Busyness is worn as a badge of honor these days. It’s the medal everyone now wants to win along with the award for who got the least amount of sleep. Do a quick mental check and see if you’ve fallen into that trap or know someone who’s there now. Been there done that? I know I have.
Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism, calls it the disease of non-essentialism. Non-essentialism is the idea that if you can fit it all in then you can have it all. In his podcast interview with Michael Hyatt, he lists the three main generational sources that have given rise to that notion. These have persisted, integrated over time and have now culminated in this affliction that’s killing us:
- Industrial Revolution- The notion of factory and belief that f you can just create a system that’s fast and efficient enough, you can have…….whatever.
- Post World War II consumerism– Greg calls it the panem et circenses, which is Latin for bread and circuses. Perfectly understandable for the time: people were rebounding from being on the brink of a world-wide, dark abyss into a world of plenty and financial success. The problem is that the party never ended and nothing was moderated…it just got more intense.
- Hyper-connection– Brace yourself: this phase occurred in the last 10yrs. That’s right, around 2005. I thought I was tech-savvy having a flip-phone back then. Now many of us carry around smart devices that have exponentially more computing power than what was used to put people on the moon! We no longer just have information overload, but opinion overload as well. In addition to indiscriminately giving people permission into our lives without even realizing it, our mental space and attention get trespassed on often (think of your e-mail in-box here).
So what’s the cure?
- Stop and create some space- take a 1/2 a day or whatever you need to get clear on what’s important to you, who you are, who you want to become, where you’re going and where you want to end up. That’s regularly scheduled space. The other kind of space you need is impromptu “pause” space for decision making. That is, putting a pause between any stimulus that makes a demand of you and how you respond to it. From a practical standpoint, this is where most of us get in trouble. We have a hard time saying “No” because we really don’t know what our powerful “Yes” should be.
- Start thinking differently. No, you can’t have it all so be intentional about the trade-off. Don’t kid yourself; everything costs you something and involves a trade-off of some sort. Although intentionally choosing which trade-offs to make is hard, it’s easier if you’ve done a good job in step 1 above. That’s because you’ll be in a position to decide according to your priorities. Then, the powerful “why” that undergirds your priorities will not only help you say “Yes” or “No”, but it’ll help pull you along as well.
- Lather, rinse and repeat the above regularly. My 1 hour morning ritual first thing in the morning and 1/2 day thinking time once month are minimums for me.
So what’s the cost (of not doing it)?
Most likely, ending up with more regrets in your life than you want. Bonnie Ware found that in her work with the dying, their top two regrets were:
- Living a life that others expected of them rather than living out what they felt called to do in their inner most being.
- Spending too much time at work and not enough with family and those that mattered most. In a word: self-imposed relationship poverty. (ok, that one stings me)
So what is it you need to do right now in order to put yourself on the path to getting the life you want? A life, that at the end of it, will be full of satisfaction and few regrets?
You can listen to the entire podcast episode Disciplined Pursuit of Less to hear the whole thing and get more detail. I think the show tag-line is appropriate to quote here: “Your life is a gift. Do what matters”