Laziness Does Not Exist: Drilling Down on Procrastination

         “This isn’t getting the work of the world done,” my mother used to tell me when I was young and talking on the phone to friends instead of cleaning my room or putting away the dishes or whatever else needed to be done. I still don’t know exactly what the work of the world is, but it sounds so ominously important it made me believe that my laziness was in some ways contributing to world failure.  

         Her words still echo through my life. Even now, though I know that world will go on even if I watch a whole night’s worth of “Downtown Abbey” episodes, I remember what my mother said and I turn off the T.V.

         Now, after reading “Laziness Does Not Exist” (Atria 2020; $27) by Devon Price, PhD, a Clinical Assistant Professor, Loyola University Chicago, I may reconsider that long ago lesson.

         “Laziness does not exist means there is no slothful, shameful feeling inside of us called laziness that is to blame when we fail or disappoint someone or simply lack motivation,” says Price after I ask him to define the book’s title.  “There are always structural, external factors as well as inner personal struggles that explain why someone is not meeting goals.”

Instead, Price says that often when someone is written off as lazy, the problem is actually that they’ve been asked to do far too much, and not given credit for the immense work that they are doing.

 “Fighting depression is a full time job,” he says. “Raising children in a global pandemic is a full-time job. Taking a full course load while working a job is too much to deal with flawlessly. So many people are overwhelmed and overworked, yet because they have been asked to do more than they can handle, these incredibly ambitious people are branded as lazy.” 

So how do we deal with these feelings?

Price recommends first observing the situation neutrally while trying to determine where the feeling is coming from and what do you have to learn from it.

“Sometimes, we lack motivation to do something because the task just does not matter to us — so ask yourself, do I really have to do this task? Does it matter to me, or have I just been told that I should do it? When someone is feeling lazy and beating themselves up for it, that is almost always a sign they need to cut a bunch of obligations out of their life, so they have time to rest and reorient themselves, to focus on their true priorities. “

        Self-efficacy, a confidence in one’s own ability to get things done, also comes into play.

Price describes this as a very grounded form of confidence — the confidence in one’s own capabilities.

“When a person has high self-efficacy for a particular skill or task, they trust their instincts, and know how to break a large task down into smaller parts, so they’re way less likely to get stuck in doubt, perfectionism, or inhibition,” he says.  “A lot of times when someone is struggling or procrastinating such as failing to write a paper for class, for example, it’s because they don’t trust themselves to do it well enough, or they don’t know how to take the big project and divide it into tiny bites. Unfortunately, we live in a very perfectionistic culture where lots of teachers and managers micro-manage and nitpick the people they are supposed to be mentoring, so we actually destroy a lot of people’s self-efficacy in the process. “

Price believes that we also need to act like all human lives have equal value and deserve equal support with no proof needed.

“On a more personal level, we need to approach other people with generosity and trust,” he says.  “I don’t need proof that a person on the corner asking for change deserves my money. I can trust that if he’s in that spot, he clearly needs it, and I don’t get to decide what his needs at that moment look like or how he lives his life. In general, we need to stop policing one another and viewing all needs and limitations as suspicious.” 

What: Devon Price Virtual Events

When: Thursday, February 25 at 7 p.m. CT

7:00 PM CT                                                   

Hosted by Loyola University / Chicago

Link to join in: https://luc.zoom.us/j/87434549563

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

Totally unexpectedly, Lori Gottlieb’s long term boyfriend, the man she thought she’d marry, made a succinct and ultimately devastating statement, saying he didn’t “want to live with a kid in the house for the next ten years” and then he was gone.

Lori Gottlieb

Suddenly, Gottlieb, a psychotherapist who writes the weekly “Dear Therapist” advice column for The Atlantic, had to deal with her own issues as well as those of her clients, a process she chronicles in her very engaging Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2019; $28).

The clients include John, a married man with two children and a very successful career as a television producer who pays Gottlieb in cash because he doesn’t want his wife to know he’s in therapy.

“You’ll be like my mistress,” he tells her at the end of their first therapy session. “Or, actually, more like my hooker. No offense, but you’re not the kind of woman I’d choose as a mistress . . . if you know what I mean.”

Another patient, newly married, had achieved tenure at her university and after years of hard work, was eager to become a parent.

“She was accomplished, generous, and adored by colleagues, friends, and family. She was the kind of person who enjoyed running marathons and climbing mountains and baking silly cakes for her nephew,” writes Gottlieb. 

The client, Julie, overcomes cancer once and then six years later receives the news it has reoccurred, and she has a year or so to live.

“One of the themes of the book is that our stories form the core of our lives and give them deeper meaning,” says Gottlieb, whose book was recently optioned for television by Eva Longoria for 20th TV. “Sharing these stories is essentially about one person saying to another: This is who I am? Can you understand me?”

But even for therapists, it’s scary to reveal ourselves to others and that’s what Gottlieb, who speaks about relationships, parenting, and hot-button mental health topics on such shows as The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dr. Phil, CNN, and NPR, discovered when she found a professional to talk to about her fractured relationship. Despite her understanding that’s it’s important to be truthful, she, like all of us, edit the truth.

“Clients make a choice about what to leave in, what to leave out as well as how to frame the situation in the way they want me to hear it,” says Gottlieb who found herself doing just the same. “One of the things with my therapist that I did that my clients do to me, is I wanted him to like me, I want him to like me better than others in the waiting room. That’s why we don’t always tell our therapists our secrets. We don’t realize the ways we get in out way in the therapy room is the way we get in the way in our own lives.”

Gottlieb describes people as emotionally hiding out.

“People carry out their pain, they think they can compartmentalize,” she says. “I see so much loneliness in the people who come to see me, people are really stressed out.”

Texting and social media sometimes stop us from being together and communicating. That’s why therapy can help people change largely because as they grow in connection with others in a way often lost in our fast-paced, technology-driven culture.

But change is scary, both for Gottlieb in her personal therapy sessions that she chronicles and for her clients who we follow as they come to grips with their issues in her office.

“I thought it was important to put myself out there with this book,” says Gottlieb, noting that the book was very difficult to write. “Therapists are real people and we have our own struggles. We’re all members of the human race.”

 Ifyougo:

What: Author Lori Gottlieb and Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated advice column, Ask Amy, discuss Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

When: Monday, April 8 from 6-7:15pm 

Where: Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St., Chicago IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (312) 747-4300; chipublib.bibliocommons.com

Gottlieb will also be interviewed by Dr. Alexandra Solomon of Northwestern University and author of Loving Bravely on Tuesday, April 9 at 7pm at New Trier High School, Cornog, 7 Happ Road, Winnetka, IL. Cost: Free. Sponsored by The Book Stall. 847-446-8880; thebookstall.com

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