Season 2 Episode 2
Wow, where the hell did the last 8 weeks go?
It feels like only a few days ago when Boris Johnson took to the podium to deliver his famous speech – telling us to stay indoors and protect the NHS.
When it first happened, I was kind of excited. It seemed like, amidst the obvious tragedy of the situation, there lie a certain amount of opportunity. Opportunity to work on yourself, pick up a new skill, read more, even reconnect with distant friends you hardly spoke to.
Maybe you thought so too.
Perhaps you downloaded an app like duolingo, paid for the premium version, and spent ages on it until it said that you had somehow learnt 15% of the Spanish language. Perhaps you got out the dusty yoga mat and started doing home workouts on youtube, getting fitness tips on Instagram, and eventually posting your own. Perhaps you learnt how to bake, failing a few times before finally sharing pictures of the first cupcake that didn’t come out looking like a Yorkshire Pudding. Or perhaps you started eating healthily, and filled your shelves with green vegetables and lean fish
What started out as good intentions and brave ambitions, slowly slipped and slided into malaise, inaction and lethargy – as we all started to just. Slow. Down.
You foolishly believed what duolingo was telling ya, and boldly turned the English dub of Money Heist off, realising that you barely understand a single word of Spanish – certainly not 15% of it anyway – and deleted the app in shame. You noticed that all home workouts are basically the same 10 exercises repeated over and over again, with only minor variations, and that it’s hard to suddenly be active in a room that you are inactive in for 12 hours a day. You end up clicking on shorter and shorter workout videos and spend more time watching other people’s workout clips – because it makes you feel like you haven’t given up yet.
You finally wanted to move away from Aunt Bessie’s baking mixes – but so did everyone else! – and you couldn’t find any flour at the shops. You really enjoyed the few healthy low-carb meals you made, but you found that the vegetables only lasted for a few days before going mouldy – and you couldn’t go to the supermarket regularly – so you reverted back to the things that would keep longer in your cupboard: Pasta, Potatoes and Rice.
Day by day, the lockdown land of opportunity slowly became the lockdown land of laziness, where we did less and less – and cared less and less.
Although I’m critical of myself for becoming a quarantined slob, I’m starting to wonder if rather than changing, I’ve just become more painfully aware of myself. More aware of how much time I waste, how much opportunity I squander – because it’s just so obvious now.
It could be that rather than changing me, lockdown has just removed the thin vaneer of the outside world, that so perfectly covered just enough of my flaws to keep me in a constant state of ignorance.
As the clouded mirror clears, I see the same person staring back at me as I did before it all hit the fan. And I ask myself, Is it just the lockdown? Or was I always this lazy? But deep down, I already know the answer…
This is Season 2 – Epiosde 2 – of Tim Quit His Job, the show that follows me – a regular guy in his mid-20s – on my adventures into the unknown as I quit my job, start a business, and try to figure out life along the way.. Each week this season, I’ll attempt to answer a different question that’s been on my mind lately. Find out more about the show at timquithisjob.com, it’s produced and instrumentalised by the mighty Henri Victorious – you’ll find links to his spotify on the website. If you enjoy the podcast, please rate it on whatever site you stream it on – it helps a lot. And in the meantime, enjoy the show.
Isn’t it crazy how quickly humans are able to adjust to changes in life, such that crazy situations become our new normal really quickly. This tendency to always revert back to a constant baseline of happiness or contentedness, no matter the change in our circumstances, is know in the field of psychology as the Hedonic Treadmill or the Hedonic Adaptation. It’s a theory that states that the constant pursuit of hedonism, or joy, is akin to running on a treadmill. No matter how fast or far you run, you always stay in the same spot. As big positive or negative changes enter our lives, we very quickly get used to them, adapt to the new conditions, and our levels of happiness revert back to what they once were. What they always were.
