Sunday, June 14, 2009

Do You Belong to The Cult of Busy?

Most status symbols sit like trophies, close and conspicuous. Often they tarnish, wear out, need maintenance or lose significance as time moves on. Their purpose served, we give a fresh input of time, energy and money to refresh or replace them. Occasionally, it becomes all too apparent that the energy put in to attain and maintain comes at great cost to the possessor.

I’ve been thinking lately about a modern day status symbol that demands a major toll from those who have it. It’s the status symbol of ‘busy’. Busy fills its purpose easily enough. It beckons to all who will turn, “Look at me. See how busy I am. Look how committed I am.”

Did you ever notice how so many conversations over the years seem to be opened with some discussion of how busy someone is?  And I venture, at least for some of us; it betrays more than just the accepted lifestyle of the day.

My wife Alice is trying to collect all of the old public school readers from our early grades.  We were taught to read following the life of Dick, Jane and their dog Spot. Imagine their current discussion around the topic of being busy.

“Look, Jane” said Dick, “Spot is happy. Happy, happy Spot.”
“Dick” said Jane “Spot is happy you are here. You are not here much any more.”
“I am busy,” said Dick, “I am too busy to play with Spot.”
“Oh” said Jane, “See Spot now. Spot is sad. Sad, sad Spot.”
“I will play with Spot some day”, said Dick “The man next door says I must be very important. I work all the time.”
“Work, work,” said Jane, “You are very important.” “Work, work, work.”
Spot sat near the door and looked sad. Poor, sad, Spot.

There is a way to determine if you are grasping for this modern day status symbol. Try this test. Stop making any references to people about how busy you are for the next month. No hints, and no dragging yourself around. As far as you are able, let no one see or know the hours you put in.

Notice your personal reaction to this. If you find it a struggle not to tell others about it, you may have been using your attachment to this posture as a prop for something else that is going on.

Much better you get your energy from knowing how valuable you are without any outside prop to hold it up. Busy is one thing, but busy as a bragging point to hold up a sagging view of yourself is another. Clear the clutter and make a commitment to get rid of this status symbol from your life. It’s one you can do without.

Get your energy from doing excellent work in a satisfying time and fashion. Get your energy from finding smarter and more effective ways to move your business, community service or life, forward. Take the pressure off everyone around you, for whom you set a surreal pace. This isn’t about them. It’s about you. Admit it and deal with it by developing a better approach to life and work.

Wouldn’t it be something to let others pay homage to the cult of busy while you get some time to play with Spot? It sounds more balanced, effective and visionary to me. And I’ll bet Jane or Dick will go along with the idea too.

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