I recently met with a capable and driven executive and asked him, “How are you?” He gave me a rapid-fire answer of all of the things he was doing: travelling, business updates, career changes and his children’s innumerable activities. It sounded like an intense but satisfying life.
Then I asked him again, “How are you really?” And the moment I did, he became emotional and the reality of his life just flooded out of him: his stress, his frustration of trying to juggle it all, his sense that he had no time to really think, or play with his children or enjoy any of it. The summary is this: his schedule was always filled but his life wasn’t fulfilled at all.
We’ve been sold on a heroic ideal of the uber-man and super-women who kill themselves saying yes to everyone, sleeping four hours a night and straining to fit everything in. How often have you heard people say, “I am so busy right now!” owning the sentiment like some sort of a badge of honour.
But it’s a bogus badge of honor. It suffocates our ability to think, to be free and creative. It holds otherwise hard working, capable people back from our highest contribution. Here are a few of the myths and opposing truths about busy-ness that could be holding you back:
Busy Myth 1: “If I can fit it in, I should fit it in.”
Truth: Fulfilled people are absurdly selective.
Busy Myth 2: When I’m all fired up, I only need four hours sleep a night.
Truth: Very successful people rest well so they can be at peak performance.
Busy Myth 3: Play is an additional benefit, I don’t really need it.
Truth: Happy people see play as essential for wellbeing and creativity.
Busy Myth 4: I thrive on stress.
Truth: Burn out is a massive reality in today’s fast paced world. Things that truly motivate you shouldn’t be stressful. If you are stressed, your strategy needs to change.
Busy Myth 5: I’ll find time later to do the things I want.
Truth: The most dangerous risk of all: The risk of spending your life not doing what you want, on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.
On realising that he had the power to choose to not do what everyone else around him was telling him to do, my client’s eye brightened. With his badge of busy-ness removed, he left our conversation with a different agenda. Perhaps he went home and hugged his kids or took his wife out for dinner, I don’t know, but what I do know is that he turned his phone off, closed his lap top and decided to take control, and he felt fantastic.