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The Philosophy of Being Lazy

Being lazy has been getting too much bad rep. But I can easily raise a thousand eyebrows by simply saying that there is magic in being lazy.

Not only that... I'd go as far as saying that being lazy is a life philosophy rooted in knowing what’s truly important.

Look, I know, I know… what the heck, right?

Before we dive deep into this philosophy, let’s look into the origins of the negative connotations around the word “lazy”.

Laziness or sloth is one of the seven deadly sins in the Christian tradition. It could be called the root of all sins as it summons all the other sins into alignment. As noted by Ecclesiastes:

“By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.”

Then came the Industrial Age where the 8-hour-work-per-day concept was born. During those poverty-torn years where most of the population were part of a systematic gear in a factory, more production meant more pay and more benefits.

Today, in our modern society, the hustle culture has been inviting the current work-force - mostly composed of overworked millennials who are juggling more than two jobs - into a sugar-coated world of constant work. There’s no such thing as timing out or timing in. There are no boundaries. Now that we’re equipped with the tools to achieve anything on the go, we take our work wherever we are - in the office, in coffee shops, even in the bathroom.

No wonder mental health remains to be one of the top global concerns at present. In a world that pushes you to work beyond your limits, who wouldn’t fall apart?

Why laziness could be the red pill

Morpheus handed Neo two pills - the pill of knowledge and the pill of blissful ignorance.

“You take the blue pill, the story ends; you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

The Matrix was a trap that kept people doing what they ought to do: stay busy and live a life of bliss. The bad notion around being lazy stems from not being a productive member of the society. If you were in the Matrix, being lazy and having too much time to think about how the world works is like taking the red pill - accepting the invitation to Wonderland and learning the truth behind busyness; letting go of blissful peace.

Let me pose this question… what if being lazy is like taking the red pill? Going deep into the rabbit hole? Actually knowing what’s true?

To deal with this, let’s define what being lazy really is.

What is “being lazy”?

We are being lazy when we’re reluctant to do things we should do, mostly because of the effort involved. When we do find the strength to do these things, we do it poorly, we find an alternative activity that’s less strenuous or boring, or we simply stay put.

It’s really all about how willing we are to exert the amount of energy needed on an activity.

In this sense, does it mean that we are only lazy on very particular things? Googling the word “lazy” gives you “Unwilling to work or use energy” -- use energy on what?

Our laziness could have long been wired in our brains and written in our genes. Our ancestors had to be quite choosy with where they’d spend their energy on. Putting out too much effort on non-essentials could mean life or death, so they focused on short-term survival and relied on human instincts: place energy where it should be placed; rest when you need to rest.

Now that mere survival has been taken off our daily agenda, we have learned to take on long-term commitments and goals. However, our human instinct of preserving our energy for essentials remains intact.

In a world that advocates busyness without discernment, laziness will naturally look like a sin, a characteristic bound for failure, and a natural ingredient for poverty.

I disagree.

Being lazy is a philosophy that rejects non-essentials and invests energy on what’s truly important.

Essentialism and the Power of Less

Six months ago, I lost my journal. Or I thought I did. I found it safe and sound right behind a painting purchased just before the year started.

Since I’ve been journaling on a temporary notebook, my original one missed six months worth of memories. I spent nearly two hours this morning just patching everything together.

Oh, and how timely. Now that we’re entering the 7th month of the year, it was a great opportunity to take a few steps back and admire 2020 - flaws and all.

I had to fill in six months worth of wins and losses and I was so excited to print out photos.

To my disappointment, I only had 12 pieces of film left, forcing me to choose just 12 memories from 72 I wanted to print.

But there’s magic in having limits — you get to know what truly matters.

I found myself removing photos showcasing trophies, awards, social media stats, and trading wins.

8 of the 12 photos left were of other people. My dad, my mom, my kuya, my niece, my boyfriend, my students, my mentees, and my staff.

The other 4 were:

  • The first time I finished writing one whole book

  • My grandparents celebrating their 69th wedding anniversary

  • Moments of stillness spent in my bedroom

  • The reflection of the sun rising against my window

The power of less / Minimalism / Essentialism doesn’t mean living with less. It’s living fully with what’s truly important.

Our world today is constantly buzzing, constantly hustling, and constantly being busy. We often forget to stay still and appreciate what’s already in front of us: the essentials. The important.

This is particularly shown in our daily activities - both for our personal life and work life. With zero boundaries, we are repeatedly bombarded with new deadlines, day in and day out. With everything being so important and so urgent, nothing really is anymore.

“Urgent” and “important” are common. They have become the new normal. But we feel it. Deep in our gut, we know what we don’t want to do.

And we know exactly what the non-essentials are when we feel too lazy to do them.

Remember that our brains are wired to spend energy on what it knows matters to you. If you are then forced to go to a meeting that doesn’t contribute to the bigger picture you’re aiming for, then you have no energy and no drive to attend that meeting. The resistance is so high, not because you’re just an impolite lazy asshole who's bound to fail, but because the meeting is simply not essential, and an investment of energy on this activity wouldn't be the optimal option for you.

The “lazy” person who didn’t want to attend that meeting can be the same extremely enthusiastic dude who spent most of his time and energy coaching his whole team to success.

Both activities are tagged as tasks for a single goal; but one of them was elevated as essential and the other, non-essential.

Practicing essentialism is a key ingredient in deliberate and intentional living. If you want to design your life your way, you have to know what your essentials are and make them your calendar’s non-negotiables. When multiple tasks are thrown at you, this is that one thing that cannot and will never be moved.

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will. -Greg McKeown

Further reading

If you want to learn more about this philosophy and if it rings true to you, here are some books you can look into:

What can be done in 72 hours?

Let’s follow the Rule of 72.

What can you do to practice what you've just learned? Before forgetting them, make sure you set at least one actionable item within 72 hours.

Here are some guide questions to help you out in choosing what’s truly essential for you.

  1. What are your values? Values act as your compass, making sure that you’re always aligned with your true North Star. Think about the things that really matter to you, the qualities you want to have, the principles you want to live your life by.

  2. If you could do only one thing with your life right now, what would you do? The first thing that popped into your mind is often the right and true answer. What would you do if you didn’t have to do everything else?

  3. Are you doing whatever you answered in #2? Is it in or your calendar or do you constantly move it when things get too busy? Why or why not? Is this an excuse?

  4. What’s that one essential thing that can exponentially propel you upward? This should be something that you can consistently invest your energy in. This will be your daily non-negotiable.

  5. How will you categorize and deal with your non-essential tasks? Automated? Delegated? Eliminated?

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