Is Overcommitment the New Badge of Honor?

When was the last time you laid in the grass on a beautiful summer day and looked up at the clouds?

I attended a lecture tonight. The speaker was an American monk – Sumati Marut (aka Brian Smith). It was sponsored by the Asian Classics Institute on Cape Ann.

Guess what the Honorable Marut talked about?  (He’s a very practical guy)  

Problems and solutions.

What’s the problem? We want to be happy, yet our lives are consumed with work, stress, and overcommitment.

Our lives are consumed by ‘busy-ness’ (sounds like business, eh?)

Marut shared statistics with us that you have probably heard before:

  • 80% of workers are stressed on the job
  • 34% of employees rush eating their lunch – if they have lunch at all
  • 460 Million vacation days per year are turned back in and not used

How did American society get to the point where it is prestigious to be so busy?When did it start being okay to expect that workers should work 50, 60, 70 hours per week?

When did it become acceptable to push people to be so “productive” on the job that they suffer from exponential amounts of stress related illnesses – mental and physical?  

Where did we acquire this compulsion of having to do something every minute of the day? Is it socially desirable to be so busy and stressed?

Has our self worth become so attached to our ‘busy-ness’ that we are afraid to stop the insanity?

Do we keep so busy so we don’t have to look at the meaninglessness of what we are doing? Do we even notice how busy we are?

When did we start the habit of coming home from work only to begin turning everyone “on” around us (again)?  We walk in the door only to turn on our computer, our televisions, iPods, iPads, Wii, etc. These are all stimulants.

We’re exhausted, fall into bed later than we should and then begin it all again. Is that happiness?

When does it all stop? When do we make different choices?

How do we find happiness?

Some of these can be tough questions if you want to dig into them. A happier life requires some radical shifts, yet Marut offers us some suggestions that don’t seem so radical at all.

Will we stop to listen or relinquish the joy of our lives to busy-ness?

  • Get enough sleep. There is medical evidence that less than 8 hours sleep impacts our health negatively. How much sleep do you get each night?
  • Don’t wake up to a jarring alarm clock sound. This is not a peaceful way to start your day.
  • Stop the cycle of buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff. Simplify your life, reduce the need to earn more and more money. Stop.
  • Practice this mantra. “I have enough”. Repeat. “I have enough”.
  • Stop thinking about yourself and focus on helping someone else.

If you are unhappy, you cannot blame the job or your boss or the bills or your kids. The responsibility and the power to be happy is yours, and yours alone.

Take one step towards creating a discipline for a simple meditation practice every day. Meditation is actually quite simple and there are many different ways to practice it. The key is the word “practice”.

Are you committed to your own happiness?

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3 Responses

  1. I really enjoyed this post. You’ve raised some very good points. It would be almost odd to say (much less feel) “I have nothing to do.” The traditional/typical response (and reality) is that things are very/too busy.

    While we all feel overburdened and overwhelmed with our respective burdens and juggles, and desperately want to do something, anything to stop the mad pace of life, most of us just continue on… thinking we have no choice and that all the things on our list are indeed “commitments.”

    At the same time, thankfully, there is a slow steady movement towards simplifying life as indicated by the minimalist movement, Zen etc. So there is hope 🙂

    I too am guilty of this tendency to always be “on” in one way or another. It’s as if getting all these additional recreational/vocational choices have turned into additional obligations. Perhaps the only way to have a chance to get one’s life back is to consciously set limits of how long one will spend on the computer (all electronics) for work, pleasure, “social media/networking” purposes etc. so that one has enough time to decompress, spend quality time with family and friends, and get back to exercising and resting properly etc.

  2. Thanks for such a thoughtful reply, Dorlee. I think we all struggle with these issues in one way or another – perhaps all to different degrees.

    Interestingly, last night Marut talked about that we should spend a LOT of our time “doing nothing” – which really means living and breathing and being happy!

    There is a Lao Tzu quote that says: “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing”

    I guess one of the points is for us to really consider — is all this stuff we are doing really IMPORTANT stuff in the scheme of life? Perhaps in your new line of work, it is, indeed. But it is still work; and your life is still YOUR life.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Thanks, Terry. I wish I had been there to hear Marut talk. It sounds like you got a lot out of his lecture and that he was someone quite inspiring.

    That’s a great Lao Tzu quote you just shared 🙂 I’ll have to remember that one. Sometimes one is indeed busy doing nothing!

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