Busy Signal

Busy Signal

ByGroovy Green Oct 31, 2006

I came across a group of essays on the web, some more controversial than others (I tend not to touch religion with a ten foot pole while blogging), but most very inspiring. It is worth poking around the site and gleaning a bit of knowledge or inspiration for yourself.

This essay, by John O. Andersen, is called The Cost of Chronic Busyness – here is an exerpt:

When chronically busy, I have less time for my own life scripting. So I fall back into the “default mode,” that is, let popular opinion do the scripting. This usually means allowing others’ demands to fill up my schedule. In no time I’m up to my eyeballs in activities.

Too much of this and I feel as if I’m running away from myself. I may be accepted as “one of the boys,” but inside, I’m killing off the real me; the guy who has his own opinions and enjoys time alone. Ironically, when I have time to myself for reflection, the outside world tends to appreciate my contributions more.

In other words, the more I’m myself rather than someone else, the more use I am to others. Maybe this is because people have an innate sense to distinguish between those who act authentically and those who act like clones. The human spirit thrives on sincerity, genuineness and self-disclosure.

This essay, and the incredibly cheesy Adam Sandler rental touched on a thought that has been drifting around my chronically busy head lately. You see, in the movie, Adam Sandler’s character has the ability to fast forward through boring, or stressful times in his life to “get to the good stuff.” When he is in fast forward, his body is making the relevant answers and doing the needed tasks for him – in a zombie-like state.

I think that we all tend to fall back on this “default mode”, as Mr. Andersen put it, when we become overwhelmed in our daily life. We “space out” during conversations or when in important meetings or lectures. We need to “decompress” when we get home from work, because we’ve had a busy day. How many times have you jumped in the car, mind full of busy thoughts and the next thing you know you’ve arrived at your destination?

Or, looking at a calendar saying to someone, “I can’t believe that it’s November already.”

Our brain has a semi-efficient “auto-pilot” that we engage (in my opinion) way too often.

Mr. Andersen starts his essay with something I firmly believe:

To feel creative, I need lots of unscheduled time. These time chunks are usually early in the morning, or in the evenings after supper. Too many outside commitments destroy that precious unscheduled time. When I don’t have to rush out the door, I seem to hear my children better.

I’ll add to that by say there are sometimes too many internal commitments as well. “My show is on at 8, so I have to wrap this (activity) up.” I need to get a blog post in this afternoon before making dinner, etc. Managing these internal and external demands can be overwhelming, and send us right back into auto pilot.

In modern society, we are just waiting to “get to the good stuff”: the next weekend, the next vacation, the next holiday. Meanwhile life is passing us by.

The solution can be summed up in a quote from Walden by Henry David Thoreau,

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” 1854

In the Northeast, and in much of the United States, we are given a gift each year. The gift is the season of winter. This time of year allows us to settle down a little bit. The cold air and snow reduces the running around, and gives us more time at home. After the clocks turn back to standard time, night falls pretty early, and affords some time to spend with our loved ones in the evening.

I am pledging to myself to live more deliberately this fall and winter. Join me in taking your life off auto pilot. Reduce the number of balls that you are struggling to keep in the air. Actively listen to love ones and friends. Cook a great meal for dinner, and linger long over the dishes instead of rushing to clean up. Shut the TV off, leave your internet reading for another day. Go to bed early before your tired, take a chance and share your dreams with your partner or spouse. Take a bath.

Take a deep — breath –, and turn off the busy signal.