To start the What Keeps Your Stuck series at the beginning read here.
“Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise.” –Proverbs 6:6
The days are getting cold in Michigan now and it’s looking like we might end up with a white Christmas after all. Summer seems like a long time ago. Last summer was enjoyable because my daughters enjoyed playing outside a lot!
One day while we were outside playing in the driveway I noticed an ant hill and I brought the girls over to show them. Those little bugs were working so hard and so quickly; in and out of the hole moving the grains of sand. Never once did I see an ant just decide to stand around for a while or lay down and rest. They were constantly moving back and forth with such a mission.
After a few minutes my two year decided she was going to step on the ant hill; a move which got her in trouble with both older sisters. When she moved her foot and we saw what remained; a leveled hill of sand with a bunch of scurrying ants. And you know what? They got back to work again immediately.
If I was an ant and had all my work devastated by a toddler’s foot I would be upset. I would feel like quitting. I mean, why keep working so hard for someone to just come along and destroy everything that I worked so hard to build? Even if I decided to start rebuilding I would at least take a few minutes to cry, complain, and feel bad for myself.
But not the ants; they got right back to work. There was no sitting around and pouting. They didn’t take time off; it was right back to work, no laziness and no procrastination.
In his article, Finding Inspiration From the Ant, Greg Simas describes it like this:
For you and me the ant can teach us something about achieving a dream and reaching our goals. How so? The ant continues to relentlessly move forward! Each grain of sand moved gets them closer to achieving their dream. They refuse to get discouraged, they refuse to stay overwhelmed, they just keep working!
MY PERSONAL PROCRASTINATION
Procrastination is something that I have always struggled with and it is most definitely something that can keep a person stuck in life. In fact, at this very moment, I have 4 emails in my inbox waiting to be read from a series called How To Overcome Procrastination.
When I was in school I would put off working on large projects until the last minute. If I was intimidated by a project I would put it off until it had to be completed. At that time I would usually be able to pull off something pretty good. I got great grades in school, but imagine what I could have accomplished if I had invested steady hard work into a project instead of a few hours late at night right before the due date.
When given the choice my natural tendency is to choose the easier task at hand and delay in doing the harder thing. The problem with this strategy is that usually in life the harder tasks are the ones that are going to move us towards our goals or keep us out of trouble. They are the tasks that usually force us to grow personally and overcome fear in one area or another.
When the girls go to bed after a day that they have been trying my very last nerve (bedtime can be a challenge for us) all I want to do is plop down on the couch next to Dustin and watch TV. But, in the end that doesn’t do anything to move us forward in reaching our goals. Now, it is nice to relax and spend some time together, but we have to be careful with our time.
It is so easy to sit and think and dream about how I want my life to be. But, sitting and dreaming does nothing to help move me forward towards our goal. Dustin had talked about starting his own business for years. He hated working for someone else. We even tried starting a few small businesses, but nothing that we really invested time or much thought into.
When we finally started our business back in 2009 it was different. We took action daily. We drove around to look for potential clients. We learned about the industry. We sent letters and made cold calls (which I hated). We worked until we got that first client and then we kept working to get more and keep our clients happy.
Every time we started to get lazy with our business, we could see the consequences of it and every time we started working harder, we would eventually start to see the benefits.
This is the same in my personal life. When I put the work into things like: my relationship with God, exercising, maintaining the home, etc., I eventually start to see results. The tough thing is results aren’t always immediate. When I have neglected my physical health for too long, I can’t exercise for a week and expect my body to make changes. Instead, I have to stick with it for weeks before I begin to notice anything, but it always eventually starts to show.
When I neglect the detailed cleaning of my house for too long I am not able to spend an hour and have everything spic-and-span again. Instead I have to invest time into getting it back up to par and then continue spending time to keep it there.
In any area if I get lazy for too long that area starts to suffer and another thing happens, it gets easier to be lazy. Taking the easy road over and over again never makes it easier to take the harder road in the future. However, if I train myself to put the work in now (even in the little things), it helps me be able to put the work into the big things that will make a difference in the future.
RESULTS OF LAZINESS
From what I have witnessed laziness and procrastination come with the following consequences:
- Gaining weight
- Having a messy house
- Getting in or staying in debt and wasting money
- Having a job that you don’t want
- Envying those who do more than you
- Low self-confidence (a lot of times I procrastinate because I am fearful that I won’t be able to accomplish something, but it’s always better to try and fail then do nothing)
- Always being late or missing deadlines
- Losing things and being unorganized
- Losing respect of those you care about
- Missing your potential
Think of someone you know personally that you admire. I can pretty much bet that this person is not a lazy person. If they are successful in business it is because they invested time into educating themselves and working hard when others were relaxing or taking time off (please note that I am not at all saying lead an unbalanced life, rest is important otherwise God wouldn’t have created the Sabbath). It they are successful at home and in relationships, it is because they have invested time into it and hard work.
WAYS TO MAKE A CHANGE
If you struggle with laziness and procrastination it is a tough thing to change, but not impossible, and you are the only one who can make it happen.
My first recommendation would be to determine why you are struggling with this. My reason is almost always fear: afraid of failing, afraid of not knowing what to do to start or fear of the pain that is associated with it or how hard it will be. I think a few other things that lead to procrastination and laziness is:
- Selfishness – wanting other people to do for you while you enjoy the ride
- Lack of motivation/interest – maybe the thing you are procrastinating on just isn’t something you care about but something that you need to do or something that will help someone else
- Bad habits – not enough sleep, low energy due to poor eating, drinking/drugs: some of these things have a root problem underneath and some of them involve you needing to suck it up and make a change.
Another thing that helps me deal with my laziness is to make a list. I am a huge list person and when something is written down on paper and waiting to be crossed off it motivates me to complete it. Keeping a list also helps keep me on a schedule and using my time wisely.
Make a list of the things that you could have in life if you put the hard work in. What are your dreams? Where do you want to be in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? If you don’t have a plan for your future then it’s easy to be lazy since you don’t have a goal you are trying to reach.
Set deadlines for yourself. My husband has helped me to learn this one. He likes to assign a deadline for everything. I hate doing that because I struggle with a fear of failing. If I don’t set a deadline for myself, then I don’t miss the deadline and fail. But, if I don’t set a deadline for myself it’s a lot easier to keep pushing back the things that I need to do. It helps to turn that “fear of failure” into “motivation to try to succeed”. If you fail at meeting your deadline, at least you are a lot closer to meeting it then if you didn’t try at all.
Don’t allow laziness and procrastination to keep you from having a great future. Depending on your circumstances, it could be weeks, months, or years until you see the results that you are hoping for, but each time you overcome laziness it gets you a step closer. And every time you overcome laziness it helps you the next time the urge to procrastinate comes along. Dream and plan for your future and then get to work!
Laziness is a secret ingredient that goes into failure. But it’s only kept a secret from the person who fails. – Robert Half
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