Battling Busyness

Chances are, if you were to stop the next person you see and ask how they’re doing, they’d say, “I’m busy.”

Many of us are working just to pay our mountains of bills and loans that weigh heavily over us like the blade of the guillotine, ready to fall at any moment. We long for the laid-back college days in which we could build our own schedule and grab lunch with a friend at a moment’s notice. Instead, we are working 40-hour weeks and having to plan social engagements three weeks in advance to accommodate everyone’s hectic schedule. And everyone, I mean everyone, is busy.

We are caught up working more than we want (often at jobs we don’t like) to pay for things we don’t need to impress people who don’t really care, because they themselves are focused on their own busyness. It’s as if we’re all competing to see who can be the busiest, but nobody really wins that contest.

So how do we combat this? We act more intentionally. We make time for people and activities that mean the most to us. Yes, this will inevitably mean letting go of other people and things that we would like to keep, but we need to come to terms with the fact that there’s just not room for it all.

Who and what mean the most to you? Your friends? Your family? Your job? Your pets? Hobbies? Do you spend most of your time with the people who mean the most to you, doing the things that you care the most about? If someone else had to guess what your priorities were, would they be able to get it right?

We need to prioritize the most important things and people, giving them the bulk of our time and attention. We certainly can keep in touch with other people and dabble in other things, but as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

What are we missing out on in all of this busyness? I know that I have missed out on opportunities to build stronger friendships by choosing to work on homework or personal projects when I could have otherwise been spending time with people. When we’re frantically running from one thing to the next, we miss out on peace. We miss out on the chance to slow down and appreciate the short life we’ve been given. We forfeit time with our families in order to get a bigger paycheck; we sacrifice hobbies, travel, and fun for just a few more hours logged at our desks or with our noses buried in our phones.

Imagine with me for a moment that we stopped glorifying busyness. We chose, as a society, to not equate being busy with having a full, successful life. We saw busyness as a trap, a sickness, and instead chose to devote more of our time to fewer, more meaningful things, taking life at a slower pace.

What would happen? I think we would all be more relaxed, more joyful, more compelled to spend time with people we care about instead of working jobs we resent for tearing us away from our loved ones. We would be less stressed, spend less time comparing ourselves to others, and enjoy the lives we’ve been given.

What do you say? How about we battle busyness together?

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Less is More

While this may be a common platitude, it still rings true. If you are involved in fewer things, you get to be more involved with each of them than if you tried to be fully involved in a greater number of activities. If you have a smaller group of close friends, you get to know them better than if you tried to get to know a larger group on a deep level. If you own fewer possessions, you use them more and appreciate them more than if you had an overabundance of things you never use and misplace or forget you even own.

I’m not advocating having less simply for the sake of trying to have the least amount of stuff possible —that is still, at its core, about having pride in what you possess. There’s nothing wrong with owning things, as long as those things don’t end up owning you. We have far more than we need, and even, at times, more than we want. Embracing the idea of “less is more” is really more about choosing which things, activities, and relationships you care about the most, and then being willing to let the others go.

I recently have become a big proponent of simpler living. Not only does it support my desire to be intentional about investing in what really matters to me and not stretch myself too thin by saying yes to too many things, but it also offers small steps to accomplish those things.

Decluttering (or editing,purging, downsizing, or whatever you choose to call it) has become fun for me, as I evaluate the physical possessions I have in light of what I want my life and my home to look like. As a mildly OCD (or not-so-mildly, depending on who you ask) person with a distinct Type A personality, I like things to be clean and organized all the time. With fewer things crowding up my space, it takes far less time to keep things the way I like them. I’m also far less likely to misplace things, since there are fewer things to lose and fewer places to lose them in.

I have begun to let go of my packrat tendencies, saving everything “just in case,” and adopted a more realistic view of the things I own, recognizing that I probably will never again look at all the papers I wrote in high school English or feel the need to wear my graduation gown again. While some things have sentimental value (which is totally fine; we need things that are special to us), I don’t feel the need to save everything anymore, and that’s quite liberating.

Getting rid of unnecessary things is kind of addictive. Once I started, I couldn’t stop thinking of more and more things I no longer use that could be added to the bags accumulating in the hall closet. I just couldn’t get enough of the freedom I found when I let go. Having fewer things makes me more appreciative of the things I choose to keep, and the things that I now will have more time for, like relaxing with friends. My room and my life are starting to have more wiggle room in them, and that’s beautiful to me.

Manifesto

I started this year praying for God to give me the strength and ability to focus on a handful of areas in my life in this season: faith, friends and family, food and fitness, and fun. Yes, they all start with the same letter. I like alliterations, okay?

This evolved slowly as the months went by, as I read more and more about intentional living and talked about it with a good friend of mine, we developed our own manifestos. Being challenged to write one compelled me to take a deeper look at what I believe and what I want my life to look like, and this is what I came up with.

Purpose Statement: Intentionally live a simple, vibrant, joyful, sustainable life as a slave of Christ, unapologetically devoted to giving toward, growing toward, and going toward the broken corners of the world to usher in grace, love, freedom, and restoration.

