Our society is addicted to busyness. We wear it as a badge of honor because we believe that busyness will eventually lead to success, which will eventually lead to happiness. We’ve become convinced that the busier we are right now, the happier we’ll be — someday. Busy today; happy tomorrow.
But tomorrow never comes.
Just more busyness.
Perhaps the worst thing imaginable would be to get to the end of your one and only life and realize you were so busy being busy that you never got around to being happy. You may have accomplished a great deal, but you never enjoyed it. You were never available to the people who matter most. I’ve never heard of anyone on their death bed saying, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.”
Ironically, studies are beginning to show that busyness and success do not lead to happiness as much as happiness leads to greater effectiveness — in relationships and in our careers. As it turns out, it’s more beneficial for us to shift our focus away from achieving happiness sometime in the future and toward figuring out how to access happiness in the here and now.
We’ve had it backwards all along!
Busy today; happy tomorrow — doesn’t work. Happy right now; successful tomorrow — works much better nearly every time.
Think about what your life is like when you’re only focused on getting things done. When all of your energy is concentrated on completing some task, how much of life do you enjoy? How much joy do you gain from an activity that you see as an obstacle between where you are and where you want to be? You don’t enjoy it; you put up with it. You see it as a necessary evil — something you have to do so you can get to something you want to do.
The problem with that approach is that most of us spend most of our time doing the things we think we have to do, and we hardly ever get around to doing the things we enjoy. Maybe later tonight. Or maybe on the weekend. Or maybe next summer during our once-a-year, over-scheduled and under-funded vacation.
When our days are consumed with things we must do, we have little time for the things we want to do. I realize that discipline sometimes requires us to do the things we must do in order to do the things we enjoy. But true happiness requires an understanding of the rhythm of life here. We need time with the people we love. We need space to do the things we enjoy. We sometimes need no agenda at all other than fun. We need the chance to explore and experience the world with curiosity and wonder.
All of this will require us to periodically disconnect from the world of busyness.
It’s good to have dreams and goals. It’s good to work towards those dreams and goals. Transformation does not merely come from the attainment of those dreams and goals but from the labor itself. Sometimes the effort is the reward.
But resting is often the most transformative thing a person can do. Well-rested people can create a day-to-day reality that is not completely taken up by means to ends, problem solving, or overcoming obstacles to what you really want. You could have what you really want right now.
It starts by asking yourself a few questions:
- What do you really want out of life?
- What can you do today that will support your deepest passions?
- If you knew that your days were numbered, how much time would you want to spend on activities that achieve versus activities that connect?
- Since your days are numbered, are you sure you want to do what you’ve got planned for the rest of today?
Think about that last one for a few minutes before you answer. It could make all the difference in the world.
Photo Credit: Jens Leslie