No matter how much I do, it feels that it’s not enough. What’s that about? Since coming back in 2012 to live in London having spent some years away in California, it has struck me how busy people are here. They call it the rat race. What do we think about this race? How can we intentionally choose to be in or out of it?
In my attempts to amuse myself I sometimes intentionally act in a counter cultural way. So in the midst of this race I’ve been seeking out places to go on ‘retreat’ and deliberately creating blocks of time to waste. Oh how the guilt and shame tries to pile it on, trying to convince me that I’m not being productive unless I am doing, doing something, producing something, creating or arranging something. But my counter cultural mind keeps fighting back with thoughts such as you are a human being not a human doing.
5 weeks after returning from my recent USA trip to this speedy race, I catch a cold and find myself strangely relieved as this slows the pace, helping me to stop and think and write this blog.
All the comments I have heard over this past month are ringing in my ears: ‘I’m just so busy’ ‘So sorry I did not return your call it’s just been so busy’, ‘I have just had so much on’, ‘It’s been mad!’, ‘I’m just so tired’. ‘It will all calm down….in a few months’. Yep! All typical signs of being caught up in the whirl.
Are you too busy? Are you choosing to be busy or reacting to things that have chosen you?
It’s so easy to get busy, but busyness is not always healthy. Here are some observations of excuses I’ve noticed, to fill our calendars stopping us from living strategic and purposeful lives and robbing us from peace.
- We agree to commitments because it feels good to be needed. This one is a common one, for me when I got my first few bookings to speak and run some of my coaching workshops I was excited and packed in lots of bookings. Within 6 months I was quite burnt out and had to re-think my strategy. It could be that you are a mum who responds to your children without thinking, or that you accept invitations or commitments to do work just because it feels good to be needed, but it is not necessarily healthy for you. It’s not wrong to want to be needed but satisfying this need to be needed cannot run your life.
- We over commit to things we feel a duty to do. Some people are trapped in this one. It can be following through on things you have already committed to or living out values close to your heart. Both are of course noble and wonderful… but sometimes duty overrides healthy boundaries and excessive busyness then burn out results. For me I have sometimes overstretched myself looking after loved ones. If you re someone who has a high respect for duty, be careful that you have worked out your parameters and boundaries, so that just like in the airplane when they instruct you to first put on your own oxygen mask before helping others, you do the equivalent of this in your life .
- I need the money! – This one is a big one! What about the mortgage, financial commitments etc.? My answer to this one is that there are many ways of making money. If you are caught in one that causes you stress and keeps you too busy, it’s time to reevaluate. You may have to suffer some financial loss for a short time while you re-assess and figure out the answers, but choosing to be too busy making money is not a healthy long term sustainable strategy.
- I’m afraid to stop and face how I feel. This one is where we use busyness to help suppress, and keep negative feelings buried. We may all have used this at some point in our life. I know I have. It’s not the best coping strategy, pain will come out somewhere along the way. My check now is that if I have a busy season and then feel slight panic in stopping, I know I need to stop and take time to process. Stopping or slowing down should not bring you a feeling of panic or fear, if it does there’s something wrong.
- But this opportunity won’t come again! This is an orphan spirit. What you are in fact saying is: ‘grab, grab grab, because my father is supplying my needs today but he may not tomorrow. This could be as good as it gets’ I have learnt that saying no to good opportunities is wonderfully freeing and a sign of maturity and trust in The Lord and His ability to provide always.
- Finally, this one: ‘I’m just in a busy season’. The problem is that sometimes a few months of excessive busyness turns into a year which turns into a few years. Then it’s a question of, ‘we just have to put the kids through university’, then a few years’ turns into 10 then 20 and before you know it you’ve lived a whole life of rushing around. So, what’s the problem with this then?
The problem with any of these is that:- ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’ (Isaiah 30:15)
I have this conviction that more happens when we rest. If you feel you are caught in a trap with any of these stop, take a break, take some time to yourself, find your salvation and figure out your own winning strategy with The Lord.