Unlocking Motivation by Working Through Your Fear
Renowned social psychologist Dr. Devon Price says laziness does not exist. Neither does resistance. They are only a masquerade for the fear that holds us back in life and resists action. Being willing to identify and acknowledge our fear, or even exploring the possibility of a mood disorder, and then committing ourselves to taking the first step is the only way we can begin to move forward in life or maybe even move mountains!
What’s more, abolishing the terms of “laziness” and resistance” and using more accurate terminology can help us be more effective and more compassionate with those who are struggling with inaction or lack of motivation.
What we think of as laziness
As with all abstract concepts, laziness is not something you can see, touch, hold, or measure. Yet, we like to think we know it when we see it. However, healthy idleness and self-care can look exactly the same, and we don’t get nearly enough of them!
Some examples of these behaviors are:
• Feet up on coffee table or couch
• Pushing out deadlines or missing them altogether
• Spending long stretches of time in a hammock, easy chair, etc.
• Fear is often the true culprit!
It is often more socially acceptable or optimistic to label idleness as a component of laziness than what might be occurring is FEAR. Resisting, postponing or avoiding situations may be due to fear of:
• The perceived enormity of what’s involved
• Exhaustion while doing the activity
• The thought of having to start
• The thought of having to finish
• Having to stop somewhere in the middle
• Getting bored with something
• Missing out
Why do we avoid labeling it fear?
Fear is less tangible and more stigmatizing than laziness, so many people are happy to just accept the “lazy” label instead of drilling down to the root cause of their fear.
If I’m lazy or resistant, it would seem I simply lack ambition and need to buckle down, stop my bad habits, get on track and take care of things. However, if I’m afraid, it becomes necessary to dig deeper and unpack the cause of my fear, face it and work through it—a much more difficult and potentially painful process!
Clients who struggle with idleness are not resistant, difficult, or unwilling to change. They simply do not feel prepared, skilled, or safe enough to do what is being asked or expected of them. That’s why labeling someone as “lazy” or “resistant” doesn’t help him or her solve a problem or achieve a goal. The stigma, misdiagnosis, and vague solution associated with such a label is seldom helpful.
How to remove the barriers
“If a person cares about getting something done, yet they repeatedly fail to do so, it’s clearly because there are barriers in their way—often, a variety of barriers—and they need support in removing those barriers to move forward.” — Devon Price, PhD.
First, we need to retire terminology like “laziness” and “resistance.”
Fear should be one of the first considerations when someone is struggling with inaction! Many people enter talk therapy with complaints of demotivation (a criterion for depression incidentally), laziness or resistance, only to learn that their concerns are more complicated than they realized. It could also be a mood disorder such as depression or anxiety that accounts for a lack of motivation.
Second, use two strategies to overcome the forces holding us back.
Commit to starting.
The hardest part of any endeavor is usually getting started. If a person is struggling with motivation, it can be immeasurably helpful to imagine him or herself are a ballpoint pen and simply start moving the pen. Just start, even if only to write gibberish or draw stick people. Once we start any endeavor, we are more likely to continue it as momentum takes hold.
Another helpful technique is to imagine leaning into a task, past the point where you must take that first step forward to avoid falling forward onto your face.
It can also help to commit to something that is not easy to get out of, such as:
• Agreeing to meet someone you don’t want to let down.
• Sharing intentions and goals with others who are likely to ask about how the endeavor is going.
• Pay for an event, activity, or class up front so you are less likely to back out.
Imagine our past, present and future selves.
Another helpful technique is to imagine oneself not simply as a single entity but rather as consisting of a past, present and future self. If you postpone a difficult task today, you are essentially kicking the proverbial can down the road and creating a problem for your future self to solve or handle. They are unlikely to be amused. The better one gets to know and appreciate all aspects of themselves, the more likely it is that avoid leaving a mess for their future self to clean up.