Sunday, September 14, 2014

Leaving Busy Behind

I'm leaving busy behind. I'm taking it out of my vocabulary, because busy is a trap. It is a clever con artist capable of stealing our time before we even notice that it's gone. We're so comfortable accepting busy as a passing phrase that we overlook its nature as an excuse for our bad habits. We've become so busy celebrating busy that even in its absence, we covet it. 

It's time we start to see busy as the glorified falsehood it is. Busy disguises itself as productivity. Busy tricks us into feeling important. Busy feeds our ego with distraction and happily sacrifices our well-being and relationships. When we default to busy, everything is an obligation. In the name of busy we skip meals, lose sleep, show up late or sometimes not at all. Little by little, busy demands too much; that we lose touch with those we love, with ourselves, with all the beautiful little nothings just waiting for us to turn them into great big somethings. Each time that we stop noticing, appreciating or listening, busy is winning. 

I know this because I used to be very, very busy. Until one day I wasn't. And what I found was that without busy I needed new ways to measure my productivity. I decided that instead of crossing endless tasks off of a list, I would measure productivity by the amount of new people and experiences I could encounter in each day, week and month. And before I knew it, the best things began happening to me. 

I started exploring new neighborhoods and I reconnected with my own. I've learned that each one has a unique story. For example, the streets of my neighborhood are named after famous Dutch authors, and there is actually one living right around the corner. I also learned that one of my neighbours is about to celebrate his 70th year living on our street, and that he's lived in his same apartment his entire life. By not avoiding conversations with people working in shops, restaurants, and parks, before I knew it, I was forging new friendships and making connections with people outside of my expat and industry bubble. I also found that I have the time to stay in touch with my friends and family back home. I'm talking to my sisters more than ever, and through the good graces of the Internet, I'm even learning Dutch with one of them.

Without busy, I suddenly realized that all of my time has always been my own and that the decision to be busy is a choice I'm no longer willing to make. Without busy, I am able to notice my own growth and I've learned to enjoy my own company. I'm finding that inspiration is all around me, that I'm more creative than I have been in years, and that I'm most happy when I'm making time to not only have ideas, but to work on them. Without busy, I'm finding my confidence and learning to embrace the world around me.

Without busy, I've made room for sincerity and presence. Instead of using busy as an excuse, I simply tell people what I am doing. This benefits me most of the time. By sharing more of my life with people, they feel more connected to me. Because of this, I'm also finding that generally people have something of value to add - either an idea, an additional solution or a recommendation. When I'm too short on time to do that, I'm just honest about why and I no longer give excuses for my bad behaviours if what's required is an apology.

From now on, instead of thinking about all of the things I have to do or places I need to get to, I'm going to make each day my classroom and view every person as my teacher. And I'm going to do so without the distraction of busy.

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