Photo: Carl Kerridge
If one more person says to me, “You must be so busy,” I might scream.
I don’t remember the exact moment I chose to make this drastic shift in my life. I can say that this particular shift, while not meaning to, irrevocably changed my relationship with all aspects of my life as I knew it.
Yes that’s right, I voluntarily chose to remove the word “busy” from my vocabulary.
I just went cold turkey and completely stopped saying it. To this day, four years later, it’s not allowed as a part of my daily vernacular. It’s also not something I permit in my business or within my team.
You see, when we say we are “busy” we are not declaring anything really. Busy is not an emotion. But if I asked you “how do you feel when you are busy, what feelings/sensations would you describe?
Stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, tight, constricted, rushed, distracted, fast, careless… you get the picture.
When I teach workshops on Slow Living and we do this exercise, at the beginning I ask my students — “Has anyone said they were busy in the last 24 hours?” Hands shoot up in the air like being busy is a badge of honor. And 100% of the time everyone has said it within the span of “in the last 15 minutes” up to one week.
Students share the feelings that arise when they identify with “being busy”. I frantically try to keep up on my whiteboard as they begin to profess how they respond to “never being caught up” and “endless to-do list” lives both personally and professionally.
This exercise is almost always very eye opening for everyone in the room. I mean, if given the choice, would you want to feel this way? So then comes the “but I don’t have a choice.”
Ok, I get it. Living full sometimes over committed lives is a very real epidemic. And so I ask, what is the solution?
“I need more time. More hours in the day.”
I’m not buying it. Time, like anything else, is not a pill that you can take to buy you more happiness, sanity, free time in your schedule.
I offer this question/reflection: Do you feel that you spend your time wisely? Making the absolute most of every moment, connecting fully with whatever task or person that is in front of you?
This typically stops my students in their tracks. “Who ME? Look at how I am spending every minute of my day and take responsibility for it?”
Because it’s much easier to run around like a busy, crazy, stressed person, right?
DISCLAIMER: I am not advocating for lazy days in hammocks eating bonbons although to the mother of a three year old that sounds like heaven.
I can speak from my own experience. My life is my research and I always discover that whatever I am experimenting with, others are too. At 38 years old, my life is fuller than it has ever been. And yes, I absolutely experience feelings of anxiousness and overwhelm. I am a serial over-committer and there are moments when I am quite certain that nothing else will fit on my plate.
I have chosen a different approach to my schedule, to my time and to how I identify with it — and it completely changed my life.
When I stopped saying I was busy it wasn’t because I did not want to experience life at it’s fullest. Deep down inside I felt that “busy” was a copout for glazing over making a real, visceral and deep connection with my life in the moment. I mean, people ask all the time — “How are you doing?” so there are constant opportunities to really check in. Busy is an autopilot answer and if the feelings and sensations beneath “busy” are not productive for your health and wellbeing, you allow them to fester by not identifying them.
I believe we have a choice in how we feel. I believe we can desire and commit to alternative feelings such as: connected, free, content, focused, empowered, whole and loving and use these emotions as guide posts to support how we navigate our lives.
When I stopped saying I was busy it wasn’t because I don’t desire to run a successful company and be a great mother and wife and friend and a contributing member to my community. It meant I wanted to take back my time and my experience through creating more opportunities to live in the moment.
When I stopped saying I was busy it opened me up to a whole world, inside me, that was really hungry for my attention and it’s led me down a path of real and authentic healing.
When I stopped saying I was busy I invited space into my life to begin to create how I wanted to feel rather than let some social norm of “busy as an alternative definition to success” define it for me.
A lot has changed in the last four years — but all it took was one small step. A simple, practical and real step. I stopped saying I was busy.