This morning, I was working with a client who was using her to-do list as her life raft. Meaning, she was overcommitted and overwhelmed, and the only way she felt she could manage her week was by holding to her to-do list with dear life.
And while she said she wanted to work on “getting focus and clarity for how to get through the week” in our coaching session, I asked if we could hit the pause button on the to-do list and look under the rock that I suspected we were stepping over.
Or maybe I didn’t exactly ask.
Sometimes it can be helpful to be caught off guard. So, I paused and blurted, “What are you avoiding by keeping this pace?”
Our coaching took a very different tack from there.
I have heard some suggest that busyness has become a status symbol. The busier one is, the more essential (read: more highly valued) one must be. Interesting.
Along those lines, I suspect that busyness is symptomatic of the not-so-subtle cultural messages of “have more, be more.”
I also suspect that busyness comes with a significant price - disconnection from ourselves. Busyness creates disconnection and then keeps us from noticing that disconnection.
In fact, it keeps us from noticing a lot of things: relationships on auto-pilot, disillusionment at work, self-sabotaging behaviors, emotions we’d rather keep a lid on.
I’ve spent the past two years working intentionally to stay out of the busyness trap. Saying no to things, limiting what I sign my kids up for, keeping my commitments to a minimum. Even going as far as stepping off the magic carpet ride of suburban life - because it moved too fast for me, felt too competitive and didn’t honor some of my core values.
I know lots of people who do phenomenally well on that magic carpet ride. That’s why it’s a magic carpet ride: it’s different for each of us. I had to finally acknowledge that it wasn’t working for me.
If I hadn’t slowed my pace and been intentional about reconnecting with myself, I may not have even noticed. Here’s what I was avoiding: I am not thriving in this suburban life.
For someone else, it may be a less than happy work situation or a relationship that needs attention. Whatever the issue, keeping busy can keep us from noticing the discomfort or at the very least, give us a reason not to do anything about it.
How convenient busyness is - if it keeps us from having to face something uncomfortable.
My client this morning initially expressed surprise at my question, “What are you avoiding?” It required that she pause. And as she stopped and really looked, it became clearer to her, that there were deeper questions that she needed to explore rather than how best to execute her to-do list.
Sometimes taking that pause is, metaphorically speaking, the real life raft.
What is your relationship with being busy? What comes to the surface in the quiet moment of pausing?
Jessica Curtis is a professional coach who helps people cultivate intention and live from a place of meaning and authenticity. If you think you could benefit from working with Jessica or want to invite her to work with your group, reach out to start a conversation.