now been classified as unhealthy.
  • Research often starts with mathematical open-mindedness, and ends with labeling all (healthy) outliers as unhealthy…unless you are a super-intelligent, highly valued celebrity in which case, everything you do is considered beyond normal (and hence normal).

Everyone in the illustration above is considered normal before the analysis, they are classified into normal and not-so-normal after the analysis.

When people know you too well, they become attached to what you are. Any change is considered unhealthy (actually not for you, but for them) and is met with resistance. People expect you to stay lazy or stay active, stay good or stay bad. Being lazy is considered unhealthy (again not because it will make you happier and relaxed, but because it makes others uncomfortable with the change in your pace).

So when people observe you on a daily basis, they develop their own normal bell curves (ex: during initial days of dating, or when a child is 3 years old).

  • They accept kids trying out different things as ‘learning and experimentation’, as long as the child sleeps at the same time every day (even if it is from 5AM to 10 AM). When the child accidentally starts sleeping at night (normally), any deviation is labelled as abnormal and followed up with a phone call to the pediatrician.
  • They accept dating partners doing weird stuff as ‘lovable quirks’ that makes them refreshing. When the same adult tries something new (or stops doing some of those lovable quirks), society labels it as a mid-life crisis.

It is interesting that experimentation for a child is considered equivalent to a crisis for an adult.

It is time we accepted people for the outliers they are. It is time we stopped asking people to be average in the name of stability. We become new people every single minute. When we live in the present, we stop worrying about how much energy we had a week or month ago. We enjoy feeling down, sleepy, bored or sick. We welcome the break it provides.

When we live in the present, we allow ourselves and others to grow (positively and negatively). We experience fewer crises, and learn to experiment more. We stop trying to change ourselves or others and focus on enjoying the best of what we have.