Woman preparing a list in post-it

There is something about the way we are living that just doesn’t seem to be working. I am talking about the constant sense of frenzy, chaos and overwhelm in which we live. We move through life at warp speed, searching for an elixir for what ails us. Yet what ails us, for the most part, does not relate to what is happening around us, but rather what is happening within us.

In order to address, this we must bring awareness to how we are living and being. Let’s begin by looking at it from what you say about time [which reflects how you feel about time]. One way to distinguish your relationship with time is in the language you use to describe it. In my seminars, I have asked thousands of people, “What do you most often say about time?” The almost immediate answer is, “I don’t have enough!” We live with such a feeling of scarcity regarding time but the more you relate to time as a resource or in fact, an opportunity, the more you will make conscious choices about what to do with this resource.

You’ve got to see to what degree you are playing the “I’m so busy” game. Many people find a sense of importance and self-esteem in how much they have going on; how many activities they do; or  how much their kids are doing. Where does it end? The busier you are, the more important you may feel; but as you well know, the “busyness” is draining the life out of you. Chances are you don’t know what to do about it. The resolution to this stress is to create meaning in what you are doing.

Finding meaning

Lack of meaning is a cultural epidemic. Negotiating the tension between cultural expectations and the cry of your heart requires tenacious resiliency. My client, Colette, was a perfect example of this. She was a successful corporate executive, but hated the culture in which she was operating. She wanted to leave her job to begin teaching yoga as she had been a trained instructor but never pursued that as a career. She longed to help people connect more deeply with their essence and experience wellness.

Colette was afraid of what people would think of her if she gave up her ambitions in the corporate world, not to mention her high-paying job, to pursue something that seemed “less successful” in the eyes of her colleagues, family and friends. She also knew that she enjoyed the stimulation of the corporate world—she just didn’t enjoy her toxic workplace. In fact, if she could find a way to bring wellness to corporate America, she felt she would have landed on her true calling.

After about nine months of coaching and support, that is just what Colette did. She found a new job as a corporate wellness trainer, where she was able to combine her love of yoga, nutrition, stress-reduction, communication enhancement and wellness, while doing all this work inside of a corporate setting. She was still being paid well and enjoying the camaraderie and stimulation of the workplace she enjoyed and yet she followed her heart’s calling to do what was aligned with her values and passions.

Busy versus Productive

What ends up missing is not time to do more, but time to feel more. What is missing is meaningful time.

Man having loads of work
Being busy feels overwhelming while being productive feels energetic

Many people spend their lives being busy to avoid delivering on who they really are. Following your heart and pursuing your true calling, like Colette did, takes tremendous courage. It requires a willingness to go against the grain of what our cultural norms tell us we are “supposed to be doing”.

There is a tremendous distinction between being busy and being productive; two words that reflect similar notions but are energetically divergent. How do you feel when you say you are busy or you hear others say this to you? Most often, when I ask people that question, the reply is that ‘busy’ feels chaotic, frantic, disorganised, pressured. People who report that they are chronically busy most often say that they start on many things, but finish very little.

I use the notion of being productive in a whole different way. The word ‘productive’ indicates that things are actually getting accomplished. My definition of productive is that you are clearly and consistently taking ground on what is important to you, producing an intended outcome that you desire and for which you find meaning.

A man approached me after my seminar and told me that he had spent a year sailing with his family. He said that during that year he was constantly doing things: reading charts, adjusting sails, checking navigation and weather patterns; but he never once felt that he was ‘busy’ like he does in his day-to-day life as a CEO. His example highlights this point well—being busy has nothing to do with the amount of activity. It has to do entirely with the amount of choice, enjoyment and meaning we associate with our activity.

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A version of this was first published in the August 2015 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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