If you don’t make things happen, things will happen to you

A reader asks, “I was wondering if you had any concrete ways to begin the process of overcoming laziness and recapturing motivation. I realize that I have been dealing with laziness. There is an underlying anxiety that keeps me from getting going. With time it has transformed into a hazy, non-living lifestyle where I manage to only do the bare minimum and am always late with my work. Talking with a professional probably could help me, but I also know that I have to take responsibility for my own life and decisions. So, if you have some useful tips on getting motivated and REALLY getting started, I would appreciate it.”

Do I have any tips? Yes, I do. For starters, stop TALKING, THINKING, or WRITING about your problem and start DOING something. I’m not trying to be glib, but trying to make a point. Mainly, the only way to get things done is to ACT.

“Yes, but,” you may be thinking, “how can I act when an underlying anxiety keeps me from starting?” Who said that anxiety, discomfort, or fear has to prevent you from starting? I don’t remember being told that I have to stop whatever I’m doing if it makes me feel uncomfortable. Again, I’m not trying to be smug, but trying to point out a common misconception. You see, many people are held back or are stuck in their tracks because they believe EVERYTHING SHOULD FEEL GOOD.

Such an idea reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of how life works. Like it or not, sometimes the weather is too cold, too hot, or too wet to feel comfortable. At other times, our tasks are too difficult or too challenging to be pleasurable. That’s the way life is. Accept it. Once you do so, you can go ahead and do whatever needs to be done, despite how it makes you feel. We don’t have to be ruled by our feelings. We can choose to let our reason guide us.

The heart of the problem is we have been programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. The purpose of our programming is to protect us. Primitive man ran from hungry predators to avoid the PAIN of being eaten alive. He also avoided the pain of fire and frostbite. Moreover, our ancient ancestors sought the PLEASURE of eating and sleeping in a warm cave. These are all good things as it protected the species.

But the problem is modern man often interprets the slightest discomfort as PAIN, thereby avoiding important responsibilities. To compensate for this problem, we have the power of reason. But if we wish to benefit from the power of our mind, we have to stop living on automatic pilot and get into the habit of thinking before we act.

Our reader and those who share her problem are standing at a crossroad. One path leads to pleasure, the other to ‘pain.’ For the sake of illustration, let’s say the boss comes to me and says, “I want this report ready by next Friday.” When I get home, I am standing at the crossroad. I can decide to start working on the report after dinner. Work on the report? Ugh! That takes concentration and effort. That’s not much fun. That sounds like PAIN. On the other hand, instead of working on the report, I can watch TV, play computer games, go out for ice-cream, or party all night with friends. Wow! That sounds like fun! Which path will I choose? That depends on whether I go with my feelings or follow the voice of reason.

Why do we so readily succumb to our feelings and neglect good judgment? Well, there is a bump or hill in each of the two paths. And it prevents us from seeing what is on the other side. So, as we stand at the crossroad, all we can see is the IMMEDIATE pleasure or pain that awaits us. In other words, we are shortsighted. However, if we were to look from a higher vantage point, we would discover that on the other side of the hill things are different. For what was previously pleasurable now becomes painful, and what was previously painful now becomes pleasurable. That is, the pleasure I yield to (watching TV, playing computer games, going out for ice-cream, or partying all night) leads to the PAIN of regret, shame, and lack of advancement. On the other hand, the pain I choose to push through (working on the report for my boss) leads to the PLEASURE and pride of accomplishment and the exhilaration of advancement in my company.

When you decide to go ahead and do what needs to be done despite your discomfort, you will experience the following benefits:

1. You grow stronger.

2. You will make the pleasant discovery that the task at hand wasn’t as hard as you had imagined it to be.

3. You will experience relief, a reduction of stress, and an increase in energy. Remember, when you neglect your responsibilities, it weighs heavily on your mind and drains your energy.

4. You will enjoy the positive results of your actions. That is, you will reap the rewards of taking action.

5. When repeated often enough, you will adopt a powerful habit that will lead you to success and happiness.

6. You will discover that the long-term pleasure that comes from doing what is right is far greater than that received by giving in to the temptation of immediate gratification. Conversely, you will find that the long-term pain caused by neglecting your responsibilities is far greater than the small amount of pain or effort necessary to do what is right.

