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Life in the Fast Lane

Nov 17, 2019

When I think of the word “busy”, an image that comes to mind is that of the crazy Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. While it’s true that I have a vivid imagination, the frenzy with which the mad hatter behaves often reminds me of the pace our society is at – on the regular.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before:

Busyness has become a badge of honour.

I see it everywhere. Saying that I see it in the entrepreneurial world may come as no surprise to you but I also see it with individuals such as executives with hectic travel schedules, with children who are in enrolled in multiple extracurricular activities with very little time for free play, with moms who are eagerly involved in all things outside of themselves and within communities where every weekend and holidays are over packed with activities and events.

If you’re someone who’s got free time (but in reality, you create and value free time-big difference!), then the common assumption becomes that you aren’t anyone of any importance.

You know those friends of yours who hold average jobs, enjoy the simple offerings of life, and really couldn’t care less about constantly reeling in money but are happy? Well. One might argue that people like that are simpletons, aren’t inspiring, aren’t high achievers and don’t amount to much (not!). But the fact that they’re happy and healthy doesn’t seem to account for much these days and that’s deeply disturbing.

Since when did repeated statements of “I’m so busy” become a status symbol? Our society has really put busyness on the pedestal and the less white space you have in your calendar, the more valuable you are.

I’m reminded of J. Krishnamurti’s words:

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”.

In my own words, I’m going to claim that the rat race we’re all a part of is not only killing us (think auto-immune diseases, chronic fatigue and chronic stress) but it’s also sucking our souls. As much I appreciate the positive impact technology has had on our world, I’m equally worried of its’ impact on mental health. Simply put, we’re expected to be readily available 24/7 and it certainly adds to our busyness. That comes at a hefty cost.

Someone wise recently said to me “Yes. It’s true that we’re so connected now. While these connections are plentiful, they are shallow and superficial. We’ve lost the depth and the richness of true connection”. This resonated with me deeply. Even within our relationships, we’ve managed to find short forms, GIFs and emojis to convey what we otherwise would have conveyed more intimately and verbally. Saving time by cutting corners wherever we can is the mantra these days in our fast paced world.

Except, something’s amiss.

All you have to do is look at the stats and the numbers – they speak for themselves. An overly busy life is linked to chronic stress. Our bodies are not designed to live this way and it’s not sustainable.  Something will break.  You’ll lose a relationship, a job or worse, yourself.

In our desire to keep busy, we also have to ask ourselves, what are we avoiding? What aspects of our lives are we hiding from lest they surface? Is busyness just distraction in disguise? And because society rewards busyness, we’re in essence, granted permission to walk away from those aspects of our lives that are tough and need navigating. Content with the excuse that being busy is justifiable, we bury our worries, only for them to resurface bigger and stronger each time thereafter. Unless luck is on your side, most of us will face some tough life lessons and “rock bottom” moments inevitably. Trust me when I say that if you can avoid these hard, and sometimes irreversible, lessons, please do.   Paying attention to the “busy barometer” of your life will place you ahead of the game.

Of late, 90% of the entrepreneurs I’ve met have secretly admitted that just weeks leading up to a big pitch event or in the midst of a massive launch, they’ve experienced either break downs, panic attacks or complete burnouts to the point that they’ve had no choice but to forgo their ventures for some forced rest.   All fingers pointed to working long hours under stressful conditions with minimal time allotted for physical and equally important, mental, rest. In short, they were busy founders who had no time for sleep let alone for leisure.

Ultimately the question to ask yourself is “All for what?” At the end of the day, what is your busyness offering you? More money? Status? Success? External validation? The problem is that as attractive and tempting as these are, the resultant euphoria is short lived. The more you have, the more you need. This life in the fast lane becomes a bit of an addiction because it’s fuelled by an adrenaline rush. Sounds super appealing but the persistent surges of adrenaline are detrimental to health so proceed with caution.

Recently, I re-watched Jerry Maguire (love that film!) and it’s so clear how our society functions. So the guy had a wake up call and decided to share his honest to goodness mission statement with his peers in the sports industry. Jerry wanted a better life. A life which was no longer dictated by money and instead, filled with integrity and good values. Well. In return for his truth telling and his desire to serve from a less hectic pace (i.e. lesser clients), he was fired.

Of course Jerry’s story has a happy ending but the road to true happiness and health isn’t always an easy one is all I’m saying. In fact, it requires serious discipline, effort and mostly a willingness to persist even when the results aren’t as obvious as the multi-million dollar deal you just landed, a Four Seasons’ vacation, the latest Chanel bag or the shiny new Tesla in your garage.

Here’s the hard cord truth:

Happiness and Health can’t be bought.

In order for our world to heal, it requires not only a collective shift in mindset but also an individual one. If you can wake up in the mornings and be able to gift yourself even 10 minutes of stillness, then we’ve got hope.

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