How did you overcome being lazy and get motivated?

“Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.” —Seneca

A peculiar variety of laziness and lack of motivation occurs among the middle-aged. The days of striving at work to prove oneself wane. You may be increasingly regarded as invisible or old-fashioned; Corporate has decided that profits must be boosted through layoff of your cohort. The days of parenting little ones come to an end: if you have been successful, your children are now adults with homes and spouses of their own.

For a little while, the anxiety of life is set aside, as caring for those at the end of life is as intense an enterprise as caring for newborns. And then as we walk away from the graveside, those tasks end, too.

What we are left with is an inheritance.

How we choose to deal with that big mess we’ve just inherited requires Wisdom, Justice, Courage, and Moderation: the four great Stoic virtues. The executor of an estate cannot be lazy, for a huge number of tasks lay ahead: to determine assets; to pay debts; to pay the government its due; to carry out the will of the deceased. Participating in family squabbles is a distraction; succumbing to despair over the great mountain of the deceased’s “stuff” is not an option. Nor is running away to Waikiki Beach an option, although that’s a mighty pretty picture to contemplate…

You must get back to the job at hand. You’re faced with a house full of stuff. Clothes; medicines, beauty kits. Boxes of Depends. Pantries filled with enough Wheatabix and evaporated milk to last through the next nuclear war. Filing cabinets filled with business records; photographs; decades’ worth of correspondence (yes, they saved every Christmas card and every birthday card you ever sent them). Rooms full of equipment from hobbies they abandoned two decades ago and the “dream workshop” they began to assemble before they got tired and sick. It’s all yours now. Oh, and did I mention furniture? Rooms full of it. And the house: you didn’t notice all the repairs that have to be made until it’s staring you full in the face.

You know that if all that stuff just sits in a vacant house, nature and other forces will start to take over, and quickly. So you do otherwise.

You call forth Wisdom, cooperating with your siblings, and enlisting expert help when you’re out of your league;

You call forth Justice, understanding that you will execute the will faithfully, and find ways to keep the peace within family;

You find the courage to throw things out. Lots of things, including all those Christmas cards and birthday cards;

Most importantly, you’ll work with moderation. You do not drive yourself into the ground attempting to do it all in a week, or a month, or even a year. It may take several years, as well as paying attention to government deadlines. If you believe there are papers and artifacts of historical value, you understand that a curator may be able to archive only a single box of items. You will stop thinking of what items originally sold for when they were acquired, only what price they might command today if you are wise.

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”—Marcus Aurelius

Your aim is simply to leave things in better order than when you came upon them. Your aim is good relations with surviving members of your family, so the family itself survives. Your aim is to identify the few heirlooms which must survive your own demise and place them safely with someone who makes sure those items survive.

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”—Epictetus