Busy is Not a Story

There’s a power and a potency to redefining the minutia of everyday life.

When I was younger, I felt differently. I was spiteful of that day-to-day minutia. Daily rhythms and weekly repetitions felt like distractions from the dreams I desperately desired. Simple obligations and expectations felt like obstacles of necessity which imprisoned me away from the big, beautiful, awesome stuff I wanted to do with my life.

I eventually realized that feeling so spiteful towards ordinary, everyday life wasn’t just a miserable and angry way to live, but also, wasteful of opportunities around me.

Everyday life for each of us has its expectations and obligations, certainly — and those we can’t, and shouldn’t, avoid.

And yet, even the minutia of our lives — even the stuff which seems to exist as obstacles to our biggest dreams — can be embraced as opportunities to cultivate the stuff we dream of “someday,” only, instead, right here and now.

The saying, “The journey in life is the greatest reward,” became a personal mantra for me in those younger years as I made slow strides to flip my perspective. I found the teachings of the Dalai Lama, who encourages simple tasks and moments as opportunities to live well, and decided to try it out.

Instead of thinking of everyday life as a hindrance to my big dreams, I thought, maybe I could make ordinary moments as learning curriculum, a sort of practice-ground, to cultivate the bigger life of meaning and purpose that I desired.

Rather than struggling through necessary minutia, I treated moments as precious chances to make a big, huge, “someday” dream a reality in a single fleeting instant.

Take, for example, my deep value of being a leader by example.

Rather than waiting to embody that philosophy “someday,” I started doing little things in my everyday life to embody the belief. Sure, they were all really small and mostly unnoticed deeds: from picking up stray trash on the sidewalk to donating blood or giving a compliment; no Nobel Peace Prize was soon coming my way.

And yet, even small, even unnoticed, in microcosm the everyday life I was living was suddenly flush with opportunities to live more authentically and aligned to my inner beliefs.

Rather than feeling hampered, frustrated and spiteful towards the everyday minutia I was forced by necessity to live, the everyday became a playground to embody the stuff I said I believed in.

Today, I want to present you with one word that, if eliminated from your vocabulary, may help you turn some very common day-to-day minutia into opportunities for authentic connection, and meaningful conversations.

That word is: busy.

Eliminate This One Word from Your Vocabulary…

Think of that friend with a bit of a self-confidence issue, who always tends to beat herself up or dismiss her own worthiness. That’s a story she’s telling. Every time she slips into that habit, she reaffirms the story that defines who she is, what she’s capable of, and what she’s worth.

Imagine if that friend began to practice filtering out those narratives.

Imagine if she cut down on beating herself up so much out loud. Unexpressed, but still aware of the story-habits, that friend would be able to start to quiet those self-defeating thoughts in her own mind: wiping out more of the inner narration of the stories she doesn’t want to embody. In turn, she might start to feel a little more proud, confidence, and able in her everyday life.

The stories we share — and hear in our own heads — matter a lot, because a story is just the context we assign for what we’re experiencing and how we’re living.

A story is just a narrative: relevance and understanding we willingly, or subconsciously, assign to the events and happenings of our lives.

A story, in other words, is chosen: it’s how we define meaning, relevance, purpose, and why we do anything at all.

This is the ideal place to start to practice “the story you want to be living,” because your inner thoughts and ordinary conversations are so ripely available. The curriculum is right there, with you, every day.

Between your thoughts and your conversations, you have probably a hundred different opportunities to practice telling a different story on any given day.

Except if you, like many of us, over-rely on conversational crutches and expected turns of phrase that are polite, inauthentic, and altogether boring.

Like the word “busy.”

Busy is Not a Story

I have a personal vendetta against the word “busy.” When I’ve written about busy before, I’ve called it a self-flattering complaint — that’s why I originally committed to never using the term again.

If that sounds high-minded, don’t get me wrong. It’s no crime to say “busy,” of course, and it’s probably often an accurate description of one’s life on any given day. And I don’t scoff and flip an imaginary scarf when I hear it.

It’s just that “busy” is a predictably boring crutch phrase. It usually represents half self-praise and half self-pity: implying that we are flush with what usually amounts to excesses of good things, privileges and opportunities — like a career, and a family.

But my busy vendetta has now grown to a whole new level.

Because busy isn’t just a bad habit, or a convenient crutch.

Busy robs us of connection in everyday conversations and exchanges — you know, that “everyday minutia” I was talking about at the top. And that matters, because the words that we use make up the stories of our lives. The words we choose to share, and those we hear in our own heads, comprise the psychological narration of our everyday lives as we come to know them.

These stories, even shared in routine conversations, contribute to the bigger story we understand ourselves to be living.

In other words?

Conversations are opportunities to till the very lives that we desire.

Or, they can become the places where we reaffirm the stories we don’t want to be living.

What is Your ‘Busy’ Story?

If the stories we share make up the narratives we ultimately live, “busy” is a problem because “busy” is not a story.

It’s a bad habit. It’s a self-flattering complaint. It’s a crutch. It’s an escape. It’s hiding. It’s boring.

And, while “busy” may be an accurate description of your life nowadays, its overuse represents neglected chances to cultivate more wholeness and alignment in your life.

Remember: if you’d like to start to live a more deliberate, authentic and aligned story to the truths of your heart and soul, you should begin with the everyday material that is already and always around you — like your thoughts and conversations.

Even more specifically, you can begin to challenge your use of the word busy.

If you nix busy from your lexicon, you may find more opportunities to create the path that you wish to journey upon.

So, here’s how to begin.

The next time you hear yourself instinctively respond with the word “busy,” stop thereafter and ask yourself:

  • What could I have actually said instead of the word “busy”?
  • Did I use “busy” give myself a self-flattering complaint, or as a crutch to avoid the discomfort of this conversation?
  • Did I default into “busy” because I wasn’t sure what “story” I’ve been living lately?
  • Did I just not know how else to respond?

Next, go a little deeper into your self-inquiry.

Dig into the feeling. Unearth the origin of the action by sensing into the emotion beneath the word:

Is my instinct to use a word like “busy” out of habit, because it’s easy and expected? Or is the word actually revealing some state of inner turmoil, fatigue, frustration, or doubt?

If your instinct leads to the former, it’s simply a matter of challenging the habit often enough — until it’s broken.

If you intuit the latter, perhaps you owe it to yourself to do some more digging.

Ask yourself:

  • Is my “busy crutch” a clue that indicates my days, weeks, months, have been bleeding into the other, so much so, that I can’t even keep up with why I’m doing what I’m doing anymore?
  • Has the story that I was living become lost because I’m pitted in a frenetic race to merely survive?
  • How can I cultivate more meaningful moments and sparks of inspiration in my everyday life, in between the minutia?

Ultimately, we live the lot of our lives in ordinary moments and exchanges.

By investing more care and consideration into the minutia, we can discover a new richness to everyday life: no longer an obstacle or hindrance to the goals we wish to achieve, but a springboard to them.

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