We tend to believe if we’re busy enough, feeling happy or significant will be the result; but this all depends on us, as individuals, doesn’t it? So, we need to figure this out for ourselves.
An image was posted on a social site that said: Stop the glorification of busy. This reminds me of how much emphasis we put on what people do versus who they are, and how happy they are. There’s a theme running through our psyches that says we have to be and or stay busy or we’re not living up to our full potential. Underneath that is the other theme: concern about what others will think and say about us. Society-at-large claims to admire people who are on the go all the time, who live in the fast lane, who “live large.” The implication is that if you don’t fit into that mold, you aren’t someone special; your value or worth is less, according to those parameters.
I saw someone I hadn’t seen in years, which meant we had catching-up to do, so I asked about her children. Her conversation went something like this (all identifying information has been changed): “Mark is working for Acme Insurance. He’s a department manager. His wife, Anna, works at Booker Bank. She’s the loan manager. Their older son, Steve, is the floor manager at Estates Antiques. Their younger son, George, is the top salesman at Luxury Cars. Their daughter, Angie—” well, you get the picture. As the time passed, I asked more specific questions, but one thing stuck in my mind: how happy someone is, is rarely the first thing someone says about another.
We put so much emphasis on what people do when we could put it on who they are and how happy they are. How much admiration do we have or value do we place on someone who is genuinely kind, caring, and happy, and has a job, say, as a personal assistant, a cook, or a housekeeper? Or, we might comment, when asked how a mutual friend is doing after a move to a new town, that the move was a bold one; that we believe in our friend’s abilities; that we know there will be adjustment time involved, but that our friend possesses what she or he needs at the inner and outer levels to make life a good experience in the new place, rather than what work our friend is doing.
There’s a story you may be familiar with about a business executive who visited a coastal village. He had a conversation with a local man and learned the local man got up in the morning when he wanted to, took his small boat out for an hour or two and caught enough fish to sell for money his family used, then spent the rest of the day and evening with his family and friends, where they all enjoyed each other’s companionship. It was a simple, easy, joyful life the local man described.
The executive launched into a discussion about how the man could get more boats over time and create a huge, profitable business. The executive was in his element during this conversation: Building businesses from scratch and growing them was his expertise and passion. The local man listened carefully then asked why he should do that. The executive explained that with proper management, the man could sell the company and retire in twenty years with enough money that would allow him to get up in the morning when he wanted to, fish when he wanted to, and spend as much time with his family and friends as he wanted to. The local man replied, “I do that now.”
Someone posed an excellent question about this story: Which man was happy? What’s your answer to that question? The question-poser’s answer was an intriguing one: Both of them. What made each man happy was different. One man liked to stay busy in a particular way to feel fulfilled; the other liked to stay just busy enough to feel fulfilled. Each man had certain responsibilities they had to attend to, which they did, and you can bet that each man had challenges they had to meet in life, but they knew what made them happy and lived it.
We put so much emphasis on what we and others do and so little on what makes us genuinely happy. We keep ourselves busy, either with genuine responsibilities, some of which we probably could delegate, or with busywork, so we can appear productive to ourselves and others. Never confuse activity with productivity. We trap ourselves in that vortex far too often and too easily, either with physical activity or mental activity.
One friend of mine had the thought instilled in her that if she took the time to read a book for her own purpose or pleasure she was guilty of the sin of laziness (I just heard the collective gasp of avid readers). So she worked and worked and did and did, all the time. She and I had many conversations about this, until she was finally able to find the courage to read a book. She was in her 40s before this happened, and she did so under the disapproving gaze of the person most adamant about it being a lazy person’s thing to do, as she took her turn to sit with him in his hospital room.
My father was a workaholic. My mother was always doing something. Neither ever sat and watched TV without doing some other task at the same time. It’s no surprise I too became a workaholic, until a health matter put an end to that. It took me several years to move past denial of this, as well as continuing to push myself to the borderline critical stage, before I really got the message. Then it took another year or two to figure out how to live and function in a new way, and to see the gifts that came with this, such as a different level of creativity, because I could no longer afford to be active without being productive. It was especially challenging to deal with others who couldn’t comprehend or adapt to this new “reality” for me. Comments were often harsh. Eventually, I had to not care what others thought. It shouldn’t take a health matter for us to not care what others think or to choose balance for ourselves and our lives.
We have been programmed to believe if we are busy enough, it will lead to happiness. Why? Because if you’re busy, you must be being compensated, right? And if you’re compensated, you must be able to afford stuff, and stuff makes us happy, right? Yet, some of the busiest people are the most under-compensated and some of the best-compensated people are some of the unhappiest.
There’s also the aspect of strengthening our spiritual side to consider. How can we do this if we never sit still long enough to hear the deeper messages or to balance and recharge our energy, or to nurture our connection with the One Consciousness? We also need to consider the mental, emotional, and physical drain on us that can happen when we don’t have that balance in our lives.
Do you identify with who you really are, or with what you do and are experiencing? Do you project this onto others, as well? Maybe a good question is: How happy am I in general? Do I make time to not be busy so that the other parts of my life are fulfilling and joyful? It’s time to stop the glorification of busy for ourselves and others and embrace life and its many facets, and determine for ourselves what makes life a happy experience for us. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.
Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer