I remember when being busy was cool. It was a measurement of what a badass I was. “Sorry, I can’t make it to this family event or see a therapist about my burnout, I have a dinner,” which is industry speak for a meeting at 8pm. I was a victim to my schedule, as if my schedule was in charge.
I remember I once was half way through a meal with a filmmaker before I realized it was Valentine’s Day. You would have thought the red rose motif would have triggered some recognition of a civilian related holiday but nope. I was just having my usual dinner meeting at 8pm before checking my phone 1,000 times before bed, then waking up to check my phone at 7am, and head to a breakfast meeting.
I was a professional doer. I did lots and lots of stuff. I measured my worth in doing, so when I wasn’t doing I was a bad person. The idea of stopping or slowing down was equal to death. “Work hard to play hard” or “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” were the douchey mantras I spouted to other people who, like me, took doing stuff way too seriously.
If you are tired of being busy or feel like you are a victim to your schedule you have to stop overscheduling yourself. Stop filling every moment of your day with doing stuff. It is that simple. “Simple?! Fuuuuuuuuck you! How dare you? You have no idea what will happen if I stop doing! I like doing, you lazy loser. Doing is WHO I AM!” screams the ego.
Let’s run an experiment. If I say to you right now, “Stop. Stop doing right now. Just STOP.” What happens? Observe your reaction. What are the thoughts that immediately take over? “I can’t stop doing because…” or “If I stop doing then…”
Mine used to be, “If I stop doing then nothing will happen, everything will fall apart, people won’t value me, I’ll get fired, go broke, and end up homeless. I’ll never reach my potential and die miserable and alone.” My identity was so defined by doing, my mind thought it would die without it. It is ridiculous but terrifying. The only way to prove this fear is nonsense is to be brave and stop doing for a little bit.
The slow extrication of my worth from the act of doing was a painful one. Some quiet, inner wisdom kept prodding me toward a practice of non-doing, and what at first felt like torture gave way to the full spectrum of human experience.
Once I realized that my value didn’t come from doing or non-doing, I could enjoy whatever state of being I was in. My ego was like a well-trained dog and re-training it was no joke. Like any animal, my mind needed constant validation. “Good mind. Good mind.” Fulfillment started to appear only through the experience of recognizing my inherent worth, regardless of doing. Now I can do or not do without any misunderstanding that either have any measure of my worth.
If you want to stop being so busy, start small. Create 10 minutes on your schedule where you just sit and don’t do, then an hour, then a day. In those moments just be still or walk or move without an agenda. Don’t act on your thoughts no matter what they say and begin the process of taking dominion over your mind.
Bristol Baughan is an Executive Producer of Emmy-winning and Oscar-Nominated films, author, and private coach. She is a TED Fellow and Founder of Inner Astronauts, a custom experience and private coaching company supporting people in coming more fully alive in service to the world. Bristol holds a B.A. in International Studies from the American University School of International Service and an M.A. in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.
Artwork by: James Ormiston.