Busyness vs. Deliberateness

There are lots of thoughts out there about the pros and cons of busyness. For tens of thousands of years, since people first got together to form tribes and then societies, we have been trying to keep ourselves busy. We made up rules, created laws, and drafted policies to facilitate a sense of productivity, organization and civility. We philosophized and theorized, debated and got to working. All in the name of “the greater good.”

All that is fine, arguably, even necessary. And so we have professionals to do all those things, to validate busyness. Politicians to decide how society runs and all other professions fall in line to accommodate this common vision of the world, to buy into the beautiful lie. But busyness for its own sake has demonizing effects. Busyness as a goal offers pitfalls and masks a deeper pain, like regret and despair.

Novelist, poet and essayist May Sarton’s thought on this:

Does anything in nature despair except man? An animal with a foot caught in a trap does not seem to despair. It is too busy trying to survive. It is all closed in, to a kind of still, intense waiting. Is this a key? Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.

There is an alternative to busyness. In fact, busyness would be more of a result of this method. And that is to live deliberately. To do so requires actively choosing, making decisions, and not compromising that position. When we choose, we own it. It is our responsibility. We are accountable. When we live deliberately, attentively and mindfully, busyness will follow naturally. The difference is, it will be on our terms.

Here’s a nice interview between Leo Babauta of Zen Habits and Jonathan Fields.