Aug 202017 4 Responses

What If Ready Was the New Busy?

“Busy,” is the culturally approved answer to the question, “How are you doing?” Answer however you wish, but if you want to give the response which society admires and expects, you better make some reference to all the demands on your plate.

We live in the day of speed. Everything is happening, changing, and progressing at a quick pace. In an attempt to keep up, many people feel pressured to always be working, doing, and achieving.

“Busy” has become a label of pride.

Some are busy as a defense mechanism. If we continually run faster and faster, never slowing down, we won’t hear the quiet whispers of doubt, uncertainty, and questions about the deep issues of life. If you are always running, you don’t have time to ask, “Does this matter? Do I matter? Why am I here?” Also by giving the appearance of continual busyness, it provides an excuse for not taking on more work or responsibilities.

Some are busy because it’s what everyone does. They’ve never considered a different way. Instead of reflecting on the best way to live life, they submit to the societal norm and simply do what everyone else is doing. Society is busy so they are too.

Some are busy as protection. I once asked a high school coach why he works so many hours. He said, “If I win, it doesn’t matter how many hours I work, but if I lose my bosses will be comparing me to the elite programs. If I lose, but I’m working as many (or more) hours than those winning championships, I might keep my job. But if I lose and I’m working less than others, I’m gone.” He doesn’t work a lot of hours because it’s effective; he does so because it gives the appearance of being a hard worker. Many people give the appearance of busyness as a protection in case they fail.

Busyness is the expected state for successful people in today’s culture. But why? Living in a continual state of busy doesn’t make anyone more:

  • effective
  • productive
  • helpful
  • successful

It might be a label respected by society, but it’s in no way conducive to a successful or happy life. What if we honored something different? Instead of holding up busy as the ultimate label of success, what if we honored ready instead?

Rather than feeling the pressure to give the appearance of busy, what if we respected those who:

  • live within a set of personal boundaries
  • ensure a rhythm of work and rest
  • reject laziness while refusing to overestimate what they can accomplish
  • continually ensure they are prepared for the important moments of life
  • are ready for whatever comes next

The danger of “busy” as the preferred description of successful people is that it defines a successful machine, not a successful human being. The best machine is that which can produce the most with the least amount of error or downtime. A good machine is busy–always working, always producing, always online. But what makes a successful machine makes for a horrible human. When a person is always working, producing, and available, their capacity for empathy, love, and connection are continually diminishing. Many times the busy person can’t even recognize their diminishing ability to connect.

Busy is good for a machine but bad for a human.

This doesn’t mean we should ordain the opposite. There is nothing enviable about laziness. We can reject an always busy culture without embracing a slothful approach to life.

Instead, what if we honored, respected, and pursued a fully human approach to life. One where we do great work, but we seek meaningful rest. One where we understand our limits and boundaries. One where, through experience, trial and error, we find the appropriate rhythm required to maintain a base level of energy and passion.

What if we were fair to ourselves and others?

What if we demanded that our employees worked hard, but also intentionally detached from work in order to recuperate?

What if it was socially unacceptable to live in continual access to your cell phone and always be on social media?

What if living in an exhausted state was frowned upon because it hinders good parenting, a healthy marriage, and being a productive citizen?

What if we viewed someone who was always busy the same way we view someone suffering from the negative consequences of poor choices–not with shame, but with an empathy wishing they would choose better?

We must let go of respecting busy as a great badge of honor. It’s not. It’s a sign of a sickness. It’s a reminder of our failure as a society to respect ourselves and each other. It’s a public proclamation of our sin.

Reject busy. Pursue ready.


Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

4 Responses to What If Ready Was the New Busy?

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