In fact, it’s a certain form of heresy in today’s backdrop of doing more and more with less and less. Many of us are certain that we have no choice but to dash from one appointment to the next, double book ourselves and hope that it’s not too disruptive to multitask in the meetings that we are late to arrive to, because the whole day is a big domino effect that kicks off before the first cup of joe… which we need as a counterbalance to the (pick your poison) that we took to relax enough to sleep far fewer than the recommended eight the night before.
We feign attention on the most important things and direct our scattered attention toward what seems most urgent. Manic busy leaders in a manic society, completing conference calls in the car on the way to grab a bite to eat, oodles of work left unfinished at the office, so we can mobilize family members in the direction of their interests, then tend to the mundane tasks of nourishing our bodies and breaking through the technology barrier to have an actual conversation with our teenagers, or someone equally dear to us. Monty Python and Dilbert, step aside!
* sigh *
Let’s be honest – it’s not all bad. Right? Busy CAN be wonderful, can’t it? Energized by yet another project that holds purpose for us, there is a rush that comes from garnering the inner and outer resources to be productive and make a meaningful contribution. To rise to the occasion, to beat the odds. To meet or beat our own personal best. It can be exhilarating to master and complete any objective that helps us learn, grow, and experience ourselves as successful.
Yet, if we can no longer even pretend to be present while we chase endless commitments (many of which we aren’t actually committed to at all); if our health is compromised by chronic worry or poor dietary choices necessitated by a hectic lifestyle; if we regularly check email before we get out of bed in the morning… it is time to take inventory and a new, more elevated form of dominion.
“For fast-acting relief from stress, try slowing down.” ~ Lily Tomlin
I’ve read it somewhere that anxiety is the condition of an untrained mind. The part of me that has experienced unbearable anxiety & overwhelm in the past feels incensed by this; the part of me that knows the truth can receive it without judgment.
The clients I serve who struggle with busyness seem to have one key thing in common: they unwittingly source their guidance and direction from outside of themselves. It’s understandable. They are well-wired to seek and respond to what work, life, relationships, etc., want from them; and they rally to honor all of the incoming requests (whether spoken or anticipated). They are good at it, too, after years of practice.
This can look and feel deeply noble to the person doing all of the doing. But here is the rub: when I ask these accomplished professionals what THEY really want, for themselves, the most common answer? “I have no idea.” They don’t have a sliver of light left to shine on what matters to them, they are so spent chasing everyone else’s dreams. What makes my heart sing? If I could do or create anything I wanted to do, what would it be?
There is a melancholy that can come with the realization that we have no idea what really lights us up, or that we have given away our precious life force so much so that we have no juice left to see or invest in our own vision. And one of the ways we make ourselves feel better, or at least make ourselves not feel bad, is to stay busy with the things we know how to do already. This is the paradox of overwhelm.
It. Is. Compelling.
The risk of the kind of busy that I see, haunting individuals and indeed families and entire organizations, is that it is often significantly empty. It has a voracious appetite, a bottomless pit, always asking for more. It will never be fulfilling. It can not be, when the center of it’s gravity lies a short (or long) distance from each person’s center. From a business perspective, enter rampantly low engagement, mounting healthcare costs & tensions on productivity such as absenteeism (or even worse, presenteeism). We need not wonder if this is true. The fallout is in plain sight.
The Direction of a Cure
What the world needs now – whether at work, at home, in your communities, indeed everywhere—is people who are radically self-aware, willing to courageously know the connection between what matters deeply to them and what they do during the vast majority of their waking hours. People who are willing to model this, so they can be of impeccable service not only to their calling, but to the people who are looking to them for leadership. This is the birthplace of fire, enthusiasm, sustainable energy and authentic inspiration that transcends the inevitable bumps in the road. Some call this resilience.
It is an awakening of sorts that is under way, and you are oh, so cordially invited:
- Take time to know what really matters to you. If you can’t figure it out on your own, don’t worry. Click here for additional suggestions. Or find a trusted and unbiased someone to help you.
- Cultivate a capacity for proactive discernment, which is altogether different from reactive judgment. Competencies in emotional intelligence help a great deal here, and everyone can learn them.
- Get an accountability partner to support you in staying true to yourself, long enough that you build the same level of discipline in honoring yourself that you have always shown in honoring others.
“The world is waiting, breathless, for you to take your place.” – David Whyte
This is a quality play, and there is no evidence that you have to sacrifice productivity. Quite the opposite. This is about you being in choice about where you direct your life force. It is about choosing to be present in the moments that make up your life, and choosing to include yourself in your definition and experience of success.
This kind of leadership is everyone’s business.
The world is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?