Do you have an addiction to keeping yourself busy? Do you value appointments more than the white empty space on your calendar? How do you feel about waiting – whether you are sitting in traffic or waiting for someone to show up, do you check your phone?
Why is it so hard for us to slow down? What makes us so focused on getting to the destination, reaching the goal? Why can’t we pay more attention to the space in between things; the pause between our steps?
I grew up with the idea that a successful person should be productive. It doesn’t seem to matter so much what I produce as long as I am working on something. Going out with friends is somehow better than sitting at home. Reading a non-fiction book is better than watching TV. Sleeping more than 8 hours a day is a sign of laziness. These beliefs were absurd yet I felt they were truths. If I find myself with no motivation to do anything, the automatic response is something is wrong and I better fix it.
Business is busi-ness. Productivity is product – activity. When did we begin to operate our personal lives like businesses?
Back in hunter-gatherer days, people work three hours a day on average. Three hours a day was sufficient for people to obtain food and shelter for survival when there was no machinery and chemicals for large-scale farming. With all the advances in technology, we are working more, not less. We worship busy-ness, production, and competition. We admire the top 1% who made it. At the same time, divorce rates and obesity are at all-time high. We invest so much in busy-ness, there is no time and energy left to invest in relationships and in health.
I recently realize that I spent the first 35 years of my life in busy-mode. My life was first all about getting good grades at school, followed by getting good jobs. I did date and work out, but never really invested in my love life and my health the way I invested in my formal education and career. I spent $100K+ on getting a master degree in business, but hesitated to spend a few hundred dollars on personal development. I deeply desired finding a long term loving relationship, but naively expected this relationship to show up without investing in understanding myself - my blind spots, my brokenness, my beliefs that lead to picking the wrong guys.
After a period of health crisis where I experienced chronic fatigue, as well as having a dream job that imploded my self-esteem, I took time off to invest in myself spiritually. The ability to spend eight hours a day contemplating myself and my life finally set me on a path to self-actualization. After about a year of investing in myself, I stopped picking the wrong guys and found the partner who offers me the unconditional love I seek. Yet, life is not all rosy after finding the right partner. Every day I continue to work on improving my communication and empathy, understanding my triggers and beliefs, making time to resolve conflicts and grow the relationship.
I'm not saying that everyone should quit their day job and focus on spirituality, health and relationships. I am emphasizing the importance on determining our priorities, slowing down so that we can make sure we are doing what serves us long-term.
I realized now that my priorities in life are first- my health, second - my relationships, and third - my work. My health and relationships are the pillars that support my work, not the other way around. It’s easy to let work become the priority, i.e. “I have to get this work done so I have to talk to you later honey”; but now I see health and relationships as the space between work goals, the foundation upon which everything else in life builds on.
I recently heard a quote: busy-ness is lazy-ness. For many people, doing nothing and being present is actually harder than staying busy. We are addicted to staying busy because we hate the feelings and thoughts that arise when we get quiet and still. We use busy-ness as an escape for our feelings of unworthiness and emptiness, like we use alcohol, caffeine and drugs to numb our truths. We are too lazy to attend to what really matters so we just keep ourselves busy running towards nowhere.
Don’t let your work goals get in the way of your foundation. Don’t let your busy mind get in the way of your happiness. Deprioritize busy-ness. Value quiet and space to turn inward. Sleep more. Take the time to make food at home and exercise. Invest in personal growth and relationships. Invest in your quiet and inner peace. You will thank yourself later at the end of your life when you look back and see that you invested in the right things in life.
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