There are those who work hard and there are those who are inclined to lay around, play online games and do very little else.

IT was one Saturday when everyone else was asleep that I woke up at 5am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. So I headed for the garden and tidied it. Then I continued with household chores like washing the laundry and general cleaning. I proceeded to do some cooking and then did some painting and writing. After that, I walked to the gym.

The above certainly sounds like a journal entry or an example of a paragraph used by a teacher to illustrate chronological organisation in writing. When the beloved woke up, he saw what I had accomplished and asked, “Where did you get all the energy?”

I was trying to think of a good answer when I remembered the story of the ant and the grasshopper. The bottom line is some people are industrious while others are lackadaisical. We have those who accomplish much and others who are inclined to park off on the couch, play online games and do very little else. Even in the animal kingdom, we have some that do most of the work and others, very little.

A United Kingdom psychiatrist and book author Dr Neel Burton has much to say about laziness, which, according to Wikipedia is “a disinclination to activity or exertion despite having the ability to do so”. In order words, a person is lazy when he is able to carry out some activity, but is reluctant to do so because of the work involved.

Underlying psychological reasons pertaining to this attitude could be the lack of self esteem or a fear of failure. So laziness is a way to sabotage themselves. By not doing the work, they tell themselves they have not failed but rather they never tried. Another interesting view is that there is a relationship between dopamine levels and a willingness to work hard. There are some super foods that increase dopamine levels and it is said that one of them is dark chocolate.

A study published in the Journal of Neuroscience (2012) by researchers from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee found that dopamine levels in the areas of the brain influence a person’s personality — whether he is a go-getter or a procrastinator.

Apparently hardworking people have the most dopamine in two areas of the brain known to play an important role in reward and motivation.

Then there is learned industriousness.

It may be difficult to explain human tendencies but I do believe that to a great extent, what we are is the result of modelling and the environment. Our backgrounds and the way we have been brought up influence how we approach day to day living.

For us who did not have much materially when we were growing up, we would have the added reason to work hard and achieve. We tend to value what we have and also avoid wastage of any kind. In addition, if we were constantly surrounded by parents or caregivers who worked very hard so that our basic needs were met and we could have that little extra, we would then try to emulate their work ethics. This, of course, is a general observation and there are exceptions to the rule.

A child living in an environment where hard work equals success will certainly view his future differently from another child who has been given everything. An adult living in a society where there are no social welfare privileges knows he has to work to survive. He cannot expect to receive freebies or allowances or discounted housing.

I’ve taught students and worked with colleagues and bosses who were very conscientious and it was such a delight. Conscientious people want to do a task well and they take obligations to others seriously. They are efficient and organised, self disciplined and dependable. It is not only doing big jobs that matter but small jobs are equally important.

Sometimes, when I’m asked to give a talk or to host an event, I try my best to make sure that it is done well. So I spend many days and nights planning and bringing the project to completion successfully. In the course of it, I’ve been asked, “why do you put in so much effort? They won’t appreciate it” to which I’ll thank them for their concern, but to me even if one person is blessed by the talk or the event, then it has made all the effort worthwhile.

So, back to the question of how I had all the energy to do what I did. I think the secret lies in the mystery that the more you give, the more you have. Or, it could be the ginseng.

The writer was a lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara and now spends her days enjoying life as it is