“Life is too short to be in a hurry” Henry David Thoreau
As we march boldly forward along the techno road and our lives become busier and busier, some form of the question, “how do you find happiness in a busy world” flashes across the screen of our mind. Especially as we find ourselves clamoring for time, as if a 24 hour day is no longer enough to get everything done.
Anything which has “instant” in the name sells like hotcakes, and it doesn’t matter whether its instant food, instant messages, even instant house renovation.
“Instant everything” reminds me of an old joke. I’m not sure if it was George Carlin, Steve Martin or another comedian, but it went something like, “Americans are the only people that will stand in front of a microwave warming up their coffee, yelling, “Hurry up, dammit.”
Unfortunately, that “old” joke applies to a lot of the world now, not just Americans.
We’re all so busy that life is passing us by and that’s not good; it’s not good for our relationships, it’s not good for our health, it’s not good of our mental wellbeing and it’s not good for our soul.
So how do we change it?
Many experts agree, the best answer is to simplify your life, de-clutter and unplug. Maybe that advice is too simplistic or too generalized, and I get that. Instead, let me share some powerful ideas from Lori Deschene, of “Tiny Buddha” fame, that will help you unearth your happiness…
1. Recognize your non-negotiable needs.
Write down the top two or three things you need to do daily for your emotional well-being, your physical health, and your sense of balance. Include the bare minimum you could do to meet these, and ideal times. For me, that includes:
- Daily meditation and/or deep breathing (five minutes after waking up)
- Journaling (five minutes before going to sleep)
- Daily exercise, even if just a walk outside (ten minutes around lunch time)
- Consistent sleep (Eight hours—doable if I’m more efficient instead of wasting time online)
Sense of balance
- Time to relax and unwind (a half-hour bath at night)
- Time to play (a half-hour of something fun at night, preferably with someone else)
You’ve now established the bare minimum for your needs and created a plan to meet them. Even meeting the minimum might be hard. It might require you to ask for help or say no to certain requests. Think of it as saying yes to your happiness.
2. Set realistic expectations about what you can do and what you can’t.
I have a habit of making a schedule based on what I want to accomplish, and then feeling disappointed in myself if I don’t meet that.
My schedule doesn’t often leave room for the unexpected, which could encompass tasks taking longer than I anticipated they would, or new opportunities coming up, personally or professionally.
If you’re striving to meet your boss’ expectations, you may have less leeway in being flexible. But when it comes to the arbitrary deadlines we set for ourselves, we have the power to release the pressure.
I often worry that deviations from “my plan” mean I’m losing control and decreasing the odds of doing what I set out to do. This actually sets me up for failure.
When I worry about what I’m not doing, I’m not focused on what I am. And that’s what’s enabled me to do things well in the past: not perfect adherence to a schedule, but focus and immersion in the process.
A better approach is to set a plan, do what we can, and then adjust as we go. Whatever we can’t comfortably fit in a day will just have to wait.
3. Regularly check in with yourself to ensure your choices are supporting your intentions.
I’ve found some contradictions in my recent mode of operating, including:
- I try to do everything myself because this site means so much to me, and I fear delegating responsibility to someone who may not care quite as much. The consequence: I’m sometimes stretched too thin to give everything the care it deserves.
- I’m taking on new projects because I know I’ll be happier for stretching myself, but I’ve deprioritized a lot of the other things that make me happy.
In recognizing these contradictions, I’m able to adjust accordingly.
I can challenge the belief that tells me I need to do everything myself, and seek help (which I’ve recently done). I can create a better balance between working toward future joy and creating joy in the process.
Take the time to check in what you really want—not just some day down the road, but in your everyday experience in the world. If you recognize you’re not enabling that, make tiny adjustments where you can.
In the modern world, the pace of life is moving at the “speed of stress,” accelerating at an unhealthy pace, we’ve forgotten how to slow down in this busy world.
To be able to live an authentic life we must make conscious choices. Yet in this fast passed world, conscious thinking gives way to reaction and choices that don’t serve us. As we look back we recognize that we’ve reacted to social pressure or made choices based on expediency, instead of making choices that arise from our core selves, choices that are authentic.
How do you find happiness in a busy world? Slow down. Simplify, it’s the key to living a life we really want to be living…an authentic life.