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TL;DR How to help/support a close person with no long-term goals in life who shies away from everything that is not immediately rewarding.


My brother seems to be completely unmotivated. The only things he does without being forced are watching sports/Netflix, gaming (I am not sure but I don't think he is addicted), doing sports and meeting friends. Everything else (like searching a job) is only done if there is consistent pressure (mostly from our mother). He is 30 and lives with our parents. He does not wash his clothes and cooks and cleans only if he is forced.

Today there was a discussion about the rent, which he is not paying. After this discussion I ended up writing this questions: He earns good money and doesn't spend a lot so he has more the enough in his account. It seems like it's even to much trouble to spend the money. When his parents asked him to arrange a standing order for the rent he refused. Not because he wanted to keep the money. It is to much of a hassle to either set up online banking or go to the bank and arrange a standing order. He even offered to pay them instantly via PayPal any amount they wanted, just so he would not be bothered anymore.

His main goals in live seem to be spending as much time watching Netflix and sports and playing some game on his phone as possible. It does not seem like he is happy or unhappy, it even seems like he doesn't care about his happiness. Asking him about goals and the future annoys him and if he answers, he says he doesn't care or he doesn't know.


Additional Information

  • As far as I know he never had a girlfriend or even kissed a girl. I don't know if and how much this bothers him. Asking him about this topic he says he doesn't care. It seems like he resigned.
  • He is not a very social person. But he has some friends which meets and is integrated in some clubs.

My parents, especially my mother, are upset about his behaviour but, like me, they are absolutely clueless what should be done.

About myself: I am his younger brother, living 3 hours away from my parents and him. I come over to visit every 4-6 weeks for a weekend.

Reason why I want to change his situation

  • It feels like he is wasting his life
  • I think he could be happier
  • I think he might regret his behaviour in the future
  • His parents are suffering under his behaviour
  • He might be lonely in future as his friends become more and more occupied with their families

Question

How can I communicate to him that I want to see him more active and less lazy and unmotivated?

  • Hey welcome! "What should I do" questions are offtopic on this site - would it be OK to re-word it to ask for help achieving a specific goal? – Benjamin Gruenbaum Oct 27 '18 at 19:09
  • He is definely not interested in changing. I acutally asked him, but he does not want to see any professional help as he sees no reason – whattodo Oct 27 '18 at 19:21
  • Are there any kind of real negative consequences for his behaviour? – Erik Oct 27 '18 at 19:37
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    How does he make good money? – paparazzo Oct 28 '18 at 3:51
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I've known a lot of people like your brother. When I was younger I had a bad habit of collecting "couch surfers":

couch surfer one who defeats homelessness by relying upon a series of friends' couches. A friend or aquaintance who frequently crashes at your house. Can be due to inability to pay his own rent, frequent and/or persistent intoxication, or reluctance to return to his own dwelling.

What I found was that many of my couch surfers wouldn't take the necessary steps to improve their situation until they had to. As in, they were content with living on their friend's couch, getting wasted, playing video games, until I got sick of it and put them out. This was always a hard thing to do. I wanted to help my friends. I wasn't entirely sure that they would be able to get it together and support themselves, but at the same time it was obvious that they were stagnating and I was enabling that.

What I found was that when I stopped enabling them, one of two things would inevitably happen.

  1. They would find a new enabler, and live on their couch, or...

  2. They would be forced by their discomfort to start providing for themselves, pay their own bills, and buy their own couch.

I mention all of this because it sounds like your parents are enabling your brother to live the way he's living. It sounds like he's functional enough that if he really had to, he could pay his own way and get his own place.

The solution here isn't so much about "help and support", it's more about withdrawing the help and support, until he's supporting himself. A functional 30 year old shouldn't need his parents or siblings to nag and/or remind him to pay his bills, socialize, or date.

It's probably well past time for your parents to start the process of pushing him out of the nest. He may stumble, he may forget to pay his utilities and have them turned off a few times, but eventually these things become self teaching. Life will impose natural consequences, so you and your parents won't need to. All you all need to do is to stop sheltering him from those consequences.

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How can I help him to become are more active and less lazy and unmotivated person?

Well, people generally change when they want to change and only after they've weighted the pros and cons of the decision.

First of all - it is not your fault or responsibility to change him. As their brother you need to be there for him and believe in him.

As you indicated they would not consider getting help from a mental-health professional (which I highly recommend). You can:

Be there for him and listen.

Do not judge or criticise his behavior or call him "lazy". Instead: believe in him and be supportive of him. Tell him you love him and you're there for him and try to be non-judgmental around him.

You are his brother and you want to have a meaningful relationship with him. He needs to trust you and know you are on his side. For this he needs to not feel attacked or criticized around you.

Help build his self efficacy.

Tell him you believe in him, literally:

I believe in you.

Make small challenges around his fields of interest that he can win and then challenge him. This has to be things he wants to do.

Have him experience small success and gradually build up bigger challenges and congratulate him on successes. Re-frame situations he might perceive as failures (trying is a huge win after not trying - even if there is measurable outcome) and thank him for making an effort.

Support healthy habits.

Note that you should not criticize unhealthy ones until you have established a trusting relationship.

This might be (after him agreeing to it):

  • Paying for a personal trainer for him at a sport he likes or a gym membership.
  • Promoting better food choices (cook for him for example) and avoiding celebrating with "bad food".
  • Support good sleep hygiene and habits (a friendly competition of who can sleep better with a sleep tracker?).

Support and suggest practices for emotion regulation.

This can be things like:

  • Meditation (a headspace/calm subscription works).
  • Getting him a pet (if he understands and can commit to one).
  • Hiking/nature.
  • Relaxing creative hobbies (painting or coding for example)

Focus on objective, attainable and measurable goals

If you define goals together (for example for a friendly contest) - make sure that things are attainable and objective. Remember that this is not about "winning" this is about supporting him.


Best of luck with your brother. It's pretty great you care so much and want to help him.

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