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How do you get a couch potato (i.e. somebody lazy who is completely uninterested in personal productivity and instead uses other people to get things done --- or gets very little done at all) to become interested in personal productivity, in order to improve significantly?

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Throw away their couch ;) – Gaʀʀʏ Aug 14 '13 at 16:47
Stop being one of the other people who gets those things done. – JeffO Aug 15 '13 at 15:24
It is fruitless to try to change other people. Learn to be accepting and yes learn to say no to people who are leaching on you. You don't need to change them, you only need to change how you react to it. If someone is so annoying that you don't want them in your life, then remove them, but don't expect that other people will change to meet your desires. – HLGEM Aug 19 '13 at 18:38
up vote 6 down vote accepted

The bottom line is that you can't really change anyone else, but you can provide an environment that makes change more likely.

There are three basic areas that you can tackle that may encourage change in someone else: their understanding about the need for change, their feelings about the change and the environment in which change occurs. The Heath Brothers book, "Switch", is a great resource to understand these dimensions a little better. You can find a summary of the first chapter here.

Some practical ideas:

Encourage Understanding

  • Provide opportunities for the lazy person to understand the negative effects of laziness and the positive benefits of being productive e.g. encourage them to watch TV shows about the health issues associated with laziness
  • Gently explain your hopes and concerns for them
  • Demonstrate the positive benefits of productivity in your own life
  • Give clear, simple suggestions of very simple things they can do for themselves that are not too taxing
  • Help them improve their diet
  • Help them find what they're good at
  • Get them to read or watch TV shows about active, productive people
  • Encourage them to read "7 Habits of Highly Effective People"

Make Change Feel Good

  • Confront their dependence on others, and show that there is a better way
  • Encourage small, gradual changes rather than big-bang fixes
  • Praise and reward even the smallest signs of productivity
  • Don't expect too much, too soon
  • Make them feel important and valued
  • Encourage any interests
  • Encourage them to go outside
  • Encourage any kind of physical activity, even if it doesn't appear "productive"
  • Surround them with productive people - people tend to become like the people they spend time with
  • Get them to a good church - one where they encourage people to look after other people as well as self
  • Get them watching inspiring movies

Create an Environment that Encourages Change

  • Give away the TV. And the couch.
  • Don't do anything for the Lazy person, and encourage others to stop, too
  • If they show an interest in doing anything productive, make it as easy as possible
  • Take them to the doctor to verify that there are no medical problems that are making them appear lazy
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