Humans are lazy. I tried to find a reference to this commonly thrown around phrase and could not find anything reliable. So I looked for the definition of laziness and loved coming across “disinclination to activity or exertion despite having the ability to do so.” Whoever said humans are lazy was probably on to something from an evolutionary standpoint, but anecdotally I can agree with this postulate based on my experience with every person I have ever encountered in my life.
I’m a procrastinator. Procrastination goes far beyond laziness. It’s about imbalanced priorities, where you push out what you know to be important in favor of smaller less important things – or sometimes in favor of nothing at all. I think of procrastination much like alcoholism is thought of. You may not have had a drop of drink in years but you are still an alcoholic and it is always your choice everyday not to fall of the wagon. I know procrastination causes me immense grief and dissatisfaction so I take serious measures to combat this behavior.
For many years I have said “work through problems not around them”, but I don’t recall how I reached this conclusion. I definitely embraced this idea early in life and feel like it reflects my general attitude and outlook. It essentially summarizes my overall ethos. Maybe it spoke to me so intimately because it creates direct conflict with my procrastinatory tendencies.
Whatever the reason, it seems to reflect underlying assumptions and feelings that I value, such as “I can do anything” and “I am fearless”. By reinforcing that message to myself for so long, I really do believe that I can work through pretty much any problem. And hard as that path might be, it is always better than not addressing a problem full on.
This attitude has brought me real professional success. Compared to peers with equivalent or superior technical skills, I am fully confident that my drive to work through problems and ability to do so effectively has distinguished me. I’m seen as no-nonsense, perceived as able to navigate complex situations and praised for my commitment in addressing long-term challenges diligently.
I express the notion of working through problems as making a choice – an implicit choice or an explicit choice. If we come across a situation that needs resolution (and is not going to resolve itself) and we choose not to address it, we are also making the choice to live with that problem.
Every day that you don’t switch away from the bank that charges you a stupid fee, is another day you are choosing to pay that fee. Every day that you don’t give adjusting feedback to an employee, is another day you are choosing to experience their bad performance. Every day your spouse hits you and you choose not to report them to the authorities, is another day you are risking your life.
It is true for small and large things in life. It is an opportunity cost; the cost of working around a problem or not dealing with it. It’s often hard to calculate, specially when you have compound problems. Disambiguating the problem is step one to figure out a) what is it or what ARE the problems? and b) is it yours to solve?
In my next post I’ll talk about the important distinction between the desire to fully engage with something and see it to completion and randomly collecting problems that are not yours.