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What is laziness, and why are humans so lazy?

Laziness is an unwillingness to spend energy. It is an unwillingness to do a task that we perceive to be difficult or uncomfortable. You've probably heard thousands of times that humans are by nature lazy and that's true.

Who would like to work hard to achieve goals when he can just lie down and relax? It almost seems like humans are very unlikely to get motivated to do anything unless and until they think it affects their survival- directly or indirectly.

lazy security guard
The height of laziness?

An evolutionary perspective on laziness

For thousands of years, human behavior has been primarily governed by instant rewards and gratification. Our focus as a human race has been- for a very long time- on immediate returns. Our ancestors had to ensure their survival by constantly searching for food and warding off predators.

So they focused on actions that gave them immediate results- here and now. There was hardly any time for long-term planning.

Fast forward to the present century...

Today for a significant part of the human population, survival is ensured rather easily. We have a lot of time to be lazy and do nothing- and our survival won’t be threatened at all. You’ll hardly find lazy people in tribes and other native populations whose lifestyle is almost similar to primitive humans with a primary focus on survival.

That being said, I'm very much in favor of the idea that laziness only appeared on the scene of human behavior with technological advancements that not only made survival much easier but allowed us to sort of ‘plan’ for the distant future.

After all, you can’t plan for the future when a grizzly bear is chasing you for your life or when you are in constant search for food.

Because we have evolved with a focus on immediate rewards, any behavior that is not instantly rewarding is perceived to be unfruitful. That’s why laziness is so prevalent in today’s society and seems to have a positive correlation with the advancements in technology.

Laziness and goals

Like I said before for many, many years, humans did not make long-term plans. It is a recent phenomenon. An early man had a ripped, muscular body not because he followed a certain workout regimen in a gym but because he had to hunt. He had to lift heavy stones, climb trees, run and chase beasts for food almost on a daily basis. 

Once we were able to ensure our survival, then we had time to envision the future and make long-term goals. But hey, we are designed for instant rewards so how do we wait for so long to achieve our long-term goals? That's too difficult and painful.

That is precisely the reason why so many people lack motivation. Now you might understand why self-help and motivation is one the most booming industries today. Everyone seems to be needing motivation today. Early man needed no motivation. Survival, for him, was motivation enough.

Laziness and self-deception

Now, here’s the trouble. You have a goal that you want to accomplish but it can only be accomplished with planning and persistence. You know that you have to forget about instant rewards. Despite knowing that, you still find yourself too lazy to do anything. Why?

This kind of laziness is not evolutionary but rather a clever self-deception trick of your subconscious mind to protect your psychological well-being! Let me explain…

If you had an important long-term goal to attain but you tried and failed many times, then you may start to feel helpless and lose hope. You don't try anymore and think that you are too lazy. Actually, your subconscious mind is trying to convince you that you are lazy instead of letting you admit the fact that you've given up on your goal.

Sometimes, out of fear of failure, you might even give an excuse of being lazy when in fact you just are afraid to attempt something. Admitting that you've failed or that you are afraid can hurt your ego and that’s the last thing your subconscious mind wants- to hurt your ego and disturb your psychological balance (ego defense mechanisms).

It’s much easier and comforting to say that you didn't accomplish something because you are lazy than to admit the fact that you didn't try harder or that you didn't try out of fear of failure.


In order to overcome laziness we first need to ensure that our mind is not deceiving us in any way whatsoever. As far as long-term goals are concerned, if you don't have enough willpower, you can stick to them more successfully if you use your evolutionary programming for your own benefit instead of fighting it.

This may include making the long-term goal appear nearer and instant by visualization or by letting your reward-hungry brain notice the small, incremental progress that you make on the path of accomplishing your long-term goal. Whatever you do, the most important thing is to believe in yourself and make sure the goal is important enough for you to pursue.

That would be enough motivation to keep laziness at bay.

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