If you wish to learn more about how we get stuck and how to get unstuck, I can recommend a good book. But first a word of warning. Those who do get stuck may turn to a self-help book or a counselor not to improve themselves, but to continue avoiding their responsibilities. By getting a good book or counselor, they get a new excuse to continue postponing their lives. “I’ll get back on track AFTER this book or my counselor straightens me out.” they muse to themselves. But the fact is they already have the tools to succeed. And those tools are: “A heart to resolve, a head to contrive, and a hand to execute.” (Edward Gibbon, 1737 ~ 1794)

Here’s the book I’m recommending, a definitive work on the subject:”SELF-DEFEATING BEHAVIORS, Free Yourself from the Habits, Compulsions, Feelings, and Attitudes that Hold You Back” by Milton R. Cudney, Ph.D. and Robert E. Hardy, Ed.D., HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.

Another book to help transform your life is “COME TO YOUR SENSES, Demystifying the Mind-Body Connection” by Stanley H. Block, M.D. with Carolyn Bryant Block, Beyond Words Publishing, 2005. This book is concise, easy to understand, and highly practical. Here’s how Paige Grant describes the book, “I’ve taken so many courses and seminars on how to live a good life! I’ve even appeared as an expert on Oprah. If only I had worked with Dr. Stan Block first! His tools for creating a peaceful being are the simplest I’ve ever found. Since I worked with Dr. Block for less than two hours, I’ve found more happiness than I’ve ever had in my life.” (Paige Grant is a Seminar Manager for Joel D. Roberts and Associates in Los Angeles.)

Our reader’s request for a tip on how to get motivated enough to break the cycle of laziness is based on the fallacy that motivation precedes action. Actually, it is the other way round. That is, it is ACTION that creates motivation. First you act. Then you experience the six benefits mentioned above. And those benefits motivate you to do more. Well, then, it is clear the time to act is now. After all, if you don’t make things happen, things will happen to you. Here’s another point, we become what we do. So, we become a person of action by taking action.

And now a word to our reader. Push yourself. Start on something you should be doing. You don’t have to do a great deal at once, baby steps will do. But as you act, you will be amazed by the incredible power that lies dormant in you. Tap into it. Use it and discover the joy of productive living. By the way, I’m not just saying this for your sake, but for the world’s sake as well. You see, the world needs us, for “We are life’s way of getting things done.” (Pirke Avot, 4:2) Finally, I’ll end with this quotation from Anne Frank (1929 ~ 1945) “How wonderful is it that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world?”


  1. Wow, this was unhelpful. You’re making an assumption that certain facts are assumptions.

    “Who said that anxiety, discomfort, or fear has to prevent you from starting?”

    That’s how anxieties are defined. They prevent us from acting as we wish to. That’s why they’re anxieties. The question “How can we overcome demotivation?” is also “How can we overcome our anxieties?” You haven’t answered the question because you’ve ignored it.

  2. “…you will experience the following benefits: 1. You grow stronger.”

    ?!?!?!?! OK, had been buying into this beautiful piece of writing up until now, when I reached experiencing Benefit No. 1, “You grow stronger.” Grow stronger? What does this exactly mean? Grow stronger? What, my character? My personality? My little toe? Please ELABORATE. Grow stronger in getting oneself to choose the correct path and do what initially seem like unpleasant tasks? You have been doing an excellent job of explaining EVERYTHING up until now, making an easy job of synopsizing and modifying the whole concept to get it into one’s own brain and keep it at the forefront of one’s thinking every waking moment of one’s hopefully former lethargic days, and then this piece of rot fouled everything up and brought the whole concerted effort to a screeching standstill of disarray. What do you mean by “YOU GROW STRONGER?” You just annihilated the grand total of an enormous amount of credibility built up by a truly amazing piece of writing by 3 little words of complete rot. Please elaborate! Is this a thesis statement of all the benefits that follow, or at least Benefit No. 5 and 6? It just stands there so stark and unexplained, unlike all the other well-explained benefits that follow and certainly unlike the beautiful discussion up until Benefit No. 1. It is like an unscheduled stop, like a passenger pulls the emergency stop cord while the train runs full speed. Please revise or eliminate it, because it, as you can read above, has almost caused derailment.

