Reasons for busyness and how to overcome compulsive doing

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With the advent of modern conveniences like dishwashers and other household time savers, pundits predicted we’d have more leisure time on our hands. Hence, less busyness.

But, since then we’ve only become busier and leisure time more scarce. People work longer hours and take fewer vacation days. And technology has only increased our capacity to work longer hours and remotely.

Some say our insistence on overworking comes from a desire for status. Saying you’re busy indicates you’re important and sought-after in this world.

While that may be true, I believe busyness has a deeper purpose. It distracts us from the truth that our lives are not where we want them to be.

Busyness distracts us from the truth that our lives are not where we want them to be. Click To Tweet

I’ve already written about my belief that working harder doesn’t reap greater rewards. We have the 4-hour work week to prove that longer hours do not always produce success.

So why have we insisted on staying busy in spite of the time-saving devices and evidence that it doesn’t correlate with success?

1. We’re afraid to stop our busyness

Have you noticed the slight shame you feel when someone asks what you’re doing today and you say, “not much”. Even in the middle of a pandemic?

That’s society’s way of stopping you from taking time to go within and find out what lights you up. Even after all the work I’ve done to stop mindless busyness, I feel guilty rather than proud when someone asks if I’m busy and I say “no”.

2. We don’t know our innate worth

You may have been raised in a family that valued hard work. People were not loved for who they were but what they did.

You may have been programmed to believe that only lazy people take breaks or all their vacation days. And you think “lazy” is the worst thing a person can be.

This fear of appearing less than hard-working keeps you slogging away. Even when the extra work fails to deliver additional results or income.

3. There’s a payoff for busyness

Have you noticed when you complete a task or reach a goal you feel a celebratory rush? But it doesn’t last so you jump back on the treadmill towards the next goal.

It’s important to have goals for how you feel apart from any achievement. Let’s challenge the belief that feeling good only comes as a reward for reaching a target.


How to stop being so busy

Schedule down time into your calendar. Actually pencil in time for yourself where you’ll do self care activities or absolutely nothing.

Acknowledge your emotions. We use busyness as a distraction from negative feelings. But those feelings carry important information about our lives. They tell us what we need and what to change.

We use busyness as a distraction from negative feelings. But those feelings carry important information about what needs to change. Click To Tweet

Learn to sit still. Set a timer and let your thoughts roam. Or journal for ten minutes. Give yourself the time and space to simply sit alone and let yourself be.

You’ll be amazed at what comes up. Time alone to let your thoughts and feelings free can reveal huge gaps between your true desires and how you’re living life.

Connect with spirit. For me, that’s God. For you, it might be a higher power or something else that connects you to a source beyond yourself.

You can find this connection in nature, reading the Bible, prayer and meditation. It’s a reminder there’s something bigger than you, you’re not alone, and all this worldly scrambling is less important than we think.

Why we need recognition and how to get it from the right places

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As someone growing her readership, I often receive advice to guest post on larger “platforms” to increase my recognition. You can’t keep showing up for just your own readers and expect to get ahead, they say.

While I have provided guest content when it felt right to me, something holds me back from going hard at seeking guest spots. That may change, but for now I prefer to focus on my readers.

The recognition I desire comes from my audience and those who have trusted me with their email address. I’m more interested in writing something that makes you open and read my emails, than capturing a guest spot on HuffPost.

I’m not writing this to flatter you, but to introduce my topic today which is about recognition. What it means, why it’s important to us, and how it differs from person to person.

It seems obvious that recognition is a basic human need. But it’s important to look at ourselves and know from whom we desire that recognition. So we’re not seeking it in all the wrong places.

What is recognition?

It’s the feeling of wanting to be seen and known. That could come from your husband and family or your boss at work. It doesn’t mean you want to be famous.

I’ve read we crave recognition most from the people we serve. That’s why a compliment from a customer can mean more than one from your manager.

If you’re a mom, nothing feels better than hearing your kids call you a good mom. Other people can praise your parenting all day, but it’s special when the kids acknowledge you this way.

Same when other women call you pretty but you never hear a man say it. This may not pass the PC test, but it’s something many women experience, myself included.

Why do we need it?


You may have convinced yourself you don’t need this type of outside affirmation. And it is better to get the lion’s share of our motivation from within. But we all need a little appreciation and tend to wilt and wither without it.

As a child, you may have felt discouraged from flexing your talents for others to see. You learned to avoid getting too big for your britches. You dimmed your light to become more acceptable to whoever fed you those lies.

When you tell yourself recognition doesn’t matter, cognitive dissonance sets in. This leads to simmering resentment and the martyr syndrome common to mothers of previous generations.

