Ah, the lazy days of summer are here again. These past few days of beautiful weather in NYC are certainly an incentive to hanging out and doing as little work as possible.
Thinking of being lazy, however, I am mindful of the causes and consequences of hanging back, relaxing and just letting things happen around oneself.
I just read Eat, Pray, Love, (great summer read). The writer, Elizabeth Gilbert, is clear that there is a time and place for what we might call laziness; the act of just drifting and receiving in place of ambitiously pursuing a goal. I am reminded that in life, one often needs time to be a little self-indulgent, to take time to reflect, heal and dive deep within before moving on. Gilbert’s “time out” permitted an open mind which attracted and integrated new ideas and insights otherwise blocked by anger, resistance and habit.
The critical factor in distinguishing constructive respite from destructive laziness is the underlying motivation. Gilbert Brim in a recent article, Ambition in Psychology Today, notes the dynamics of goal setting connected to capacity, risk potential and motivation: “The ideal and the minimum are the “best case” and ‘worst case’ scenarios. The realistic level usually is the level of just manageable difficulty. To achieve more requires a performance/capacity ratio that is too demanding; below this level, we are underloaded.”
Recently, my friend Dave Option talked in his blog about “fear induced lethargy” in job search, which is rejection avoiding inaction that we all experience in any “putting yourself out there” endeavor. As I see it, destructive laziness based on fear of rejection is not just limited to job seekers: it keeps artists from showing, aspiring performers from performing, single people from dating, the shy from initiating…you get the drift.
The irony of protecting yourself from rejection is you get no exposure, no feedback…and no information on which to build self-awareness and self-esteem. My suggestion for overcoming fear induced lethargy is to substitute curiosity for fear, and to calibrate action so that you get incremental reinforcement. This way you can accelerate or cut back based on small victories or minuscule defeats.
In career management, focus on the information or action needed rather than the rejection feared…..and, everything changes! Changing “how do I avoid risk, rejection, or failure” to “how can I find a way to bring my value to an organization’s need” is a most productive re-framing. Sharing a mutual interest and focusing on another person’s interest related to what you have to offer, rather than the position you want someone to help you get, reduces the fear of rejection and creates a meaningful connection.
In life, as in art, the most satisfied people are so engaged in the creative act that the action seems effortless. And when performing, flow comes from a focus on the joy of the creativity and connection with the observer’s enjoyment. As my wonderful cabaret director, Helen Baldassare says, make it about the meaning of the song for you and the audience….and stage fright vanishes.