    Other than “Benefit” No. 1, this is the best article written that handles the problem and provides a real concept-changing approach to life and has caused immediate, overnight life-changing improvement. THANK YOU!

  3. I really needed that. turns out i was just looking for another outlet to help procrastinate..its a horrible feeling i tell you..actually thought i needed professional help..thanks a million..off to start those baby steps now..

  4. I really do not think the writer has a clue. I worked for over 35 years – first I worked for NSA in the military. Then I worked as a Computer Programmer where things changed every day. I was forced into retirement because I was having memory issue that made it impossible to do my job. I am having problems getting things done now, as my brain goes into idle without me consciously doing anything. I have tried everything I was aware of to get things done but I can’t seem to get my BRAIN in gear. I have seen many doctors and they have the same thoughts. Just get it done. That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard. You have never had a problem, so you think someone can just stop your crybaby and just get over it. Sometimes it is not that easy. I am sick of people looking at me and saying – you don’t look sick. I have multiple comorbid chronic diseases.. I do not outwardly look sick but have high possibilities of DYING. I am sick of ignorant people making stupid statements about people when they really don’t have a clue about the problem. Get a life and stop blaming and start helping the one’s with problems.

  5. Wow – this is awesome!

    My favorite part: “I can recommend a good book. But first a word of warning. Those who do get stuck may turn to a self-help book or a counselor not to improve themselves, but to continue avoiding their responsibilities. By getting a good book or counselor, they get a new excuse to continue postponing their lives. ‘I’ll get back on track AFTER this book or my counselor straightens me out.’ they muse to themselves.” It made me laugh because it’s so true. Thank you!

  6. Wow – this is aweome!

    My favorite part: ” . . . First a word of warning. Those who do get stuck may turn to a self-help book or a counselor not to improve themselves, but to continue avoiding their responsibilities. By getting a good book or counselor, they get a new excuse to continue postponing their lives. ‘I’ll get back on track AFTER this book or my counselor straightens me out.’ they muse to themselves.” It made me laugh because it’s so true. Thank you!

  7. Excellent, Excellent, Excellent article! Thank you very much for posting it! Now, at least, I can overcome my laziness …

  8. I really like this article; it is truly effective and goes straight to the root of the problem.

  9. I think I’ll go on a little bike ride. After that, I think I’ll get back to studying my Japanese like I told myself I would for my New Year’s Resolution.

  10. This article really helped me somewhat. Waking up in the morning and going for my hour long run suddenly seems effortless. And always, I would feel better at the end of the run and throughout the day.

  11. read this article months ago when i found myself ‘going nowhere slowly’. but when i tried the ‘action b4 motivation’ it wrkd wonders…it was the kick in the ass i needed so badly. read the ‘just do it’ article on lyved.com. its just as inspiring

  12. Out of all the self-help articles out there, this one is the best, because it quickly and concisely gets to the point. No matter what techniques you have for “motivating” yourself, action must always come first.

    Great article.

  13. How can a one page article transform somebodys life? This article did wonders for me. I have printed it, pasted one copy in my office, one in my bedroom and one in my children room. I can feel a change in them. Action first..such important 2 words. Damn motivation..it comes automatically. Thanks a million

  14. Thank you, really thank you for this article. I guess, everytime I get laze, I’ll re-read this.

  15. Thank you so much for this article. I especially love the explanation of how we could be short-sighted. It really is an eye-opening read. God bless!

  16. The bestest cure I have seen. I’ve never read such an inspirational article in my life. This will change my life.

  17. Aaah !! mixed opinion i have. Actually laziness can be a physical attribute. Pleasurism does amplify laziness.But during work which is lazy one sets goals each day but feels absolutely worn out after few hours. Lifting one’s ownself is the heaviest task BTW.Keeping eyes glued to a non creative work which binds imagination scope but can ensure future success can never make you get rid of laziness.Choose a profession where you can allow your thoughts to explode it’ll, this time pleasure would work in favours and will kill laziness by itself.Then you won’t seek desparate weekends to recharge.Cheeers !!

