Laziness: From Caveman to You

Published on SubStack, December 2, 2022

Laziness is the sum of hundreds, if not thousands of “shortcut” decisions. It’s a habit rather than a personality trait. Now, before you beat yourself up (or someone else for that matter), remember that we’re all human, and, as such, laziness is a part of our nature.

Your brain does a lot of work keeping you alive. Naturally, it doesn’t want to exhaust itself by doing things that are unnecessary. It’ll choose the easiest path with the least amount of effort in order to keep on chugging along. That was a good thing when times were tough. These days… well, if you have indoor plumbing and a smartphone, you’re a far cry from our caveman ancestors.

How do we overcome laziness when it’s embedded in our DNA? I’ve developed a quick trick and I’ll share it with you in a moment. But first, let’s understand laziness a little better.

Blame the caveman

When we humans lived as hunter-gathers, energy was vital. After all, by description, we spent most of our days hunting and gathering food to fuel the next day of hunting and gathering. It was hard work and our ancestors burned a ton of calories. Basically, it was like driving a Hummer and hoping you made it to the next gas station without running out of gas.

The human brain is smart. The only way we could survive as a species was if we figured out ways not to run out of fuel. If we didn’t need to exhaust energy, we wouldn’t. After eons of this sort of lifestyle, we became highly efficient lazy creatures. It took a lot of work to get this lazy!

Bread and circuses, Grubhub, and Netflix

Fast forward to modern times in first-world cultures and sustaining life isn’t so precarious. Food readily available. Heck, nowadays, with the push of a button, a courier will pick up your ordered food and deliver it to your door. There’s absolutely no hunting or gathering on your part.

Along with overcoming that whole not-starving-to-death problem, we looked for ways to fill the time we would normally be hunting and gathering. Enter entertainment. In its heyday, Rome entered into a time of “panem et circenses” (i.e., bread and circuses). If all roads lead to Rome, then it’s no wonder we’re at the same point.

A quick and easy way to beat laziness… kinda

If laziness came from thousands of “shortcut” decisions, overcoming it will take thousands of “not-so-shortcut” decisions. Here’s my trick for hacking laziness:

When tempted to take a shortcut on any given task, spend an additional 10-30 seconds doing it properly.

For the most part, laziness is simply avoidance. Facing a small task and doing it right will have a ripple effect. Your brain will still want to do things the lazy way, but your spirit will override it.

Get started

Speaking of spirit, in the movie “Spirited,” Ryan Renolds’s character sings the line, “People are lazy.” True. Yet, you are not “people,” but your own person. Trimming laziness out of your life one small task at a time will eventually have a huge impact. Start today and see where you’re at in a year.

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