Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’re busy, I’m busy, everybody’s busy. In fact, it seems like everybody’s drowning in busy, busy, busy.
We bounce around doing this, handling that, rushing through our days, knocking off all of our bullets on that mile-long to-do list, steam-rolling through the obstacles, knocking off the challenges and so on and so forth. Rolling, rolling, rolling ‘til we drop.
But, it’s good, right? Yup, yup, yup!
THE NEW DEFAULT
In this TEDxFurmanU talk, “The Busy Identity,” published in 2016, the presenter is Lexie Harvey, then a sophomore at Furman University. Lexie tells us we need to take a rest. We need to remember that we are human beings, she says, not human doings.
It got me thinking, this video. It does, indeed, seem to be the new default for a lot of people. It’s become a bit of a pissing contest, actually. “My busy is bigger than your busy. But, it’s all good…” (Cue the big grin.)
That “human-Being vs human-Doing” thing has been around for a long time. It’s a clever phrase that wanna-be wise guys toss around, looking all holier-than-thou. Another pissing contest. (Sigh!)
The thing is, humans are not one or the other. We’re a bit more organic and a lot more integrated than that. What we choose to Do affects how we Be and the how we Be often dictates what we choose to Do. There doesn’t seem to be any way around it.
The very wisest of the wise guys and the smartest of the smart guys all agree: you are (or you become) how you walk in the world. As Henry David Thoreau pointed out, “It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”
This irreverent and very silly BuzzFeed Video was published on YouTube in August, 2015. It does seem to capture the essence of busy quite nicely:
The video was put together by the BuzzFeed Motion Picture video team. As you probably know already, these guys are the awesome crew that puts together the daily posts on the BFMP’s flagship channel.
MAYBE “BUSY” IS THE NEW “LAZY”?
Sometimes I think the reason we have gotten so awfully good at doing ‘til we drop is mostly because busy is easy.
That’s right. Think about it.
When your days are filled to the overflowing with that incredible To-Do List you’ve constructed that is way longer and much more varied than the ones any other two people you know are toting around, who has time or energy to even think about what it is you’re actually doing or who you are actually being?
The Real is, it’s not like our one True Self is sitting in some dark recess of our minds waiting to be “discovered.” Getting still and doing interior explorations is a very useful and ultimately beneficial set of skills for all kinds of reasons, but reports from the guys who actually did that are sort of nebulous and unclear.
Most of them seem to end up advocating dumping Self in favor of connecting to the Oneness of it all or something like that. If that’s what you want to do, that’s great, but if you’re a bit more concerned with trying to get to your own meaning and mana your own way, it might not be satisfactory for you.
The really cool thing about being human is that we can be lots and lots of different selves.
The best thing about that is if we’re not satisfied with the Self we happen to be doing at any given time, we can actually choose to grow into some other Self we like better.
There’s only one problem. Growing and changing and transforming ourselves takes time.
As fitness guru Jillian Michaels points out, “Transformation is not five minutes from now, it’s a present activity. In this moment you can make a different choice, and it’s these small choices and successes that build up over time to help cultivate a healthy self-image and self-esteem.”
Michaels is right. It takes time to build a new body. Every wise guy there ever was all say it takes time to build a new self. It very often takes a lot of hard choices, all made one at a time.
Our “busy” may be just a convoluted, very tiring way to avoid making the changes we need to get to the life of meaning and mana we want.
GETTING TO NOT-BUSY
So what does it take to get to not-busy?
One of the simplest and best ways to get free from busy is a thing ordinary folks can understand and do quite handily. It’s called “selectivity.” Its other name is “making choices.”
It’s an old and simple truth: Time is the ultimate resource. Time is your life. In fact, time is all that life is.
The price tag for whatever activity you are doing is time. That means that for each thing you do, you are paying for it with your life.
The question then becomes: Is it worth it?
I listened once to a conversation among a group of old friends – unconventional outliers all – as they shared story after story of their many and varied adventures. Laughter and heartful moments piled up and we were all feeling well-pleased with each other.
Then one guy, in a pensive moment, said, “You know what I’d like? I’d like to buy back all the time I was paid to work for someone else. I wonder what I would have done with all that time.”
Another put in that he’d buy back the time he had wasted on frivolous distractions that have little meaning for him now.
A third said she would take back the years she had spent following a path someone else had set for her.
The evening ended with an explosion of laughter when another said, “But, guys, look at where we are now! Hasn’t it been a great life? If I ever get the chance, I know I’d do it all again!”
And I had to think, as I looked at this madcap crew of adventurers and makers and smarty-pants oddballs and quirky spirits, that every one of them had grown into a marvelous human of one sort or another by choosing again and again to follow their own hearts.
DE-CLUTTERING YOUR TIME
Getting free of meaningless “busy” means cutting down and weeding out the extraneous stuff in order to focus time and energy on the people we love and the things we want to do. Actually, it’s an advanced level of de-cluttering.
Instead of organizing your desk, your room, your house and the rest of your environment, using selectivity you can shovel all the detritus out of your time and your life-doings. (Coincidentally all the other stuff tends to get re-organized too.)
All selectivity requires is noticing. Take a look at what you are doing during your day. (You may even want to start one more list.)
When you’ve got some breathing space, take a look at your list and choose one activity. Think about it. Then start asking yourself some questions.
The two most important ones are these:
- What do you give to this thing you’re doing?
- What does it give back?
Other things that might be worth asking are:
- How does this activity feed you?
- Does it help?
- Is it inspiring?
- Does it stoke your fears?
- Does it bring you down, distorting your worldview or negatively impacting your disposition?
Asking these questions, especially about the things that have become habits or routines, and revisiting the things you sort of take for granted, can help you see what your life is made of.
If you’re satisfied with the results that a particular activity brings into your life then, by all means, keep on doing it. If not, maybe you want to send it to the recycling bin.
Sometimes as you remove one activity, you’ll notice that a whole chunk of related activities end up in the recycling bin as well. That’s a bonus. After a while of doing this you’ll notice that you’re starting to breathe easier. You’ve got more time to do the things you’ve decided to keep. Life gets more interesting and more fun. You can enjoy yourself and savor the life you’ve built.
Give it a shot. What do you want to lose?
Here’s a poem:
DO-BE, DO-BE, DO
There’s a thing going ’round these days;
The Do-Bug is its name.
If you don’t watch out, it’ll get you too
And you’ll never be the same.
Your eyes get red from the strain
And tics make your face twitch.
Your ears are blocked by a roaring
And you start acting like a witch.
Your body moves in fits and starts
Your stomach will lurch and roll,
And your heart will shrink to a peanut
As it drains your innermost soul.
Your hands reach out like claws
That hold on to things real tight,
And your legs can’t keep still…
You want to run out of sight.
You hurry-scurry in a flurry,
Rushing here and there,
And you never stop to ask yourself
The how, the why, the where.
It attacks all your nerve endings.
It festers in your brain.
And as it progresses,
You frequently go insane.
Do this! Do that! Do the other!
Do it for this cause or for that!
Do it now or lose forever!
Why’d you do it, you dirty rat?
The Do-Bug latches onto you
And shakes your fundament,
Makes you think you’ll get to Heaven
And it’ll use you until you’re spent.
The cure is very simple.
There’s no need for pills or booze.
Just stop whatever you’re doing,
Let be, and take a snooze.
by Netta Kanoho
Header picture credit: “Hurry” by Christer via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
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