You’re NOT LAZY, You’re EXHAUSTED!
Your brain isn’t of one mind. It is made up of two parts: the emotional & the rational. The emotional part of the mind is instinctive, the side that feels. The rational part of the mind is reflective, the side that thinks.
One analogy, among many, which portrays these two varying parts of the mind is Jonathan Haidt’s “the Rider & the Elephant”. The “Elephant” is representative of the emotional side of the mind and the “Rider”, the rational side of the mind. In short, this analogy works to portray how the two sides of the mind interact with one another, with the Elephant consistently moving in the direction it so pleases, while the Rider works to keep the Elephant on track.
The Elephant (the emotional side) more often than not can be described as the side of the mind that wants quick pay-off with only short-term sacrifice. It wants instant gratification, and in a lot of cases it can be mistakenly characterized as lazy (Heath 7 & 8).
Consider the following study as an example of this mistake in characterization.
A group of college students some time ago were asked to participate in a study. It was a “food perception” study, unbeknownst to them. One request was made of them: Fast for AT LEAST 3 hours to ensure you come to the lab with an appetite. Upon arrival, the students were then split into two groups. One group was asked to eat a plate of cookies, and the other group a bowl of radishes. The groups were not allowed to eat the latter. The group who was asked to eat ONLY the radishes, despite their temptation, triumphed the challenging task. All of the participators, in fact, displayed perfect self-control and followed the directions given to them, eating only what they were told they could indulge in. Next, the students were presented with various puzzles to solve. Little did they know, the puzzles were impossible to solve. The researchers wanted to see how long the two groups of students would persist in a difficult task before they finally gave up. Here’s what they found. Interestingly enough, the group of college students who ate the radishes were less persistent. They gave up on the puzzles in half the time as the group who ate the cookies (Heath, 9).
Why? Were the radish-eaters lazier than the cookie-eaters? No, they were just more tired out!
The radish-eaters ran out of self-control more quickly than the cookie-eaters because their task in resisting the cookies, minutes earlier, proved much more challenging than resistingthe radishes! (Super surprising right, because radishes are irresistible? Yeah right!)
“Self-control is an EXHAUSTIBLE resource. The radish-eaters had drained their self-control by resisting the cookies, so when their Elephants (their emotions), inevitably started complaining about the puzzle task, their Riders (their minds) didn’t have enough strength to yank the reins to continue on in the puzzle. The cookie-eaters, on the other hand, had a fresh, untaxed Rider, who fought off the Elephant for double the time (Heath, 10).”
Often times, the perception of failure in change is often attributed to laziness. However, the purpose of the case study above is to show, more often than not, your shortcoming isn’t due to laziness. In reality, your Elephant is actually EXHAUSTED.
Exercising self-control requires working mental muscles. The bigger the change, the more one tires out. Believe it or not, self-control in all aspects of the word, takes a toll on a person. Practicing self-control creates fatigue and eventually people run out of gas. Self-control is bigger than just the “willpower to fight off vices”. Self-control is any part of the day in which you must “supervise” yourself, even if it’s as simple as eating radishes instead of cookies. Supervising yourself could be when you have to watch what you say, or complete a task that you don’t understand (Heath, 10). Regardless of what it’s pertaining to, every type of self-control is draining. Luckily for us, a lot of our daily life is “unsupervised activity”. We live a majority of our days on automatic (Heath, 11).
We create habits throughout the course of life and those habits become the norm and eventually, when we decide to make a change, it is incredibly challenging, because we no longer can put on cruise when we get up in the morning. No, instead we have to start supervising ourselves.
“So the next time you hear someone say change is hard because people are lazy or resistant, remind them that actually change is hard because people wear themselves out. In many cases, laziness is actually exhaustion (Heath, 12).”