My name is Brandilyn and I am addicted to busyness.
From a young age, I was imprinted with the belief that a person’s value is based on how hard they work.
Being stressed out about how much I need to do is comforting. Being frantic is my cue that I’m “doing enough.” When I have free time and there are no more items on my to-do list, I panic.
My survival response kicks in. Subconsciously, I believe that if I’m not working hard—if I’m not being as productive as possible—that I don’t deserve the great life that I have. I have this nagging sense that if I’m not constantly treading water, I’ll drown.
I’m terrified of others finding out that I’m not busy enough. To my ego, being seen as lazy is death.
A full to-do list is my safety blanket. The more overwhelmed I feel, the safer I feel. It’s the same mentality of someone with an eating disorder: “If I’m full, I’ve eaten too much. I only know I’m dieting well enough when I’m hungry.” This is a doing disorder, and it goes like this: “If I have an abundance of free time, I’m wasting my potential.”
Rather than counting calories to quantify our worth, we count the number of tasks that we’ve done in a day.
This is what I have coined The Achievement Trap.
When we are stuck in the achievement trap, we are constantly asking ourselves the question: “Am I doing enough?” to assess whether we are enough.
Our lives become about collecting evidence that we are doing enough. We fill our days with laborious and often futile tasks so that, when called upon, we can defend how maddeningly busy, a.k.a. good enough, we are.
We become like Sisyphus, damned to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration.
Each day, we roll the boulder of our to-do list up the hill. For a split second, when it is at the top, we can proclaim that we have indeed accomplished enough. But a moment later, we watch it roll back down to the bottom, demanding that we once again prove our worth.
“Am I doing enough?” is our eternal prison. But our freedom is not in proving that we are doing enough, but in realizing that the question itself is an illusion.
Look at this picture.
If I asked you, “What is the animal pictured here?” you could not answer me with the truth.
It is a valid perspective that it is a bunny, but it is not the truth. It is a valid perspective that it is a duck, but that is not the truth.
We can find evidence to support either claim, but having evidence for either doesn’t make it the truth because there is another equally valid, evidence-backed perspective.
This means that the question “What is the animal pictured here?” cannot be answered.
The act of trying to answer an unanswerable question will lead to endless frustration. The same goes for the questions “Am I doing enough?” or “Am I enough?” We have spent our lives searching for evidence that will settle the dispute once and for all.
But no amount of evidence, no amount of checked off items on our to-do list, makes it true that we are doing enough, that we are enough.
The most productive person in the world could make a case that they are not doing enough. The least productive person in the world could make a case that they are doing enough.
It is not the truth that you are enough.
“Enough” and “not enough” do not exist in the realm of truth.
“I am enough,” “This is enough,” “I have done enough,” are not the truth, but they are all valid perspectives that we can choose to take, regardless of circumstances.
Choosing enoughness is a necessary prerequisite for living a life we love. We cannot follow our inspiration when we are trying to prove our enoughness. Trying to find the true answer to an unanswerable question is an eternal punishment.
When we realize that no amount of evidence can ever make it true that we have done enough, we can give up the struggle to prove ourselves.
Freedom does not come from getting the boulder to the top of the mountain, but from realizing that it is a zero-sum game.
Only then can we allow the boulder to roll away, freeing ourselves to go live a life we love.
So next time you feel the panic of not being busy enough, laugh at the futility of your quest for enoughness, declare “Whatever is, is enough,” and go do something you love.
Author: Brandilyn Tebo
Image: Gabriel Hruska/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson