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Being Industrious or Simply Bustling About?

“For a delight in bustling about is not industry—it is only the restless energy of a disturbed mind.” —Seneca, Letter III

There may be moments where you are truly busy. But it’s also possible to grow so accustomed to the busyness that you can’t do otherwise; to become addicted to being on the go, to never slowing down. The go-getter mentality can be a strength. But what if Seneca was right, and a delight in ever bustling about was not a sign of industriousness, but of an unhealthy restlessness below the surface?

Sometimes our compulsion to stay busy stems from flawed beliefs about ourselves or the world. Maybe we’re trying to justify our own existence to ourselves, believing our value is tied directly to what we produce. Perhaps we have an inflated sense of our own importance, believing everything around us will fall apart if we slow down. Or maybe we place too much value on what (we think) others think. We may ‘complain’ about our busyness, but at the same time we’d be somewhat embarrassed if we had to admit we actually didn’t have that much going on.

Granted, staying busy does help us get more stuff done. But simply completing ‘more’ things is not identical to accomplishing the ‘right’ things. You could stay busy all day, and check plenty of things off your list, but that doesn’t guarantee that you focused your time or energy on the most important things you could have been doing. It’s entirely possible to end up working really hard on things that don’t matter all that much in the bigger scheme of things.

It’s in slowing down, in taking time to reflect and recalibrate, that you gain a broader perspective—both of your own life, and of the world around. Not only do you have a chance to discern what’s actually most important in your life, but you can also start to identify what may be driving the need to always be on the go.

Choosing to slow down and rest and reflect is not the opposite of being industrious. Rather, when done appropriately, it’s what can give direction to your labors, and help ensure that what you set out to do is worth doing in the first place.

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