Are You Numbing Yourself with Busy?

Numbing Ourselves with BusyHave you noticed how busy everyone seems to be these days? We are so busy doing, achieving, tweeting, following, emailing, texting, connecting, keeping up and just working. And yes, we live in a 24/7 world. But it was the light bulb that changed the game in terms of  having light when we wanted. It was never social media and technology that made us busier. That is merely an illusion.

Choices have always been available to us. With growing fear in the workplace, people are putting more hours into work and have a false sense they need to be available whenever the job requires. Mantras like work-life balance make many resentful when they work on the weekends and know they simply need to work the hours to keep their jobs. And the older generation is befuddled by the younger generation who looks at this work reality and thinks it’s ridiculous. They see the world as life-work; a means to an end. They are not all defined by what they want to do but how they want to live.

And it brings us back to an aging population of workers who is asking themselves: “is this it?” There must be more to life. Many are starting to realize that they have simply been numbing themselves with being busy. It’s easier to be busy than to do the hard work and find out what it is they really want to be doing–apart for working 24/7 and numbing themselves with more and more work. It’s easy to have a big title and feel satisfied with the money that gets deposited in the bank account like clockwork. But what about time to be there for themselves, their families, friends and community?

It’s easy to eat great food and drink fabulous wine and cocktails. It is easy to keep busy and feel so needed by our jobs that nothing else matters. A friend, who was blindsided by a layoff, told me that his company always expected him to put his work before his wife and kids (with the mantra of work-life balance in the background) and he would. He worked the long hours. He worked weekends. He gave his job his all. And then one day, he was told he was no longer needed at work. They had no choice but to lay him off. And while they expected his family to be understanding of what they demanded of him, when they cut their ties, they provided no support for his family. There was no one for them to talk to and help them through the transition. The transition of not only being jobless but that he was numbing himself with being busy.

Today, he has his own company and has very clear boundaries with his clients so he can not only spend time with his family but also pursue his passion for music.

So why are we surprised that the younger generation, who saw their parents dedication to their job result in loss, prioritizes life over work? Why are they not choosing to numb themselves with being busy?

We better start figuring this out since the facts are starting to catch up with us. It is projected that by 2020, about 75% of the world’s population will be under the age of 25. Another staggering fact is that 40% of the US workforce will be contingent workers. And where will most the talent come from? It won’t be the developed world. So we better learn how to work virtually and with people from other cultures around the world. And most importantly, we need to unlock the potential of the younger workers so they can have their life-work balance and have business succeed.

World PopulationI will be writing more about why and how we need to unlock work as my own work is shifting to focus on organizational wellness; an area that I am truly passionate about and want to help others. And why I am off to NYC to participate in the first Wisdom 2.0 Business Conference, which I will also write about soon.

Rawn Shaw is also writing some great posts on why Work is Broken and Umair Haque shared Making the Choice Between Money and Meaning. My focus will be not only in sharing the challenges but also providing solutions that help us simplify work.

2 responses

  1. Right on Ayelet. I was thinking today about how busy I am now, starting two companies, working hard to find my way and make it happen for me and my partners… and I was also thinking about how happy I am being able to work from 8:30 to 3:30 and then for a couple more hours in the pm and a couple of hours after I put my son to sleep. 12 hour days but IN MY OWN TERMS! I never had a problem with working on weekeds, late etc, but I want to be able to have a life also. I have a son. We all know the adage… “what will you miss in your death bed, having worked more hours or having spent more time with your family”. There is no contest. I would choose spending time with my son and my dog above any job, there is nothing like it. And I have done very well at whatever I have set to do in life. All highly successful people, who have made it in their own terms, mostly entrepreneurs, will tell you that one of the aspects of being an entrepreneur they enjoyed the most was the ability to manage their own time. Entrepreneurs are most keen on controling their lives and work, this is why they leave the usual roads and try to find others, new, unexplored paths. I was talking today with one of my partners and he mentioned that Steve Jobs, one of my heroes, decided that he was tired of having a phone that could be used only to make phone calls. The tecnology he used to come up with what we now know as the ubiquitous iPhone already existed, but he used it in a different way. Do you think he was counting the hours he spent in the office and making face time and playing politics? No, he was an independent mind set out to explore and find the answers he needed. This freedom of thought and action is not usual in a corporation and that is one of the reasons many people are wasted and unhappy in large corporations.

    Highly responsible individuals don’t like to be monitored and expected to “put in” the hours in the office, whether they are actually achieving good work or not. Face time expectations and office politics stifle people who do not need to have a boss to get things done, people who figure things out in their own way, people motivated to fight for what they want and succeed. What is it to succeed? for me, it is do do work that I feel enthusiastic about, where I learn a lot and where I can grow as a person and as a professional. In addition, to consider myself successful I need to perform at the top of the range, at the top 10-5% of my field. I have always done better than that in fact. Let me bragg (Sharon Vosmek, the CEO of ASTIA mentioned the othe day that women don’t bragg): When I was at Goldman Sachs’ the training program, way back when, I got a 117% in a convertibles exam! I loved convertibles because they are such versatile financial products. Nobody told me to study for that exam, nobody told me how to get clients, although I must say they had some incredibly good sales people. And I sold 4x the average per individual in the US during my last year there. And yet, I was quite unhappy there in many ways and it had mostly to do with the quality of management and the transformations the company was going through at the time. I did learn a lot and achieve a lot though, and that will stay with me forever.

    In short: I agree with you. Divorcing your job (divorcing anything that doesn’t allow you to be happy) is a wise move if you are not allowed to grow in it within the boundaries of your ethical beliefs. There is only one life here on planet earth. Wasting your time and talent is an unforgivable act of cowarness and weakness of character.

    • There is only one life and as you say so eloquently, it is precious. No one knows what we need so setting our own path is key. You are so courageous in what you are doing and my world is better knowing there are other souls who are out there creating and redefining the world of work. Thank you so much for sharing. The ethical piece is huge and it’s too bad that it is usually lip service.

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