Intentionally live: I will wake up every day with renewed purpose and drive to live the life I feel called to live, giving myself grace for the moments I stray. I will move with intention, remain with purpose, and interact with meaning. My circumstances are not coincidence or accident- they are divinely orchestrated in great detail and with great purpose, with which I want to be burdened and motivated every day of my life. I will take the limited time I have here on this earth seriously, knowing I have been entrusted with certain gifts and abilities to be used for God’s glory. I no longer want to passively live my life, blindly doing what is simply expected of me, but actively live—making decisions with confidence, knowing my purpose, taking steps to reach my goals, evaluating choices through the lens of my God-given purpose.

Simple: Less is more. I will focus on the things that matter most to me, eliminating both physical and emotional clutter and distractions. I want to slow down and enjoy the simpler pleasures of life, choosing to live well right where I am, seeing the beauty in the mundane, the peace in the chaos. I will eschew the world’s definition of success in favor of my own, refusing to accumulate excess or strive endlessly for more of the trivial material possessions and achievements that my contemporaries work for, instead pressing on toward the ultimate prize, running with endurance the race marked out for me. If I have loved well, my life will have been a success, and nothing else will matter.

Vibrant and joyful: I will choose joy, forgiveness, peace, boldness, courage, love, and fearlessness each and every day as I follow Christ and His example. By God’s grace, I will exude joy, happiness, and optimism in a world full of hurt and darkness, seeking opportunities to bring about a better world, welcoming others into the process. I will make a point to find and share the silver lining, the glimpse of hope, and the positive side of things, especially in the face of sorrow, pain, and brokenness.

Sustainable: The pursuit of well-being in every area of life is vital and interconnected. As a caretaker of God’s beautiful creation, I will respect and care for the earth we inhabit. I will move at a pace that is consistent and healthy in our harried culture, both working hard at whatever task is before me and embracing rest. I will choose to reduce my consumption, reuse what I have, and recycle what I cannot. I want to lead a healthy lifestyle in a concerted effort to nourish the body I have, treating it as a temple, not a trash can, and encouraging others to do the same.

Slave of Christ: Jesus is better. I will take up my cross every day, steadfastly following the path of my God, being devoted to going wherever He may lead, making Christ Lord of every area of my life. I long to be so convinced of His supremacy over my life that I will surrender my own will and rights, instead honoring only His. In everything I do, I must work for Him, look to Him, listen to Him, rely on Him. I will seek first His kingdom, finding my identity solely in who I am in Christ. I will not become enslaved to my reputation, job, friends, dreams, plans, or what society and others tell me I should be. I will be willing to have my life poured out for the sake of others, for I have not attained anything in this life on my own and owe my everything to my Lord and His cause, and the salvation of even a single soul is worth everything I have to give. I will diligently work alongside my God to repair the brokenness of my world, counting it as joy to suffer for His sake, considering everything else rubbish that I may know and gain Christ.

Unapologetically devoted: I will be willing to look foolish in the eyes of the world for following my God and the path He has marked out for me, persevering through any ridicule or persecution that comes my way, to the point of death. I will choose to be a good steward of all I’ve been given, living every day with reckless abandon to my God and the purpose He has blessed me with, living like I believe another world, a better world, is possible.

Giving: I will give up some things to be able to invest more fully in things that really matter. I will be generous in giving of my time, money, and skills to do what I can to bring about a better world, by God’s grace, because love does. I will seek His direction in discerning where I should invest my time and resources in every season of life. I will give to promote community, hospitality, life-on-life relationships, and real conversation, giving others permission to do the same. I will invest in experiences over possessions, being willing to pass up opportunities to acquire more material possessions in favor of collecting memories. I will be diligent in maintaining a budget and paying off debt, so I can make the most of what resources I have.

Growing: I will grow toward the person God and I want me to be, a person more like Christ. I will seek the Lord’s face and heart, rely on His strength instead of my own, live my life boldly by His grace, stop analyzing and just do. I desire a life of resting in Him, waiting on Him, and living in constant expectation of God doing something unimaginable. I strive to stretch and challenge myself to reach new goals, continually moving forward. I will expect authenticity, embracing vulnerability and imperfection, first from myself, and then allowing others to do the same. I will spend time with people who bring out the best in me, encourage me, and challenge me to become who I want to be. I need to make a regular habit of trying new things, and not timidly step outside of my comfort zone, but leap outside of it! I will strive to never stop learning, never quenching my soul’s thirst for more inspiration, more adventure, more creativity, more of Christ.

Going: I will go out boldly into the world, moving with conviction and purpose, using the Holy Spirit as my compass and the Word as my map. I will go boldly in the direction of my God-given dreams, embracing the unexpected turns, and never stop dreaming big dreams. I will bloom where I’m planted in each season of my life, wherever that might be. Learning to enjoy the growth and breathing room of the scenic route instead of feeling stuck will be my goal, for as long as God has me there. I will be present. I will serve. I will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unloved. I long for a more just world. I will be the hands and feet of Christ, providing for both physical and spiritual needs of others, recognizing these people are in my life for a reason, not by accident.

Grace, love, freedom, and restoration: The world needs more of Jesus. I will go out into the world every day, prayerfully seeking opportunities to extend God’s grace to those who feel like they are too far gone, love to those the world has labeled as unlovable, freedom to those who are caught up in destructive lives of lies and deception, and restoration to those who are broken.

Do you have a purpose statement or manifesto for your life? If you don’t, what would you put in yours?