December 30, 2015

Redefining Success: How to Stop Being Busy.

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Every day I have someone ask me, “So, are you busy?”

The automatic words out of my mouth are “yes” (with a smile) and naming some recent wins, because what I hear in that ask is curiosity in how my work is going, and my perfectionist in me wants them to see that everything is going amazing.

It means to me that I’m good at what I do, and that I’m in demand.

Inside, I’m silently cringing and my anxiety creeps in as I think about all the areas where I could improve, that I still have goals to meet, and where I’m feeling inadequate.

As a business owner, when I hear that phrase, “So, are you busy?” the fear that I’m reacting to is that if I’m not busy, it must mean I’m not good enough. It must mean that people don’t want to work with me, that people will judge my worthiness to have a business, that my skills must be lacking, and that I’m a failure.

Which, of course, is bullsh*t.

As human beings we all have internal dialogues that inform how we act and react in situations. We create stories about our lives that inform our opinions, perceived abilities and perspectives.

A particularly common inner dialogue we have is the “what-if” negative down-spiral game. Have you ever thought of every possible thing that could, might or must be wrong, and then start taking actions or speaking based on protecting yourself from the worst-case scenario?

For example, we think:

What if I don’t meet my sales targets? I have to hustle harder.

What if I don’t meet the deadline my boss has and I’m fired? I need to work longer hours.

What if I’m not good enough to be doing what I’m doing? I need to prove my value saying ‘yes’ to new projects and doing them all really really well.

And so forth.

What ends up happening is that instead of designing actions from what we want, we instead formulate actions and responses based on protecting ourselves from a fear of what might happen.

And often, that action results in us being even busier.

Our culture measures work productivity by performance and how long of hours we’re willing to work to succeed. Being busy is a measurement of success. Our automatic reaction is to join in the chorus and let our inner voice speak out loud and talk about how busy we are like it’s a badge of honour, proving our worth.

Except the badge of honour has a huge cost, and people are increasingly experiencing it:

Burn out.

You probably know that feeling: It’s a state of exhaustion, a struggle with sleep and consistent feeling of anxiety that drains the life out of you. We wake up at 5 a.m. with racing thoughts and triple check tasks because our short term memory is like a sieve.

The inner voice is working overtime, consumed with fear and the negative ‘what-if’ downward spiral. Health problems start to creep in. What shifts and takes us out of the cycle is having the courage to do something different, and redefining what success means in each of our lives.

It’s about ending our relationship with being “busy.”

Think about what would change in our lives and our society if our new definition of success was focussed on things like:

·      Wellness. There is dedicated space in people’s lives to metaphorically ‘fill their cup,’ and it’s accepted that from a place of wellness they will be the best version of themselves.

·      Having an impact. People do the work they do because they’re fuelled by passion.

·      Connection. Success includes a measurement for how much quality time we spend with our partner, family and friends.

·      Continuous growth. It is normalized and encouraged that no one knows everything, and creativity and new ideas are encouraged.

A new definition of success is a holistic view of a person that acknowledges that every aspect of their life impacts their career, and therefore must be included in a broader definition of success. Change starts with us.

What is your personal definition of success, and what would it include?






Buddhism vs. Speed: Busyness is Laziness, by Dr. Reggie Ray.

The Eight Basic Salves for Burn-Out.

15 Ways to Cure the “Busy Syndrome.”


Author: Kristin Price

Editor: Renee Picard

Image: William Iven at Unsplash



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