When you tell yourself recognition doesn't matter, it leads to resentment and martyr syndrome. Click To Tweet

We are not made to give selflessly without any acknowledgment of our contributions. When we are recognized by those we serve, we stand a little taller and shine a little brighter.

Ultimately, recognition shows us we’re not alone. As social animals, human beings crave connection with others. Recognition provides proof that we matter and have a purpose that influences others.

What does recognition mean to you?

How monumental experiences change us in ways nothing else can

monumental experiences
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Have you ever known or heard of people whose lives were transformed by monumental experiences? A brush with death, for instance, sends them running after their dreams full-tilt, unwilling to settle for anything less.

I’ve known people who have emerged from near-fatal car accidents and completely changed their lives. One abandoned her career trajectory to start a new business. And, best of all, she charged what she was worth.

You don’t need to escape death to change your life for the better, though. Here are 5 other monumental experiences that render our old lives unrecognizable.

1. Divorce

They say divorce is the hardest thing a person can go through, short of losing someone through death. Some say it feels like a death, the loss is so extreme.

When we go through something as hard as divorce, it gives us new courage. We decide to pursue things we never did because we feared what people would think.

A divorce exposes you to all kinds of public scrutiny. You suddenly realize you can survive the disapproval of others. Heck, you can even thrive in the face of it.

A divorce exposes you to all kinds of public scrutiny. You realize you can survive the disapproval of others. Click To Tweet

You likely experience abandonment from at least a few of your friends. You seek out new friends more aligned with your values.

Surviving this painful process gives you courage to pursue passions that laid dormant during your unhappy marriage.

2. Losing a loved one

So much beauty has come out of the ashes of untimely deaths. For example, the mother of a boy whom a drunk driver killed, started Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

The organization has saved thousands of lives with its roadside sobriety spot checks. These have become part of our holiday routine and bring us together in a shared desire to keep others safe.

Countless other foundations have sprung up in the name of lost loved ones. The mothers of these lost souls abandon careers to take up new roles they never imagined themselves in.

3. Moving

monumental experiences

Moving to a new region or country is one of those monumental experiences that can spur you to change everything. That’s because, suddenly, your life is a clean slate.

Nobody knows you or your history and that brings tremendous freedom. Now, you can be more intentional about friendships and let go of those that only survived due to proximity.

Moving can spur you to change everything. Nobody knows you or your history and that brings tremendous freedom. Click To Tweet

You find freedom in the distance from family members. No more obligatory visits or unwanted intrusions on your life.

Whether they’re toxic or not, a little distance from family can help you re-discover yourself. Who are you without the influence of those who’ve known you forever?

4. Job loss

Losing a job can prompt you to start that business you’ve always dreamed about. It can make you more authentic and care less what people think.

You no longer have to wear a mask to fit into the culture at work. Nor do you have to tolerate the workplace bully.

You might realize for the first time that money doesn’t equal happiness. You want to make up for all that lost time you traded for a regular paycheck. That makes you more intentional about how you spend your time now.

5. Um, a pandemic

We won’t step around the elephant in the room, the worldwide pandemic. Among monumental experiences, this one ranks high.

The pandemic has brought unspeakable losses, both in life and finances. We’ve been forced to look at life differently, and accept things we never thought we’d have to tolerate.

We’ve seen how much humans can stand and how resilient we are. Without our distractions and routines, we’ve been forced to get quiet and look within.

That’s forced some of us to take stock of who we are and what matters to us. Have we been living life authentically? In some cases, that introspection has led to the very monumental experiences discussed above.

How to find meaning in life and why it matters more than pleasure

meaning in life

Years ago, I attended a personal growth seminar called Landmark. After two days of intense training, the meeting wrapped up with the proclamation that there’s no meaning in life.

None of it matters, the facilitator proclaimed, and I knew he was wrong. The idea that nothing in life carries any meaning stood contrary to everything I believed.

Later on, I read a book by Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, which strengthened my belief that meaning in life is, in fact, our primary source of happiness.

Pursuing pleasure does not make you happy. Finding meaning does. Click To Tweet

Contrary to what you’d expect, pursuing pleasure does not make you happy. Finding meaning does.

That’s why so many people who achieve happiness goals are shocked to discover they feel empty and unfulfilled.

As Frankl demonstrated in his book, finding meaning in life can keep you alive in dire circumstances.

When others give up, your decision to find meaning in your suffering will enhance your will to survive.

When other outlets aren't available, suffering becomes an opportunity to grow. Click To Tweet

Ideally, we’ll find meaning in life through the pursuit of goals or expressing ourselves creatively. But, when those outlets aren’t available, suffering becomes an opportunity to grow.

“What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

Victor Emil Frankl

Without meaning, people fill their God-shaped hole with the pursuit of pleasure. They wrongly believe this will make them happy.

