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  • Writer's pictureLizzie, In Your Own Words

Busy and successful are not the same thing

I’m used to being busy. Calendar packed, brain buzzing, legs pumping on my bicycle as I charge from activity to activity, place to place.

I’ve always been this way! It’s fun to be occupied, to be getting exercise outdoors, to be filling my days. But lockdown has allowed me the time to reconsider. I may be busy, but am I successful?

As a freelancer, I often feel I’m chasing fulfilment, a step behind everyone else. Maybe you feel like that in your salaried job, too, if you have one? Or in our social lives – even maybe family lives and love lives? If we are busy – i.e. keeping up with, or exceeding the output of, other people – more often than not we get positive feedback from others. There’s no space to question ourselves. No time to wonder if what we’re doing is actually in service of getting to where we want to go.

I’ve read a thousand blogs like this and don’t worry, I am not going to advise you to step off the treadmill and smell the flowers (although, have you smelled a flower recently?! They’re mostly pretty great. Lockdown has really brought out my adoration of flowers). I’m only wondering if you, like me, have felt any relief during lockdown, as the normally endless capacity for comparison is hugely limited. Finally, you can be sure nobody is doing life better than you. You don’t have to fill up all that time.

Now the grease has been forcibly scrubbed out of my life – all the commuting and endless socialising that was making my cup feel full, slipping my time away. Now I don’t have to worry about judgement, or that the world is leaving me behind. So I am allowing myself to ask what purpose Busy was really serving in my life? If you are hating this quiet, bored and itching to get back to it all, perhaps busy is for you, perhaps you had it good! But for me I’ve realised that Busy, sometimes, was a good excuse for me to fail to get the things I really want.

Separating Busy and Successful has resulted in two takeaways for me:

1. I am successful. I’ve created and run a business that has enhanced dozens of unique, beautiful occasions. I’m an international actress, a produced playwright. I have friends who I love. I got up this morning. I’m killing it. I am enough.

2. I’m not successful. Repeatedly, I choose quick cash over time invested in my own future. I am alright at asking for help but not so hot at receiving or, harder, implementing it. I’m essentially a commitment-phobe, and against my best judgement I’m frightened of failure (convinced those last two are linked).

SO, when we’re allowed to start to re-start, I hope I don’t just oil up again and slide back into filling time. I hope I remember time is mine, and can be used for almost entirely whatever I want rather than whatever I think the world reckons it should be full of. And if my time IS full – and I am not kidding myself, it will be – I commit now to dismissing Busy as the equivalent of Success. I commit to chasing the holy grail of Good Busy. Productive Busy. In service of what I want Busy. Now THERE’S a life’s work if ever I saw it.

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