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Kick Your Lazier Self's Butt

January 24 2015

Like any other human, sometimes I feel lazy. Or unmotivated. Or I lack discipline. I’ve found a way to conquer these feelings: I imagine sharing my body with a lazier version of myself, and I routinely piss him off by not doing what he wants. When my lazy alter ego thinks “you should take a break” or “I’m comfortable; I don’t want to do <blank>”, I smile and make that jerk miserable.

Before I explain why I think this type of motivation is cool, I want to explain the “circle of control”. Without getting too philosophical, there are three categories:

  1. Things you have complete control over (your plans, your thoughts, decisions, etc.)
  2. Things you have partial control over (arm wrestling, learning to dance)
  3. Things you have no control over (weather, the stock market, sports teams, most things)

Allowing ourselves to experience negative emotion as the result of something we have no control over puts us in a weak position. It’s raining out? I’m sad! or My favorite sportsball team lost? I’m depressed! How pathetic is that?

By limiting the list of things able to affect our emotions to the things we can control, we can be happier people. Inclimate weather doesn’t upset us. Some politician said something stupid? That’s outside my area of control! We can laugh at it, and move on. We should not waste a minute of life worrying, stressing, celebrating, or otherwise giving a shit about things we cannot control. When you think about it, tying our emotions to things outside of our control allows for externalities to control us.

Obviously, nobody is completely invulnerable from outside forces. Everyone can be a victim of death, disease, or any other number of horrible tragedies. The point is not to be impervious to these kinds of pain. The point is for the silly to not upset you; the “1st world problems” we hear so much about.

Now that you understand the circle of control, understanding why competing with your lazier alter-ego should be easy. Alter-ego competition has the benefits of a healthy competition without the drawbacks of caring about things outside your control. Winning or losing a competition is usually decided in part by external forces—things you do not control. For instance, you may race bicycles. In a bicycle race, or any race really, your odds of winning decreases with the number of competitors. How fast your competitors race is completely outside of your control. Liwewise, mechanical failures, lunatic fans shouting obscenities, and wind speeds are outside your control. Since your lazy alter-ego is just you, external forces affect it just as much as they do you. If your tire pops, so does your alter-ego’s. If it starts thunder storming, your alter-ego will deal with it, too. No matter your situation, you will always have the perfect competitor to challenge you. Each time that lazy jerk inside you thinks “I’m tired, it would be nice to take a break” or “man, this guy is good, I should kick him off his bike so I can beat him!”, it gives you an opportunity to refuse, and relish in a small victory. If you’re honest with yourself, there are never excuses for not kicking your alter-ego’s butt.

This has been a powerful trick for me. Since I’m competing with myself, I can use this technique for literally anything I do—whether it’s writing this blog post, going to the gym, or cooking dinner. As long as I give it an honest effort, I can always win. And winning in a competition against laziness can yield great rewards.