I’m inclined to think that it’s the same with other thing, like laziness – traits that we would like to tie to the external world, to circumstance, to events. But are actually tied profoundly to our individual character and personality. We often blame our lack of time, money, all-purpose-flour or gym equipment on our tendency towards laziness – but we do so because we are too scared to look at the real cause. To look at the core of the problem, and see that it is actually rooted deep into the foundations of our character, it’s tendrils clambering up the branches of our most well-established traits.
It is therefore not likely that a sudden change in circumstance will ever truly rid us of this long-standing weed – but merely cover it up for a brief moment, until it grows back just as big. I feel as though that’s what’s happened with me in this whole situation.
At the start of the lockdown, I was a ball of energy and enthusiasm – determined to act and make the most of this opportunity. Slowly but surely – bit by bit – that enthusiasm faded. The clear and obvious traits of laziness set in: spending hours watching Youtube videos, playing video games instead of working, waking up late and not showering until midday, exercising less and less, procrastinating when it came to work. For a while, I convinced myself that this was due to the situation – The circumstance. Not my fault! I’d tell myself. ‘It’s the virus. It’s the lockdown. Everything is weird and unusual – it’s only natural. Just take it easy’.
But now I’m starting to realise, that the situation hasn’t changed me, it’s just made me recognise that I was hiding from my personal truth. In many ways, Lockdown isn’t the new normal, it’s the same normal. I was always this lazy, this prone to inaction and inactivity.
Before the lockdown, I wasted just as much time and energy as I do now – I just did so doing socially acceptable things. Things that I did with apparent good intentions, but actually did because I wanted to avoid the strenuous and difficult task of running a new business: I’d do things like slowly stroll into town to work for the day; drag out a business meeting to take up the rest of the afternoon; say that I wanted to save money on lunch, so walk back home before getting any work done yet; or scroll through LinkedIn, convincing myself that it would help with work, when there was real work that needed to be done for a client.
Lockdown hasn’t changed me, and it certainly hasn’t changed my goals, it’s just changed my excuses. And going through life, the long and winding road that it is. I’m always going to be able to find fresh new excuses – Kids, Money, Aging – to keep me blissfully side-stepping the difficult challenges that need to be faced head on. Every new excuse that life presents me, is going to have just enough merit to justify me avoiding the hard work.
If I’m going to consistently overcome these excuses, these often-valid reasons for inaction, I’m going to have to stop letting them – letting circumstance – be the deciding factor in my actions. And instead reinforce the fundamental importance, the primacy, the sanctity of my aims and goals.
To sacrifice for what I want, and not let what I want become the sacrifice.
So no, lockdown hasn’t made me more lazy, it’s just made me more aware of the fact that I am. And if I’m going to overcome this in the long run, I need to ask myself ‘what do I really want in life?’. And when I come up with an answer, not let any excuse or circumstance, no matter how credible, stop me from chasing it.
Thanks for listening+
In this episode I confront the growing realisation that lockdown isn’t making me more lazy, it’s just making me more painfully aware of how lazy I have always been.
I take a quick look into the way many of our actions during the pre-lockdown world were subconsciously done with the intention to procrastinate. The world provided a thin socially-acceptable veneer behind which we could hide our tendency towards malaise. Now that veneer is removed, we have to face the grim truth – or go on convincing ourselves that is only the lockdown that is at fault for current inaction.
If certain aspects of the lockdown become ‘the new normal’, then we better wake up to this fact pretty quickly, otherwise risk going through life blaming circumstance and external events for our internal shortcomings.
A short article on hedonic adaptation: “People get used to changes in life experiences, a process which is referred to as ‘hedonic adaptation’ or the ‘hedonic treadmill’:
I take some liberties and use the idea of the hedonic adaptation to refer to the way people always revert back to the same ‘baseline’, but not just baseline happiness, or ‘hedonic set point’ as it is known, but also the baseline of other characteristics – such as laziness.
Some interesting thoughts from Russell Brand on laziness: