In today’s world there seems to be something terribly important in being busy. Getting busy, staying busy, too busy, we are usually so busy we don’t seem to be doing what we want or getting where we want to be. We even have a medical term for it – busy life syndrome – used to describe the increasing levels of forgetfulness, stress and anxieties that result from being too busy.
In an age that celebrates convenience, flexibility and personal freedom it seems insane we have ended up feeling imprisoned, stressed out and worn down. There is not enough time in a day, month, year or lifetime to really complete the long list of goals and ambitions we set for ourselves. This is now taking its toll on society with raised levels of guilt and self-doubt, and real confusion as to what life is all about.
There is now so much choice available to us we tend to consume roles, experiences and opportunities like we do fast food, entertainment and material goods. With seemingly endless possibilities and so little time to fit them in, we have unwittingly cultivated an atmosphere of urgency and time poorness. While it is wonderful to take on new things, find ourselves, see the world, have fun and follow our dreams, we also need to work, meet someone, raise a family and care for our health.
This is an extremely tall order, one that constantly calls on us for more with no real relief in sight. What we accomplish in one area we lose in another or if we are talented multi-taskers we manage several at a time but feel exhausted by the process. When you consider that most of us want to feel at peace with ourselves and to experience happiness and fulfilment it seems rather obvious that something is out of whack. So it does beg the question what makes busyness so attractive when it is not giving us the results we want?
There is no doubt that society honours the busy life as a worthy life and in this there exists judgment around the use of time. Busy people take action, are productive and are often successful which demonstrates they are making the most out of their lives. Non-busy people in contrast are often labelled lazy, undisciplined, unproductive and un-resourceful. They tend to waste time and in doing so waste their life. There is little room or encouragement for seeing life as a textual, visual or emotional experience, rather modern life is very much focused on setting goals, getting results, measuring output and securing achievement.
It is rewarding to complete things, however the act in itself is not enough to give us the feelings we want. We must also consider the tasks we choose to complete and how well they support our individual make-up and values. It is these questions my clients often struggle with – how do I really want to spend my time, who do I want to be when I do it and what can I let go of to make the space? Usually they haven’t even considered it something they could choose for themselves. We are so used to pressure, overload and stress that choosing for ease, simplicity and slowness can be an uncomfortable process to commit to.
We are also inclined to see the future as where all the good stuff happens. From the moment we can walk, talk and read we are being prepped for the beyond. Our whole education system is designed to get us somewhere – to prepare us for studies, careers and family life. This is useful as we do need to survive in the world as adults, yet it sends a very clear message that the NOW is not enough. We are not enough in the present moment just as we are. We need to keep aspiring, moving, performing and achieving. Considering all this it is no wonder we keep ourselves so busy.
The goal of modernity was to free up our time so we could savor life, be with our kids, know our neighbors and have time to experience and love our world. Yet these ambitions are now the hardest to achieve, even when it is clear they have rich and rewarding things to offer. It is time for all of us to slow down, to take the time, to reflect on the choices we are making and to learn to let go of constant improvement. We spend all our time telling our kids they are perfect as they are; yet it is something we don’t seem to believe for ourselves. In order to really let go of busyness and all the mess it brings with it, we first need to truly believe we are enough and have enough just as we are.