How to Use One of the Seven Deadly Sins to Your Advantage

Photo courtesy of Ricardo Vacapinta

Several months ago, I spent an entire day in my bathrobe, doing absolutely nothing aside from playing computer games. I literally did not leave the sofa except for trips to the bathroom and trips to the fridge. This was very unusual for me, and occasionally I felt a pangs of guilt when I thought of all the things I “should” have been doing. Those feelings, however, were never quite strong enough to wrench me away from killing a few more zombies with peashooters.

The week following Robe-a-palooza was the most productive I’d had in recent memory, more than enough to make up for the time off, and yet I still felt guilty about “losing” that one particular day.

My point is not to assert that a day or two off from your regular schedule can lead to rejuvenation – you already know that. That’s the whole idea behind weekends, after all. However, I think we (me included) tend to downplay the value of using at least some of our time off as an opportunity to get disgustingly sloth-like and really shut down, at least for a few hours.

When people say they want to make the most of life, usually what they mean is they want to cut down on the number of things they do that don’t apply directly to their main life goals.  Even on their days off, they train themselves to feel bad if they’re not constantly accomplishing something “useful.” Weekends are seen as a time to get all the errands done that didn’t get done during the week, or to participate in a hobby that will make them a more educated or well-rounded person.

And that’s fine, errands and hobbies are great. But sometimes watching DVDs and eating ice cream can be just as worthwhile. That doesn’t mean you have to be a couch potato every weekend – for most of us, that would get pretty boring. It just means that you don’t have to have an “acceptable” justification for occasionally taking a complete day off and doing nothing at all.

Psychologically, this can be difficult to get used to, especially if you consider yourself an active, ambitious person. I’ve been making an effort to schedule a complete rest day at least twice a month, but it’s been hard to embrace the idea, even though physically I feel much better and overall I’ve been getting more done. When people phone me on one of my sloth days and ask me what I’m doing, my first impulse is to hide the fact that I’m watching trashy reality TV marathons in my underwear. I feel like I should say, “I’m catching up on my Italian lessons,” or “I’m just heading out the door to go rock climbing.” Over time, I’m hoping I will adjust to the frame of mind where I don’t feel slightly embarrassed at doing nothing, because I think in general it’s doing me a lot of good.

In a society where we’re constantly bombarded with the ideas of pushing forward and achieving, it’s more important than ever to make sure there’s some balance. Try scheduling in a sloth day or two next month and see what positive changes happen for you.

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    • Emily

      Nice post. Is it too ironic that I’m filing this away as a way to justify my next couch day?

      • Melissa

        Works for me! I think you should print it out so that if anyone asks where you were, you can hand it to them like a doctor’s note ;-)

    • Anthony Carroll

      For me, this has taken the form of midday movies. With two kids, wife, business, I find myself getting caught up in my responsibilities to others. This year I’m trying to remember my responsibility to myself, so every few weeks (or whenever I’m particularly worn down), I’ll take a long lunch, not tell anyone where I am, and go watch a movie. In a theater. With popcorn.

      I wish I had the wherewithal (and empty house, lack of children, etc) to make a full day of it, but my midday movies have had a similar rejuvenating effect. Just taking a couple hours off to be slovenly is well worth the balance and peace of mind it provides.

      Great post!

      • Melissa

        Ah, I love the idea of midday sneaky trips to the movies – it would be like taking myself out on a secret date! Thanks for sharing that. :-)

      • Ryan Waggoner

        Yeah, I’ve totally done that :)

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