Life, as we say in my family, is a full-time job. Going to work, paying the bills, socializing, meal prep, running errands, checking email, trying to exercise and nurture your ever-faithful body, not to mention your often-neglected relationships all serve to feed you, but also drain you.
While there is near-constant pressure to keep up, at some point you have to look at yourself and ask the hard, honest question, “Am I addicted to doing?”
I teach workshops on how to calm the chaos of our modern world with its unrelenting pace and stimulating opportunities. Time and again I get a desperate plea from an overwhelmed participant bemoaning her 21-hour days and asking how she can manage it all better. The truth is, she can’t. No one can pull off 21 hours of non-stop doing inside of what should be no more than a 14-hour doing-mode day.
Yes, there are demands and an unprecedented amount of information and opportunities that come our way. The problem isn’t social media, or your social life, or your kids and aging parents. The problem is your inability to say, “No,” and what that is costing you. How do I know? I have been there myself.
The problem that has roots in our modern day “busy-is-the-new-rich” culture. You must stop long enough to ask yourself what you are trying to prove or accomplish by your non-stop pace from before sun-up to way past sun-down. When you cannot filter out commitments that are a hassle, and constantly engage in activities that you feel others expect of you, you have become “addicted to doing.”
Take a minute to read and reflect on these eight signs of someone addicted to doing:
1. You have a pathological inability to say no. What this means is that despite having an already overbooked schedule and knowing that you feel maxed out, when someone asks you to do the next new thing what automatically flies out of your mouth is, “Sure, I can do that!” You don’t pause to reflect on your pace, your previous commitments or how completely overwhelmed you feel most of the time. Your number one complaint is that you don’t have enough time, but you never stop to reflect on the fact that you are the one making all of those agreements and commitments.
2. You neglect your self-care. “Self-what?” Yes, that’s an excellent sign that you are addicted to doing! You are so far removed from self-care practices that you have even forgotten what they once were or perhaps could be. Or conversely, your self-care practices are so pronounced that they too have become part of your non-stop, crazed, addicted cycle of busyness and doing.
3. You feel that you have no other choice. You constantly say that you don’t understand how this keeps happening, that just when you think things are going to slow down, you all of a sudden find yourself with a half dozen more commitments that “just happened” to show up in your life.
4. You get an ironic sense of self-worth from all that you do. Feeling a sense of self-importance is the very subversive side of addiction to doing — it feels good in a sick and twisted kind of way. Yes, you are running ragged, feel exhausted and can’t think straight 90 percent of the time, but there is a way that the busyness just feels satisfying. You feel important and needed; like you are someone doing great things. It’s just that you are not sure what it is that you are trying to accomplish.
5. You have significant difficulty slowing down your mind. In fact, you’ve had to go back and re-read several of the points in this article because you are interested, but your mind keeps wandering. You get the point.
6. You have lost sight of what is truly important to you. You remember longing for the days when you had a free afternoon to read a good book, go for a walk with your best friend, or make love all evening long. But those days seem like a passing fantasy now, and you think it has to do with something outside of you — the kids, the job, the commute. You don’t honor your desires by just saying, “No, thank you.”
7. You are putting your goals and dreams on hold in the endless race of doing the next thing that comes your way. You have a vision of wanting to start that side job or explore other career options or start training for a race, or go out dating. You want these things, but you are living in the “someday” mentality — someday you will find time to pursue what you want. Someday you will slow down. But as the weeks and months and years tick on, you begin to wonder if “someday” will ever come.
If you identify with these characteristics, try this instead. Notice your reflexive tendency to jump in and say “Yes!” without thinking about the other commitments you already have. Realize that while it is great to be a “Yes!” to life, if you continually say “Yes” to everything you will, without a doubt, be saying “No” to your wellbeing and peace of mind.
Begin honoring yourself as the conscious creator of your life. Recognize that if you are not designing your life the way you want to experience it, lots of other people will be designing it for you! More busyness is not what you crave. You long to begin creating a life you love. You can do so when you listen to, and follow, the still, small voice within.
Slow down. There’s nothing to prove. You are enough.
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