But how could pursuing happiness not make you happy? Because we’re not wired to feel fulfilled by pleasure without meaning.

That’s why addictions happen. Think about alcohol and drug dependence, pornography, or anything else people use to make themselves feel better.

Why meaning in life promotes long-term happiness

Often, we pursue pleasure to distract us from our suffering. Drinking too much wine and other coping mechanisms will numb you from pain in the short term.

But that pain is a sign something needs to change in your life. Therefore, those so-called pleasures prevent you from doing the work to make your life better.

When you medicate symptoms instead of looking for a cure, you prevent your life from improving. Click To Tweet

In the long term this decreases your happiness. When you medicate symptoms instead of looking for a cure, you prevent your life from improving.

Valuing meaning in life tends to correlate with a future filled with more health and happiness than the present.

Research shows people who have meaning in life and believe it matters do better in these five ways:

1. lower risk of divorce and living alone

2. increased social and cultural connections

3. lower rates of chronic illness and depression

4. less obesity and more physical activity

5. healthier eating and exercise habits

So, how do we find meaning in life? Here are five ideas that come to mind, but there are many more:

1. Thinking about and serving others.

2. Leading a healthy lifestyle with good diet and exercise.

3. Positive social connections.

4. Gratitude.

5. Dreaming about a brighter future (and taking steps to make it happen).

Sadness, anger are important and nothing to be ashamed of

feeling down

Have you ever felt ashamed of your sadness? Like, when you feel low but force yourself to look on the bright side?

You shouldn’t feel ashamed to admit when you’re unhappy. It’s natural for feelings to ebb and flow.

I loved the movie Inside Out, a Disney film my kids and I went to see years ago. It acknowledged the importance of expressing all our emotions.

And rather than labeling them good or bad, they all had a job to do.

It turned out Sadness had the most important job of all. She showed up when the protagonist needed help and made sure she got it.

In my post on emotional neglect, I touched on the tendency to fear so-called negative emotions. To label them good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable.

I will expand on that concept here and describe the purpose of these emotions. 4 reasons to embrace rather than fear anger and sadness.

4 reasons to embrace anger

sadness mental health

1. Anger that manages to stay under wraps will eventually cause physical illness.

I read about monks who refused to acknowledge their anger and showed higher rates of diabetes. This, despite the fact their diets were healthier than average.

So, stuffed anger can be a good deal more dangerous than expressed rage.

2. Anger helps you know when something is not working.

It might be that you are being mistreated and disrespected. You might need to remove yourself from the situation.

Or take a serious look at what needs to change in your life so you are treated the way you deserve.

3. Anger can help you see where you have internal work to do.

For instance, if you feel angry at being asked to do something. It could be that you are uncomfortable setting boundaries.

Anger at the person asking is masking your guilt around setting boundaries. So, now you know what you need to work on.

4. Anger can also act as a signal for others to stay away from you.

That way you have space and time to work out your feelings without hurting anyone.

4 reasons to embrace sadness

1. Suppressing sadness can have the counter-intuitive effect of making you more depressed.

Refusing to acknowledge sadness takes away the opportunity to deal with things that might be causing the pain. This keeps you feeling stuck and hopeless.

2. Sadness helps you slow down and look at a problem.

When felt and processed it can lead to personal growth and healthy change. When it’s denied, however, things stay the same and that may not be a good thing.

sadness personal growth

3. When acknowledged, sadness gives us an opportunity to turn inward.

Not in a selfish way but in an honest way. It says, things are not okay and we need to find out why. It helps us connect with ourselves.

4. It’s also a time to draw near to God.

I’ve never felt closer to my savior then during periods of intense sadness.

You might feel scared to surrender to your sadness because you fear where it will take you. In my experience, it’s never as bad as you think it will be.

(Unless you’re dealing with depression which is a different issue and not covered here.)

When I first started to allow myself time to sink into sadness I assumed it would put me out for days. Truth is, even the most intense feeling of sadness would see me recover in less than a day.

I’m sure my dependence on God has a lot to do with that manageable time frame. It’s in my weakness His strength is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Cultural importance of sadness and anger

These so-called negative emotions of anger and sadness have benefits beyond our personal lives. Famous paintings like The Scream have depended on their artist’s lower moods for their inspiration.

When Munch painted his masterpiece, his sister had been committed to an insane asylum. He said the inspiration for the work came from a scream he heard in nature while taking a walk during this hard time.

Handel wrote his most famous composition Messiah only after grappling with dark feelings. Beethoven’s most inspiring symphonies (including the Fifth) came out of his sadness.

Virginia Woolf, John Keats, and Vincent Van Gogh also produced their finest creations while struggling emotionally.