On a three week trip through Myanmar, the First Lady and I were staying in a small town for a few days. We wanted to go see one of the sites that was about ten kilometers outside of town. Since bicycles only cost two dollars a day and the distance was easily bikeable, not to mention the health benefits and ultimate freedom biking gives you, it was the logical way to go.
Navigating our way down a dusty, bumpy, dirt road, most of the locals zipping past us rich, nostalgic foreigners on their modern motorbikes, I began to think a lot about the situation.
“Man, humans sure are lazy”, was the start of my thinking. Which quickly turned into “No, it goes much deeper than that. All mammals sure are lazy”. But then that soon morphed into “Humans are lazy because they are mammals. And they have a lot of odd behaviors surrounding their laziness too”.
Why We Are So Lazy
It didn’t take long to figure out why we are so lazy. Clearly it is a hold over from the days of old when food was scarce and we had to use a lot of energy to get it. And then had to conserve our energy because we didn’t know when the next meal would come. This is still the way of life for most mammals. For example, lions.
Our dusty bike ride was starting to make a lot of sense to me. Humans used to walk everywhere. Then we learned how to make animals let us sit on them while they did the work. Then a guy attached a cart to one of his animals and sat on the cart instead.
Then someone invented the bicycle and that was often much more practical than a horse and cart. Then someone discovered you can build a bicycle that uses a form of energy you can buy without having to eat and use up the hard way. Even easier. Note that we witnessed each one of these modes of transportation on this single stretch of road!
It all made perfect sense. Our laziness could not be denied. It is part of why we evolve the way we do.
That was about the time a truck drove by and interrupted my thinking with a nice blast of dirt and exhaust in my face.
Two Main Ways to be Lazy
Very broadly, our laziness can be divided into two main brands: physical and mental. I want to say mental laziness is just another form of physical laziness given that your brain is just a physical part of your body. But actually I don’t think that is true. Your brain is an organ, which is quite different from a muscle.
There are so many strange behaviors surrounding both types of human laziness. Truly.
As an example, we might live a mere five kilometers from the place where we spend most of our waking days. But instead of walking or riding a bike to get there each day, the free and healthy way, because we are so physically lazy we spend money driving a car or sitting in a bigger type of vehicle shared with other people to get us there.
But then we sit all day working our brain to it’s limit, until mental exhaustion sets in. Because that’s one way we know of making the money we need. It amazes me what people will put themselves through, mentally, every single day at the office. I know because I’ve been there. It can be exhausting at times. And once in a while satisfying too. I get it. But mostly, it is exhausting.
But then we get fat because we are so mentally busy every day, and we feel it is all we have the time or energy to do. Not to mention the stress induced by the constant mental exercise actually exacerbating the problem. So we use a bunch of the money we earned that day to drive home after the daily mental marathon and then possibly use some more of the money to force ourselves to do some physical exercise, required now as a result of the whole bizarre situation.
What an odd mix of being lazy, but also not lazy at the same time. So much about it just doesn’t make sense, at least from an ancestral perspective.
In regard to this complicated daily routine, the old days of just working a job where you got some exercise once in a while makes a whole lot more sense. I have often thought that working in an office for two days a week, and then doing physical labour for the following two days might be the ultimate combination. (Yes, that adds up to four days of work per week, not five!)
It is interesting that so many people with such high levels of intelligence endure the daily mental exhaustion, day in and day out. They can design a bridge, or a microprocessor, or an X-ray machine or a rocket ship. But for some reason they can’t seem to work out a way to not have to work so incredibly hard to survive. It really goes against what we were bred for.
You might argue that people “enjoy the challenge of a problem” and that is what keeps them going. True, I often feel that way myself. But there are so many ways of finding challenges in life, and some are much more enjoyable to conquer than others. And so why not work towards being in a position where you are only dealing with the challenges you enjoy the most? And doing it on your own clock, not someone else’s?
That Dangerous Comfort Zone
There is definitely some evil lurking in the waters here given our strong desire to be lazy, and how unlazy we sometimes are. And that evil is our strong addiction to being in the comfort zone. It is so strong in fact, amazingly, it trumps our desire to be lazy. Hence the post-work gym monkey driving his car to and from work and the gym. Hence the unhappy computer programmer slogging it out at something he doesn’t enjoy, month after month, year after year. Driving a car is more comfortable than riding a bike, just like having a regular pay cheque is more comfortable than searching out alternative ways to pay the bills.
It is widely believed that forcing yourself out of your comfort zone is good for you. I couldn’t agree more with that statement. It gets you thinking outside of the box. It gets you thinking about alternatives. It gets those creative juices flowing. It is the reason I love to travel so much!
Maybe it is time for you to start pushing yourself out of your comfort zone a little more when you can. Get up on that bike and ride, so to speak.
Or even better, look for ways to completely stop doing the things you don’t enjoy doing. Even if they help to keep you in your comfort zone. Instead, concentrate on only doing the things you do enjoy.
If you keep at it, the comfort will eventually return. And in a superior form. I guarantee it.
I will leave you with a quote I saw the other day, very coincidentally, as I already had this post all typed up and ready to go!
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”