No one disagrees that as a culture we are too busy. Most people complain about how hectic their lives are and about how there is never enough time. Yet, despite this universal agreement, we only seem to get busier. Perhaps even odder still is the fact that, while we say we hate being busy, we simultaneously equate our importance in life based on how busy we are. The more we have going on, the more we believe that we are on the right track towards success. We are important; people need us; our time is highly sought after; we’re the only ones that can get anything done. These are the statements that make us feel powerful and productive. But is being too busy actually counterproductive? By trying to be all things to all people, are we really able to be anything to anyone?
Up until just a few months ago, I was just like everyone else. I took pride in winning the competition, by being busier than everyone else. I was very good at this game, working 14 hour days, sleeping 4 hours a night, rushing from one meeting to another. I could run circles around the best of the best. Then, one day, out of nowhere, I was hit by circumstances, moving even faster than I was. Life struck me hard. My health started failing, depression gripped my soul, clients, and new leads dried up. My mind could literally no longer see up from down. Nothing made sense. My whole life seemed to be in reverse. I did not know why, and I had no idea how to stop from sliding backward.
Then one day, my pastor asked me a very simple question. “What would happen if I stopped trying so hard?” At first, I rebelled against the comment, thinking that he had no idea what it was like to be me. I worked for the church, taught college classes, wrote a successful daily blog, and run a thriving marketing and design business with clients all over the country. Luckily, my pastor pushed the issue further. He asked a follow-up question, that we all need to ask ourselves, “What if you let everything go, and then only picked back up the things that really mattered to you?” This question shook me to the core. Not because it was such a novel idea, but because as soon as he asked it, I realized I had no idea what was really important to me. I had been running for so long and so hard, that I never even had a chance to ask such questions. All I could do was react to life. I never thought about how I wanted to live my life.
Over the last two and a half months, I have slowed way down. Yes, we had to tighten our belts a little bit, but even that has helped narrow in on what is really important. My wife and I got rid of cable, started eating in and healthier more, going on walks, reading and talking more. I have even lost over 20lb. But, I lost a lot more than that. I lost the stress of trying to fit everything in. Perhaps more important is what I have gained. I love teaching, and now I have the time to enjoy it. I love working for the church, and now I have the time to accomplish what I have wanted to for over a year. I get to read a book and put my baby boy to bed almost every night (I never knew how special that was until I started). I am reevaluating my business and designing some great new products that will take less of my time, and actually serve my clientele even better.
Perhaps the biggest, most important thing I have gained is a new definition of what is important, and what it means to succeed in life. Sure, I want financial success and security, but not just for the sake of the money. For me, success is now counted, not in cash, but in time. The more time I have to slow down and think straight, the more time I have for family and friends, the more time I have for service to those in need, the more time I have to write, pray, and study God’s purpose for my life: these are the riches that I want to hoard. These are the things that are important in life.
I know now that time is not something to be squandered and exchanged for monetary value. On the contrary, instead of spending time to gain more money, I work to gain more time. So far, the results of this little experiment have resulted in huge successes. Yes, money is still a little tighter, but the one thing money can’t buy is time: time to cherish and enjoy life, time to love, time to serve, time to rest, and time to create. The odd thing is that slowing down has actually given me time to do and experience more than I ever thought possible.