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The Couch: A Look at Human Lifestyle

Posted by Peet Brits on January 7, 2009

Tempting Sofa

Tempting Sofa

I might not be posting anything anytime soon after this article as my studies started this week. (Whoohoo!) It already feels like I am behind! Now I quickly need to get this topic off my mind in order to focus. Focus comes from self-discipline, which is partly what this article is about. All right, enough advertising. Hope you enjoy my latest idea.


Often one might notice people striving towards a goal, or living a healthy lifestyle, but as soon as they reach their aim, they abandon the good habits and relax in the comfort of it. For example, a person being fit and healthy in high school gets fat the moment they start earning their own money. Another person’s dream was to get married, and the moment they cross that milestone they start behaving in a very different manner towards their partner.

What happened? Why did it happen?

I call this idea The Couch.

How Does It Happen?

Path To Couch

Path To Couch

Consider that we are all walking along a path. This is the path of human life. We could reach two types of milestones on this journey: one of comfort and one of a challenge. Comfort represents life’s luxuries, such as your first income or a raise. Challenges represent problems, especially those seeming too big to overcome.

This is where the couch comes in. It tempts us to sit down and rest when we are not yet tired. If we fail to overcome these milestones, whether by relaxing in comfort or defeated by our challenges, we end up sitting down on the couch (hypothetically speaking). This poisonous state of rest is the danger zone that keeps us from progressing on the road of life.

Many people might still be aware of this and attempt to get up. They would try to move one, but many times all they end up doing is walking right around it and then sit back down again. Once they enter this cycle they rarely move on without a huge amount of effort or help from some external motivator.

What the Couch Is Not

The couch is not a bed. A bed is a well-determined state or rest. You sleep totally; maybe a little lazy over weekends, but then you get up and go through your regular daily activities.

With the couch, you are neither sleeping nor awake. You are in some undefined state in between. It is like watching too much television: it makes procrastination feels good. This state of neither good nor bad is the main reason for the lack of motivation to change our behaviour.

To give another example, this is probably why people find it so hard to stop smoking, even once they know it is bad for their health. It feels good and they do not see any immediate damage done by it, so there is no threat to make them change.

They Come In Different Sizes

There is not a single path passing along a single couch, rather many different paths representing different areas of our lives, and many types of couches appearing on all of them. There are smaller ones, which you can easily get up from if you tried. The medium sized ones require a lot of effort to get up from, and you have to keep yourself in check for a few months in order not to sit right back down again. The big couches are almost impossible to move away from without additional help.

The longer you sit on a couch the more hard-wired it becomes in your brain and the harder it gets to move on. Self-control is in my opinion the biggest challenge any human being could possibly face. One can enforce self-control by healthy habits and routines, but then you must be aware that it becomes easy to overindulge once we break away from these routine. Overindulgence is an enjoyable form of self-abuse, coming from excuses like “well I am on holiday”. Urges have consequences, and we should prepare ahead [1].

Observations and Tips

Before people reach the couch it would seem like they are living towards a goal, but because this goal is not concrete, not written down or well thought about, it quickly fades away over time. Enjoying every moment of life is important, but one must never do so without any concern for the future or in ignorance of the past.

Some people live in denial. I have personally heard people say that they hate something, but once the wheel of fortune turns in their favour they immediately become what they once despised. I think they actually envied it, hating not having it.

Do you think this is ironic? To be able to pretend is uniquely human [2]. No man can lie like the man lying to himself.

One thing that I learned over the last year is to stop thinking about what you should be doing, how long it is supposed to take, how nice it would be once it is done, and just do what you are supposed to be doing.  That is right, stop idle planning and JUST DO IT.



  1. I read this tip in a 1Time airplane magazine.
  2. This is from an article in Scientific American, comparing human two-year-olds with monkeys.

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