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Jakarta post

by Jennie S. Bev

Laziness is something we encounter every day, at home, at school and on the job site. We see lazy people of all ages, shapes, and colors everywhere.

Some of them are obvious; others are not so obvious, from those who simply do nothing to those who make it look like working. Whatever the level of one’s laziness, it is more an issue of insufficient productivity than specific personality traits or work habits.

Mel Levine, MD, a professor at the University of North Carolina Medical School said in his book, The Myth of Laziness, that “laziness” is a term referring to a dysfunction causing output failure. When an individual or a group doesn’t perform up to optimized potential, they fail, and are often labeled “lazy.”

The causes for not accomplishing or producing satisfactorily may include physical or psychological elements. However, these causes tend to be understood and forgiven. These elements are variables in the so-called “myth of laziness” because when they are fixed, individuals are capable of finishing tasks at hand that are within their skill sets.


Children whose skill sets are incompatible with the tasks required of them may appear lazy in their performances. A kinesthetic learner may appear lazy when he or she encounters reading-based learning circumstances.

However, output failure is unacceptable when it occurs without any significant physical or psychological problems and without any acceptable reasons to believe that an individual or a group of people has tried to perform to their optimized capacity.

In a group setting, such as in an institution or a community, laziness can be embedded within the group’s fabric.

The premise that people are inherently lazy is condemning. The study of management has evolved to cater to a more humane premise that people are inherently diligent and love working. Lillian Moller Gilbreth combined psychology with working conditions. She believes that an individual is satisfied from using his or her skills in a job.

This, naturally, would diminish productivity insufficiencies, or wasted time or laziness. The better a person’s skills match the job, the better the performance will be, thus productivity increases.

In the case of Indonesia, a country with a population of 238 million people, have we produced significantly? If not, is such output failure a classic case of insufficient effort, which is to say, laziness?

It is a tough question to answer without hurting anyone’s feelings because of course no one wants to be perceived as lazy. So let’s describe this phenomenon diplomatically: With such a large population, Indonesia has output failure. Blame history, blame culture, blame the current state of psychological health (or lack of it) due to the complacency of the leaders. Still, we can break the vicious cycle with strong individual will and can-do positive attitudes.

Blaming — including blaming the past — doesn’t change anything. Acknowledging what’s wrong with us and being determined to fix it will make a difference.

A recent survey by the Indonesian Department of Health showed that 80 percent of the 3,000 respondent Indonesian children were negative thinkers.

This negative thinking is also known as a mental block. Negative self-image is created by and creates bad habits, just the kind of news that makes our hearts race faster.

How can we increase productivity with negative thinkers as our human capital? The answer is a complex one and must be addressed at all levels: individually, in families, at schools, at workplaces, by those in high places and regular seats.

Ideally, a holistic approach is adopted, with an emphasis placed on an awareness of growth mindsets instead of fixed mindsets. According to Carol S. Dweck, PhD, professor of Psychology at Stanford University, who cited Benjamin Barber, an eminent sociologist, “I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures. I divide the world into the learners and non-learners.”

Dweck further said that there are four steps to changing a fixed mindset into one of growth. First, acknowledge the negative, mentally blocking fixed mindset that has been whispering “nay-nay-nay.”

Second, recognize that every failure can be seen as either a total collapse or a learning opportunity. We have a choice. Third, whenever the mentally-blocking negative self-talk takes over, we can talk back with positive, can-do voices. Fourth, simply act upon the choice based on the positive thought scenario.

An environment of learning happily creates the positive ambiance required for growth mindsets to cultivate. Laziness might be more than a myth; it’s a fact in corruption-laden Indonesia. But we have had the antidote all along: changing a child’s mental block into a growth mindset, one child at a time.[]

The Jakarta Post, January 25, 2011

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