When someone asks me how it’s going and I say that things are busy, it’s usually an indication that I’m overwhelmed and/or not taking care of myself, feeling scarcity (of time, money), not feeling worthy, or not having my needs for affection and understanding met.

It also seems to contribute to overall feelings of anxiety and overwhelm because when I say that I’m busy, I am internalizing a certain motion or movement. That movement is “being busy”, and I have a picture of what “being busy” looks like, which includes an image of me dashing from one project to another, not feeling grounded.

I’ve noticed that these patterns are particularly strong in the context of the business world, but it can be just as true in a general sense in all areas of your life. A typical interaction would go like this: someone would ask “How are you doing today?” and you would respond “I’m so busy!”.

The idea of the Cult of Being Busy has bubbled up for me over the last couple of weeks because I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying that they feel anxious. I’ve been wondering how the busyness that many of us are currently facing may be contributing to that end.

What I’ve been noticing in myself is that when I hear people say that they’re busy, it makes me feel a number of things: 

1) I’m moved to be busy in some way as well – this could be a competitive impulse or a mirroring reaction.

2) A feeling that I’m simply supposed to be busy for the sake of being busy.

3) Straight up anxiety and empathy for the person, where I feel worried about them. I begin thinking about how I can help them in some way, even if I don’t currently have the capacity to do so.

My housemate, Holly, shared an interesting idea recently: anxiety is contagious. 

Being busy is very counterproductive for me. It reminds me of people running around in a frenzy while accomplishing very little. This is sometimes how I feel when I’m busy – I could be over-caffeinated and under-nourished, but instead of taking care of my wellness, I continue the narrative of “I’m busy”.

This is very common in the area where I grew up in Ontario. It was almost a badge of honour to be busy or on the verge of burnout. It was sort of considered a virtue to be overwhelmed by all the important things that you had on your plate.

It seemed as though “busy” was the goal, which was even more evident in my role as an entrepreneur. In this context, if someone is busy it usually assumes that their work is going well and that they have achieved some level of success. The problematic part of this is that it tends to encourage staying busy for the sake of appearances, which doesn’t usually create space for meaningful and high-quality work.

My goal used to be “I’m a busy entrepreneur”. These days, I hold the intention of being calm, poised, focused, and slowly having a bigger impact within my community. I aim to care for others as I support elegantly moving through the next 20 to 30 years together through the future disruptions of climate change, pandemics, and any other unknowns we face.

What is your goal state? What is your intention for how you navigate through life this year?