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We live in a culture that glorifies being busy. How many times have you answered, “I’m so busy!” when someone asks you how you are doing? Busy isn’t even an emotion, but there are feelings like overwhelm, excitement, dread, rushed, etc, that are linked to feeling busy. I’ve actually stopped using busy as a reply to how I’m doing. I’ve also stopped trying to tell people how busy I am in general because I realized that when I was saying “I’m busy,” it could come across as “I’m important” or “I don’t really have time for you.” Either way, I don’t like that. I realized telling people I care about that I am busy might make them feel like they aren’t worthy of my time and that is certainly NOT how I want my friends and family to feel. It also felt constricting in my body to say that.

I realized many years ago that my busyness was attached to my worthiness. If I was accomplishing more, then I thought I was more lovable and more worthy of being a valuable member of society. The more I could accomplish, the more people would love me, right? The more I’d love myself, right? This feeling was deeply rooted into my childhood and teenage years of feeling like I was more lovable only if I was achieving at the top level. I have so much more to say about this, but it won’t fit into a neat newsletter article so I’ll wait to unpack that at a later date. 

The busyness and worthiness dilemma made me prone to saying yes to too many projects, striving too hard, and frequently dealing with burnout. An additional symptom was a feeling of emptiness. I’d achieve more, but I still would not be satisfied. I needed more, MORE! See Hungry Ghost Metaphor.

The fact of the matter is that being overly busy and trying to achieve all the time does not make me feel more worthy or more happy. Another race win, another million podcast downloads, or another educational title next to my name just pushes the bar further. My feelings of worthiness and enoughness will constantly be pushed further out if I link them to achievements. The achievements will literally never be enough. I’ve written about The Happiness Horizon and how getting stuck saying “I’ll be happy when…” is not productive. 

Becoming a mom at the very start of the pandemic in March 2020 was another great tool that helped me realize that I’m still good, I still like myself, and my world won’t fall apart if I don’t achieve at the same level. I simply could not be focused on as many outward achievements because I had no childcare. Racing went away so there was no podium or even start line. I lost sponsorships, speaking engagements, and opportunities. I lost the ability to constantly travel for the first time in a decade. And yet I felt more grounded. I realized the rate or speed of my achievement didn’t matter as much.  

It solidified that my sense of happiness and worthiness was more rooted in my daily actions being tied to my values, in close relationships that really do not correspond with my accolades, and that what I was really craving was more connection. The striving treadmill was actually tied to loneliness. In this case, I mean loneliness happened because I was working harder and harder to chase a feeling that resulted in not spending time with people. What I craved and needed WAS to slow down to spend time with people I care about – the chasing of achievement was trying to fill the feeling of human connection and love, and yet the chasing made me not spend time with people. Such a paradox! 

We make ourselves busier to try to chase a feeling, but by being busier we lose out on having access to that feeling because we stop making time for what’s most important. That feeling could be relationships, exercising more, spending time doing hobbies we love, etc. Trying to notice if there is incongruence between what you are trying to feel versus what feeling you are looking for when you try to achieve something can bring insight.

I’m not demonizing achievement – I still love chasing goals and working hard. But I’m trying to work from a healthier and more aware place. I still slip back into old patterns, but I am doing my best. So far, so good!

Something I’m really making the focus of my attention is making sure I am consistently making time for relationships – as in person as possible or an actual phone call… NO texts or DMs for relationship building. It’s not a perfect process for me. I still default to putting my work first (and I LOVE my work). I notice I feel the best when I skip an hour of work/achieving/busy time and use that time to connect with a person. That feeling is definitely not realized by doing just one more thing on my to-do list or even from a big win!

Check out my conversation with developmental psychologist and mindset coach Dr. Sasha Heinz on how to be more happy and optimistic.

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