In the 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss defines laziness as enduring a non-ideal existence, and letting circumstance or others decide life for you. It may appear broad, even vague, but I think most of you will come to the same conclusion that I did when reading this passage, “shit, that’s me.” We often look at laziness as the opposite of production. More insidious still, the avoidance of being/appearing busy. A simple example would be sitting on the couch watching Netflix instead of teaching our cat Spanish, or cleaning the bathroom. Rarely do we see laziness for what it is: not taking responsibility for the decisions we make in life. Laziness, up to now, has been my life’s work.
I referenced this in my first post (For All Intents and Purposes) and it will be a running theme for the foreseeable future of this blog. In this piece I have chosen to highlight an instance where my status quo line of thinking and reasoning (for which I will spend a great deal of time deconstructing and modifying to yield a life of meaning and enjoyment) coupled with the slightest modification turned out to be one of the most important and positive decisions that I have made in the past several years.
Eight months ago I was doing everything I thought I should be doing. For the first time in years I had separated myself from living with roommates. This decision was not entirely mine. I mention this because it is imperative for me to point out the instances where it may appear that I acted in my own self interest when in actuality my decisions were made entirely due to laziness as defined above. I found myself at a crossroads. I was staying with my mom and deciding on what the next step was going to be. Was I going to buy a house? Was I going to try and find another roommate? I did what I had always done: I took the easiest path that presented itself and convinced myself that it was the most rational and logical thing to do. I moved into the house that my previous roommate and his girlfriend vacated as they began their life together.
Sure, it made a lot of sense. It was the 2nd most adult thing I could think of doing next to buying a home. What does a person who plans on living alone do? They rent an expensive house that is too big for them and convince themselves that the cost was part of growing-up. Plus it was less than a mile from work and you know, Huck needed a big yard and stuff. Ultimately I was trying to plug myself into a lifestyle that wasn’t for me. More to the point, I was further pushing myself away from a lifestyle of joy and meaning. I was doing everything I could to use up resources, time, energy, and capital so that I couldn’t focus on the things that really mattered: What makes me happy? How can I live a life of meaning?
These weren’t conscious decisions I was making. I truly thought that I was failing at what I was supposed to do. That somehow I was missing some tenet of the American Dream. The thought of living a life that was designed and implemented entirely by me was unthinkable. My way of looking at the world and my place in it was flawed. There was no way that I could be successful. I wasn’t being honest with myself or the nature of my overall dissatisfaction.
One night I received an email from my landlord. They were thinking of selling the house I was in. My first thought was, “Okay. Great. This will give me the chance to get out of this situation and hopefully make a better move going forward.” Then, in classic Dylan fashion, I promptly pounced on the first residential opportunity that presented itself. In many respects it was exactly what I had always done (path of least resistance). Yet, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was actually making the first decision that would be part of a new model of thinking. This living arrangement was much more aligned with how I had begun to envision my ideal living situation. It was much smaller, satisfied my immediate needs, and the cost of living was drastically reduced, which would immediately help me to live a more engaged life. This seemingly simple move opened the doors for me to begin analyzing and thinking about other aspects of my life that I was not satisfied with. I was beginning to rewire the way in which I thought about how I wanted to live my life. I was slowly circling in towards my center; to finding my starting point; the point where all the different puzzle pieces were coming together to reveal their picture.
All of this leads up to what I believe to be the most valuable lesson I have learned this year: Set and setting. Timothy Leary describes set and setting in his book, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead this way, “… set denotes the preparation of the individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the time. Setting is physical — the weather, the room’s atmosphere; social — feelings of persons present towards one another; and cultural — prevailing views as to what is real…” Set and setting are said to be two of the most important factors for one to consider before participating in a psychedelic experience. If you’re going to leave reality, having a firm foundation to springboard from is a really smart way of curbing a potentially dangerous and unrewarding experience. For me, set and setting is the fountain from which all forward progress flows. My trip, my expulsion from reality as I knew it, began with a single decision based on a new way of thinking. For years I was building a life on a broken foundation. A well constructed set and setting is crucial for me to live a balanced and disciplined life. It allows me to safely explore a whole new realm of reality, one that wasn’t available to me previously. I am painfully aware of my predisposition towards self destruction. For whatever reason, my default setting is laziness. When set and setting are calibrated correctly, I am able to process thoughts and emotions and execute plans and decisions with precision and clarity. I am able to dispense with laziness. I’m beginning to fill my chest with tools to reverse these tendencies and move forward with a renewed sense of delight and excitement for what is to come. I spend my free time cultivating and nurturing my set and setting so that when the next trip occurs, I’m ready to make the most of it. I’m watering my mental garden. For the first time in my life I’m pulling weeds. Pruning bushes. I’m giving fruit space to grow. Meaning and purpose is on the horizon. I can see it, and and I like what I see.