Why Do We Glorify Busy? The Martyrdom That Is the Traditional Work Ethic

January 16, 2019

 

You were not born to be busy. You were born to be BOSS.

 

To live your life, not build someone else’s.

 

To sleep in, eat all the things, and play video games with your kids.

 

You were NOT born to go go go.

 

So why do we do it anyway? Why do we run around with our chests puffed out in pride over our towering to-do lists and full calendar of back to back appointments and activities? Why do we think this is cool?

 

A part of it is psychology. The impression social media has made on mankind is significant — we see other people making plans, going places, doing things, and subconsciously, the wheels start turning: “I’m not doing enough.”

 

It’s the shame game, only nobody has to point any fingers. We’re ashamed by default, on a level so covert we don’t even pick up on it most of the time.

 

So we bulk up our schedules. We do everything we can to feel busy, important, and relevant. To feel like we matter as much as everyone else does.

 

And in a society that slaps a badge of honour on the people who pull endless all-nighters and sit bleary eyed in traffic every morning, it’s hard not to feel the pressure to pack it all in.

 

We stand in defence of something better than busy — in defence of loving life.

 

We the nappers? We the moseyers? We the ‘Yes, I’ll stay for dessert’ers?

 

We’re sick of back to back meetings. We’re sick of being so busy and still managing to do so little. We’re taking back our lives, and we’re reclaiming our days and enjoying every moment we’d normally miss by perpetuating the idea that busy is better.

 

Busy Isn’t Better

 

Okay, enough grandstanding.

 

In all practicality, the numbers don’t lie — people are busier than ever, despite having more technology than ever to make their lives easier.

 

Because we glorify a constant state of motion, we’ve come to build our lives around it. The reality?

 

Busy is just busy.

 

It doesn’t equate to happier people, greater productivity, or much of anything — just more time spent bouncing from one activity to the next. This constant state of motion means that we're more disconnected than ever from our families and ourselves.

 

We’re so busy doing, we’ve forgotten completely how to just be.

 

Where We Got Hung up on Going Hard

 

The modern work ethic is still operating the way it does based on some pretty antiquated ideologies. The 40 hour work week, nose to the grindstone mentality, all of it stemmed from the Industrial Revolution, a time in which hours and efficiency were everything.

 

Coupled with the fallout of the Great Depression in the decades following North America’s new work ethic, a sense of manic desperation became attached to how we work. In the aftermath of one of the greatest economic catastrophes in American economic history, people clung to the idea that working tirelessly was the best way to build financial resilience.

 

It’s also how we trained our kids. Public schools in America adopted the model of assembly line style education for the sake of training factory workers, a model that is still used today. The result is a child who’s chronically busy and never proceeds without direction.

 

Yikes.

 

It’s churning out generation after generation of over-scheduled, over-stressed people who wind up going their entire lives without actually stopping long enough to enjoy them.

 

We’re taskmasters, and we’re passing those same values onto our kids. Our KIDS.

 

The tree-climbers and princess astronauts of the next generation are growing up with things like scheduling availability, and it’s kinda freaky to behold.

 

Don’t Get Caught on the Hamster Wheel

 

Nobody has bad intentions when they make themselves busy. For most people, the notion that we’re the ones doing it to ourselves isn’t just crazy, it’s insulting.

 

But ‘you are what you allow’ is alive and well here, and unless someone is holding you hostage and forcing you to go to a PTA meeting, it’s true: you’re only busy because you’ve designed your life to be that way.

 

So undo it. And don’t let guilt hold you back.

 

It’ll feel weird at first — you’ll have an overwhelming desire to drop your book, dump your glass of wine, and race back to your planner to set up a playdate for your kids.

 

STAHP.

 

Mosey more. Sit and think. Take a nap. But start to slow down, and most importantly: give yourself permission to enjoy it.

 

The New Glory

 

It’s time to revel in a new standard of excellence — the discipline to stop being so freaking busy.

 

Because the truth is, it doesn’t take self discipline for most people to stay busy. For the taskmasters and over-schedulers, the real challenge is in sitting still for five minutes.

 

Go ahead, try it — just try sitting there and doing literally nothing for five minutes.

 

It’s crazy hard, and that should really bug us.

 

It’s time to start rewiring our brains and training ourselves to believe that busy does NOT equal productive and that our self worth isn’t tied to what we can accomplish in a day.

 

Be a rebel to your own brain — have the audacity to nap, the nerve to sit and do a puzzle with your kid.

 

And for Bob’s sake, leave some free time in your days for the unexpected. You’ll never experience anything spontaneous and wonderful if every hour is premeditated and spoken for. Nothing more exciting than what you already have planned for yourself will ever be allowed happen if you keep trying to beat every hour of your day into submission with a schedule.

 

Live a little, loosen up, and lose an obligation or two. You have a date with yourself to get to.

 

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