How many times this week have you been asked, “How are you?” and have responded with all too familiar, “Busy!”
Whatever happened to the pat answer, “Fine?”
Our culture has become ridiculously busy and as a consequence many of us suffer from what can be referred to as an addiction to busyness.
We may FEEL time poor and stressed out. But here’s the kicker. For many of us, we are not too busy simply because we feel societal pressure or need better time management. It is because we are addicted to being busy. Like all addicts, we are not crazy about the effects on our health, performance and well-being. But we like the “high” that being busy gives us.
Let me share with you four reasons why this addiction, this “too busy addiction”, is so powerful and even better than crack.
1. There’s a feel good chemical hit when we get stuff done.
On the outside we feel that we are “at our best” when we’re busiest, but the truth is that our brain is rewarding our busyness with lovely ongoing dopamine hits (one of our brain’s feel good chemicals.) That way our brain works is that more times we succeed at something, the longer the brain stores the information that allowed you to do so well in the first place. So with each success, we get a dopamine hit that flows into brain’s reward pathway (pleasure, learning, motivation) which gives us a greater ability AND motivation to do even more.
2. It provides a wonderful illusion of control.
Iyanla VanZant calls control “the number one human addiction.” When we feel like we’re in control, it adds the high we get from getting stuff done. If I have anxiety about money, world politics, my children or a whole host of other things I have no control over, I can reduce the experience of it by getting busy. I may not be able to solve global terrorism or the news of yet another shooting, but I can get these 10 to 20 things checked off my to-do list.
3. It’s a sure-fire self-protection technique that consistently works.
In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown writes about numbing behaviors that we use as armor against vulnerability. And when we are too busy is a form of numbing. She writes, “One of the most universal numbing strategies is what I call crazy-busy. I often say that when they start having 12-step meetings for busy-aholics, they’ll need to rent out football stadiums. We are a culture of people who’ve bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us.”
4. No one judges you for your addiction. It’s a badge of honor.
Women’s health expert and new York Times best-selling author Dr. Christiane Northrup writes, “Western society puts a high value on being busy. We are conditioned to believe that being busy equates to being good, worthy, and successful. In our world today, we don’t need to feel one bit of shame over how we make the choice to numb over feel or accomplish over connect because the busier we are, somehow others see us as more valuable and worthwhile…no matter what it does to our hearts and souls over the long-run.”
If you are reading this article, there is good chance that there is a part of you that is waking up to the reality is that as good as it can feel to be too busy, there is a definite shadow aspect. You know your crazy-busyness is making you feel burnt out and it is having an impact on your health and happiness. Bottomline: You are starting to see that being too busy simply isn’t working anymore and you want a solution.
While I can give you all of those pat suggestions about saying no, reducing your workload, playing like a child, the best they can offer you is a moment of relief because let’s face it…it’s an addiction. It is like telling an alcoholic to take a nice bubble bath or relaxing on the beach instead of reaching for that hidden bottle on the top shelf of the linen closet.
If you really want to overcome your busy addiction, you have to accept that it really is an addiction. From that place of acceptance you can then surrender your addiction to your higher power because there’s a very good reason why you have selected this method as a way to self-protect that makes a lot of sense.
If you want to transform your life and be a person of peace and joy that would naturally choose to relax on the back patio at the end of the day watching the sunset with your loved ones instead of trying to get that one last email in, you have to get completely serious about not just focusing on changing the self-protecting behavior of being too busy but what drove you to create this style of relating in the first place which is painful. Underneath the busyness, performance and perfection lives a painful wound and painful myth that you believe in your heart about who you are and that your value is inextricably linked to what you do.
What if you could learn to believe in your heart that your worth has nothing to do with what you accomplish? What if you could rest in a deeper truth you are treasured human being (NOT human doing)?
If you can imagine this shift, then you have taken your first step towards greater freedom.
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