This article is in response to a reader's e-mail. I have shortened her message and numbered her points, and will answer her questions or comment on her statements, point by point.
She writes, "I just read your article on overcoming laziness (http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/laziness.htm). I'm a woman in my fifties and will be starting a new job tomorrow. I have never been able to stick to a job and have moved around endless times. This has hurt my life in some ways because I never given myself a chance for promotion, and the like. I have to admit that I have a problem with laziness.
"When I allow myself to be, I am a deeply spiritual and creative person. I have noticed when I am doing something that I love to do like writing, directing and producing plays, I have a great amount of energy. But when I am doing something that I don't like, which is working as a secretary (my career) I tend to be lazy and lack energy. (1)
"Anyway, since I am working on being honest and Christ-like, I don't want to cheat my employers of a good day's work. (2) If you have some suggestions, I would love to hear them. Also, if you can point me to some books that can help me with my problem, I would love that too (3). I do believe that I can change, even at this late date. (4) I want to change and be a better person in every area of my life. (5) Thank you for any help you can offer."
Point 1. Congratulations on realizing we always have enough energy to do what we love. It's surprising how many people miss this point. You see, it's not a matter of you being lazy, but a matter of you not being interested in, or loving, what you do. Now that you realize we always have the energy to do what we love, you are ready to move on to the next level.
To move to the next level, understand that we can always love anything we do, and do it at any time and at any place. Once we awaken to this fact, we will no longer need to move from place to place or job to job. What we often forget is that love is a choice. It doesn't matter if the object of our love is a person, place, thing, idea, or job; love is something we choose to give away. Interestingly, the more we give away, the more it flows right back into our lives. Since we always have the energy to do what we love, the solution to your problem is to learn to love whatever needs to be done to improve your life.
So, why don't you love your job? Well, this leads to secret number two: Your lack of interest in your job (and resultant lack of energy) has nothing to do with the contents of your job and everything to do with the contents of your mind. You haven't yet learned how to focus on the right things. When it comes to your job, all you can think about are unpleasant things. You do this automatically, without making a conscious choice.
Love is based on knowledge. If you can't think of anything positive about your job, how can you love it? In your case, you probably are not entirely negative, but appreciating one or two of the hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of positive things about your job isn't good enough. Realize the tools we use to create our lives are our predominant thoughts. In other words, if most of our thoughts are negative, we will lead negative lives. In summary, whether you say you love your job or whether you say you hate it, you are right because thoughts are self-fulfilling prophecies. In a word, your thoughts make it so.
So, to break the cycle of negativity, you have to get into the habit of counting your blessings instead of counting your so-called misfortunes. Start today by making a list entitled "What I like about my job." And keep adding to the list every day. As the days pass, the message will slowly sink in and you will realize how fortunate you are. Your problem was simply a matter of forgetting to look for the good, but you can start remedying that today.
Point 2. Don't worry about cheating your employers, they became successful before you entered the picture and remained successful after you left. No, the person you need to worry about cheating is yourself. Don't rob yourself of opportunities, pride, satisfaction, confidence, self-respect, self-esteem, peace of mind, happiness, and a good night's sleep.
Speaking in terms you readily understand, remember that you are the author, producer, and director of your life. If you are unhappy with the present situation, change the script. How should you change it? Well, make the hero of your play (life) a woman committed to being the best secretary possible. See her welcome every challenge as an opportunity to develop self-discipline, gain new skills, and grow increasingly powerful. See her life become filled with purpose.
In your script, make her more concerned about the problems of her boss and coworkers than about her own. In other words, don't let the hero see herself as burdened with tasks. Rather, let her see herself as lightening the burdens of her boss and coworkers. Let her dee her work as worthwhile and watch her grow in esteem and self-esteem.
Make the star of your play playful. So, even when swamped with unpleasant tasks, make her play a game of "How many hateful tasks can I get done today?" Let her keep score and watch her grow in confidence and cheerfulness. Use your creative talent to create your own joyous life.
Point 3. You have arrived where you are today because of your choices. If you are unhappy about your present circumstances, that simply means you'll have to change the way you choose to act. To learn how, go to the library and get this must-read: CHOICES: Manage Your Choices and You Will Manage Your Life, by Shad Helmstetter (any book written by him is worth reading), Pocket Books, 1990.
For a change of attitude, read ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING: 10 Life-Changing Steps to Turning Attitude into Action, Keith Harrell, HarperBusiness Paperback, 2003. If you read this book, be sure to also get the workbook: THE ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING WORKBOOK: Strategies and Tools for Developing Personal and Professional Success, Keith Harrell, HarperCollins, 2003.
To learn how to overcome regrets, mistakes, and missed opportunities, read: Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda, by Dr. Arthur Freeman and Rose DeWolf, Silver Arrow Books, William Morrow, 1989.
To overcome self-defeating behavior, read: Self-Defeating Behaviors, by Milton R. Cudney, Ph.D. and Robert E. Hardy, Ed.D., HarperSanFrancisco, 1991.
Point 4. Yes, you can change at any age. Start by thinking about the subject seriously. As the Venerable Khenchen Konchog Gyaltshen Rinpoche wrote, "If our clothes are caught on fire, would we just stay there and let them burn?
Similarly, when laziness comes, we should always try to overcome it. If a snake comes on your lap, how quickly you will stand up and shout! Similarly, when laziness comes, act like that."
Point 5. We become a better person by improving the world. And we improve the world by shifting our focus away from our problems to the problems of others. We make this a better world when we ask and act on questions like, "How can I help my boss, coworkers, neighbors, family, friends, and those in need?"
In parting, I invite our reader to become a hero in her own life-drama. Joseph Campbell hints at how we can go about doing that: "When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness."