Monday, January 14, 2008

It's Not Me, It's My Genes!

I stumbled across an article in Psychology Today titled, "The Lure of Laziness." Well, naturally I had to take a look at that. It turned out to be an interesting take on the difficulty of sticking to long-term goals and fulfilling those dreams.

According to the author (Nando Pelusi), humans for many generations were intent on the basics of survival. When they were thirsty, they had to go seek water. When hungry, they had to go find food--maybe go kill food. These needs demanded immediate fulfillment, and because getting food, water and shelter was pretty difficult, those goals also took up a lot of their time. On those occasions when they weren't hungry or thirsty, it was important to conserve energy, so resting was a good thing.

These days, however, we can satisfy our basic hunger and thirst pretty quickly. So what happens then? We start thinking about the future. We start to dream. According to Pelusi, today's very different environment "allows for grandiose plans and dreams, but these very opportunities can feel overwhelming. Once we've generated a goal, we believe that we've got to do something about it." Pelusi says we're torn between competing desires. We want to accomplish our plan, but we really want it to happen immediately, and preferably not be too exhausting.

I read that paragraph and thought, yes, that's me! It's so true that once I think about doing something, I feel that I HAVE to do it, and I start to get overwhelmed. For example, I started thinking about a lot of crafting and sewing projects over the past year that I want to do. I purchased a lot of fabric and yarn. Now I feel trapped. I've set the goals. I have to complete them, right? Even though I started the plans for fun, all those projects are starting to weigh me down. I really want to just finish them all NOW.

Pelusi goes on, "Many of us feel oppressed by long-term goals that do not bear directly on survival or status--they gnaw at us and distract from our daily enjoyment. Sticking to a workout regimen, jump-starting that screenplay, and transferring vinyl to digital are all easier planned than done. That's because, in general, we're keenly responsive to immediate stimulation and to present-moment distractions and not to iffy future plans. Instead of recognizing that it is fundamentally ingrained in our nature to discount the amorphous future, we lambaste ourselves over what we 'should' be doing."

In case you're thinking Pelusi is giving us all permission to be lazy, though, he really isn't. He says in the long run, humans are happier when they're stretching themselves and working on goals, as long as they approach them with the right attitudes. He even gives some tips on combatting that ingrained laziness. Many of them will sound familiar to you writers out there: things like starting small, accepting incremental progress, and committing to others. (Can you say "critique partners"?)

I especially like the part about rewarding yourself after completing a goal--like completing this blog post, for instance. He said to reward yourself with relaxation after the task is finished, but I'm feeling a need to go in search of food and drink, just like my ancestors did. I wonder if there's any of that Christmas candy left?
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Article information: The Lure of Laziness. By: Pelusi, Nando, Psychology Today, July/Aug2007, Vol. 40, Issue 4