May 31, 2019

On Constant Busyness & a Quote by My Childhood Hero that Stopped me in My Tracks.


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Busyness business.

“I am very intrigued when people say they are busy,” my therapist told me recently after I confessed, again, that I had never enough time to think about the bigger picture because I was involved with so many different projects, week after week.

And time just seemed to spin faster and faster. There was never just time to “chill” and watch those Netflix series everyone else was talking about.

Our conversation planted a little seed in my thoughts.

Why do I keep myself so busy all the time?

It’s true that I am constantly running from one task and meeting to another one, saying yes to different projects (whether they are paid or volunteer-based, long or short-term), all related to the things I care about, my personal Gmail piling up with unread emails.

But the bigger picture? The “three children and a mortgage” simplicity my parents had at my age? Seems like they had it easier that way.

Despite my 32 years, there are a lot of things I want to start and explore and achieve. Some of them big, some smaller—but there are many. And of course, we reach those goals by taking little steps today.

But all this in-betweenness and busyness, planning, volunteering, and hustling—who is it actually serving? Is it bringing me closer to those dreams?

If you find yourself not having enough time to think clearly or to make solid, long-term plans, ask yourself that question: Why do I keep myself busy all the time? What am I trying to fill with it? Who am I doing it for?

I’ve always considered busyness as a noble thing. In our success-driven, capitalist system, it’s considered a necessity, a factor in  being a worthy citizen.

When I was in the fifth grade, the headmaster of my school asked me who I considered to be my personal idol, someone I looked up to. Without hesitation, I replied: Kofi Annan, the then secretary of the United Nations. (I wasn’t a genius child—I also liked the Spice Girls and The Hanson, but Annan must have been in the news for winning the Noble Prize for Peace and I must have talked about him with my dad at the breakfast table.)

This week, I came across a quote by him. Chills ran down my spine when I let the words sink in:

“To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.”

Here lies the wisdom between never-ending busyness and living a good life. So, perhaps the question is: what do I stand for? Do I fill my days according to my values?

I think I might know the answer.

author: Sara Kärpänen

Image: Elephant Journal Instagram

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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Michael Millios Jun 5, 2019 8:16am

Great reminder. I’m trying to take moments to pause when I get wrapped up in the busyness.

Susan Jun 4, 2019 1:08pm

Thank you for writing this article. Many years ago, a motivational speaker that I happened to listen to was talking about how we get lost in busyness. Her take was that getting lost in being busy can be an escape from dealing with your feelings or issues in your life. It can be easier to stay busy than to stop in your tracks and confront whatever it is that you are avoiding. I still catch myself being “busy” when I have problems that i should be handling. Blessings to you!

Ellie Jun 2, 2019 4:03pm

Thank you for sharing this amazing quote – it has prompted me to stop from my busyness and consider my answers.

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Sara Kärpänen

Sara Kärpänen is arts and culture specialized editor on Elephant Journal. She changes her hats as a writer, curator, and an artist depending on the day. She is also a passionate amateur yogi and a crazy cat lady. Connect with Sara on her website, Instagram, and Twitter.