We all have periods of time when we feel less energetic and struggle to find motivation. It is common to feel this way on occasion but, when these moments start becoming more frequent or last for longer periods of time, we might start seeing ourselves differently. Our goals become less important, we find it difficult to feel inspired and we might start wondering if we are capable.
We may even start calling ourselves lazy.
Our Ideal Self
We all have a sense of who we want to be, how we want to behave, goals we want to accomplish, and how we want to show up in the world. Ideal self is a concept in psychology that refers to the image we carry in our minds of what our best self would look, act, and feel like. Our ideal self is often an image of productivity and our achievement of certain goals, healthy behaviors, and more. Unfortunately, our busy lives don’t often allow for much reflection on our ideal self and it seems to get lost in the shuffle, tucked away somewhere with our childhood answers to “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
You’re Not Alone
If you feel lazy or unproductive at times, you are certainly not alone. Research has found that only 8 percent of people who set a New Year’s resolution actually achieve their intended goal. In fact, 1 in 4 people don’t make it past their first week before throwing in the towel!
Old Habits Die Hard
In order to make real progress and quit our old “lazy” patterns, we need to recognize what might be influencing our inability to reach our goals or leaving us feeling less productive than we would like to be. So, what you might think of as “lazy,” may just be a matter of switching up your approach and getting rid of old, unhelpful habits that have kept you from feeling productive and achieving your goals.
Here are several such habits that can prevent us from reaching our goals. If anything on this list looks familiar, don’t worry—you are far from alone:
- Making your goals too big or complicated. We all want to reach the pinnacle, but we might grossly underestimate how much effort and time it takes to get up there. If we give up after a few hours, it’s not because we are lazy but because we may have realized we miscalculated the amount of time and effort involved.
- Expecting yourself to be perfect. When we are working toward a goal we expect the road to be smooth and consistent when, in reality, the path toward our goal is most likely going to be full of twists, turns, and setbacks.
- Listening to your inner critic. If the term “lazy” is part of your self-talk, there are likely more negative and critical statements that come from your inner critic on a regular basis. You may even bring out your inner critic in an attempt to motivate yourself. What happens? Your critical voice focuses on all of your flaws and shortcomings, rather than any existing strengths and positive attributes that could help you move forward.
- Listening to criticism from others. As we learn about ourselves and the world through our experiences, we are receiving feedback from others that helps to shape our self-concept. When someone important to us has called us lazy in the past, it can really impact how we see ourselves even into adulthood. We may also hear people criticize our efforts in our adult life, leaving us to feel self-doubt or discouragement.
- Not creating a plan of action. When we find inspiration and become excited about a new goal, we can forget the importance of creating a plan. Our excitement for the goal can cause us to move fast and with a lot of passion, but turn into a sense of being overwhelmed and feeling aimless.
What to Start Doing
Fortunately, there are plenty of achievable steps you can take to turn things around or stay on track with your goals:
- Create small, attainable goals. You can still desire to reach the pinnacle, but break that huge goal down in to smaller goals that will help you feel more accomplished and motivated to continue climbing. As you consider the big picture, remember the key steps that will be needed to get there and write them down. If needed, break those down into even smaller or shorter-term goals.
- Take time to develop a plan. Sit with yourself for a moment as you reflect on your desires and goals, considering those small and attainable steps you will need to accomplish in order to get there. Be realistic about the amount of effort, time, money, help or other factors involved in meeting this goal. Going into the process with an action plan will help you feel more confident and peaceful, as well as give you something to refer back to when you feel discouraged or have a setback.
- Focus on your strengths. If you are used to an inner critic that focuses on your flaws and shortcomings, you will find great benefit in taking inventory of your strengths. Do you find it hard to think of any personal strengths? Consider any challenge you have been through and reflect on what personal strengths you used to get through that experience. If you still find it difficult to identify strengths, ask friends or family what they see as your greatest strength.
- Celebrate the small victories. Celebrating your victories as you accomplish the small goals, or even as you overcome setbacks, can help you continue moving forward. The pride we experience in meeting our goals can help reinforce more positive self-talk. We experience increased self-efficacy with each accomplishment, which can help us find long-term success.
- Recruit support. It is okay to ask for help along the way. We thrive when connected to important people in a positive, healthy way. Allow those important support people to be a part of your experience. You may want them to celebrate with you along the way or may want to turn to them in times of need when you experience a setback or obstacle. Finding reassurance and encouragement from important people in our lives can help us develop greater resiliency.
Taking small steps toward better self-care, increased energy, improved goals and healthy boundary setting can help you stop feeling lazy in no time. Prioritizing and taking consistent action steps are the key to long term change and there is no better time than now to take those first steps.