I used to think being productive was my personal affliction but I now realize more and more, it is the disease of today in our fast paced goal oriented society. I am no anthropologist and so do not know how it is affecting the plains of Africa, but in our postmodern world, most of us suffer from working too hard.
We are compelled to fill every moment with productive activities, forgetting that we must have the balance of restoration, inspiration and space.
I had a rather large personal struggle recently that spurred on this reflection. It is not some brilliant eureka discovery. My personal experience with it has been an ongoing struggle and perhaps it can help you understand your own relationship with being busy.
Whether you are an energetic person or slow and methodical, you have a relationship with being productive, being successful, being useful, having a plan, taking action, being driven toward a goal and discomfort with idle time.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself unable to move forward with specific action items. Strangely, I walked around wondering what I should be doing next in regard to my classes, offerings, concerts and CD’s. I am perpetually filled to the brim with ideas and projects. Even a few weeks ago, I was swimming in “what next” not knowing which thing to choose because there are so many. I could not for the life of me prioritize the many balls I juggle.
I then began to wonder why am I trying to juggle so many balls? In my holistic and mindful self, I know there is divine timing and all will get done.
There is infinite space for all to manifest.
All is well.
But something had gotten under my skin that needed observation.
If I slowed down and experienced the pause, I started getting antsy. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get done what I need to get done.
If I am not being productive, a subterranean feeling of inadequacy emerges from the depths.
Taking much needed time to reflect and vision…to pause… can start to feel like “i’m not getting anything done” for many of us. We start to question and evaluate our performance. We spin out of control if we don’t have a plan. We feel guilty for taking a much needed rest.
What were my money making activities yesterday? Am I achieving my goals? What if the money doesn’t come in? Oh no, people are having so much success around me, but I am not. They are getting ahead and I am not. I have to work harder. I can’t take time off.
This is the load of bullshit we feed ourselves.
We suffer from comparisonitis. We suffer from lack of stillness. We live only for the future which will never be the present. We skirt feelings of inadequacy by keeping busy. We believe we have to work really hard. We don’t listen to our bodies. We aren’t in sync with nature. We lose sleep.
Part of this is built into our culture. Being productive has been hard wired into us.
Most of us believe to be productive, we must drive ourselves hard.
More is better…in every sense of the word.
We work hard to have more stuff as if more stuff will make us happy.
We work hard to have more prestige or fame as if this recognition will validate us.
We work hard to prove ourselves worthy.
We work hard to get to the top and be the best.
We work hard because we are afraid of losing our jobs to someone else who is willing to work harder.
We participate in an imaginary race in which there is no real winner.
We continue to run toward that ideal future where things will be better.
Boundaries compromised. Self ignored.
There is no end to this kind of cycle until we bring consciousness to living a fulfilling life in the present. It requires getting our priorities straight and not constantly living for the future.
A great article on this subject is An Antidote to the Age of Anxiety: Alan Watts on Happiness and How to Live with Presence.
British philosopher and writer, Alan Watts has wonderful insight on living in the present
” If to enjoy even an enjoyable present we must have the assurance of a happy future, we are “crying for the moon.” We have no such assurance. The best predictions are still matters of probability rather than certainty, and to the best of our knowledge every one of us is going to suffer and die. If, then, we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen, and where death comes at the end.”
As I pondered this article and my own predicament of feeling uneasy about not being productive, I began to feel something move inside that has been deep seated in my belief system. Things like not being worthy if I am not successful, and that my definition of success in itself is askew. I began to understand that things can come easily without having to work so very hard all of the time. I realized that working hard toward the future is not real security.
I understood that my priorities are to not work so hard and to do things with rest, work, and play in balance.
How do you reconcile this need to fill every second up with productivity?
Do you feel guilty for taking an hour to do nothing?
Is it hard for you to take a vacation?
Do you regularly schedule self care and time for yourself?
I would love to hear your thoughts as I sit on the beach this week.
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