  18. Great article – I come back and read this whenever Im down and always gives me the motivation to get back going again. Thanks.

  19. Talk about failed logic: A paraplegic [u]can’t[/u] walk, a lazy person [u]can[/u] take the first step in action. Just a troll.

  20. You’re an idiot. Your recommendation is the equivalent of “You’re a paraplegic? Try walking!” You even make the point of saying that ‘action precedes motivation’, so you are saying you must act (the problem people are having) before they have the desire for change (the search for a remedy). This is faulty logic on several levels which reveals your argument for what it is – ignorant nonsense.

  21. hey, good essay, really understand laziness and how it works. I know it is our own responsibilities fundamentally to overcome laziness but it’s just so hard to get out of this lazy habit. It’s all well in saying just start things, keep at them and eventually you will make a habit of it and not be lazy. I just don’t know how to start. arghhhhh

  22. Thank you so much, this is a truly inspiring article. I love the quotes. I feel like I just got a half time speech. Thank you…

  23. Thank you for this article I will save it to keep me concentraited on my goals.
    My parents could never get along due to my father being a party first family later guy. My mother was always stuck at home trying to raise 3 kids and eventually she left. My mother struggled with money trying to bring us up alone and did everything she could to give us what we wanted. Eventually she was on the verge of giving up so she went to get child support from my father and thats when our troubles started.
    He harassed her to no end and they were always in court and me and my siblings coped by playing video games.
    Video games became all i was, I stoped going out caring about school and other responsabilities. We Dont do anything were supposed to do which breaks my mothers heart and it really affects me that im like this i want to change but its not easy. Right now im considering living with my father so i can change but that will hurt my mom badly and my mind is spinning.

  24. Thanks this what i needed.I always have to act because i have the heart resolve mind to contrive and hand to excute.Pleas do send me more advice or anything to write back at me.

  25. I didn’t even have to finish reading the article. I’m ready to get up and go! Thanks!

  26. Rich-sometimes you find the motivation to change only after you sink low enough to where you just have to do something about it. That’s what happened with me a few times. What helps me the most with my procrastination is to just tell myself I’m going to do only the first part of a task, like 5-10 minutes, so I feel like I did [u]something[/u]. That usually gets me moving and sometimes I even do more than I intended. I don’t usually feel like I’m sacrificing myself when helping others, it usually feels good to help someone else, and you build friends that will help you in return. So if anything it’s benefiting myself.

    Don’t discount little incremental changes, dramatic changes overnight is not realistic and you just set yourself up for failure. You just make one small improvement that is pretty easy but is more than you’re doing now.

  27. love the reading but hey i will be truthful after reading this i will feel inspired yet what will i do after this? continue to procrastanate and basically cripple myself so i just get by and cause no attention to myself, i mean why the hell should i a person that has so much to give , give it to a world that is taking more than giving? should i sacrafice my self so others can have better lives while my own continues to decay? of course that sounds contradictory but hey thats human, but maybe never having felt the consequence of laziness how could one find the motivation to stop being it? is not knowing where to go in life so staying in one spot in sense the same definetion but if came here and you answered sure nothing will changed and even now i am procrastanating by typing all this, so now i guess i should quit beating around the bush and ask it, i do need help just dont know how to ask.

  28. Well in my opinion this was an excellent answer to a question which we can all relate to. I myself struggle with this a lot, always leaning to my good friends Mr. Procrastinator and Ms. Tomorrow I’ll do it, I’ve been used to since i was child to always lead into temptations and short term pleasure, but at the end it always came back to me confronting regret.
    I’m older now which means i have many more responsibilities to take care off and improve. I have been struggling with this very often lately. and i’m really scared that things will be like this for a long time. But like you said ACT, just do it. Well i need to get some things done. If you have anything to write back at me, like advice or anything you recommend, please do. thank you.

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