Finding Balance in a Busy World, Part I

Busyness1

“Busy” is the New “Fine”

Many people seem to equate being busy with being important. Somehow, being busy by living in a state of perpetual hustle and bustle and constant exhaustion seems to say, “I matter.” In fact, if you’re not crazy busy, others look at you with resentful longing.

This constant busyness leaves many feeling like they’re running an endless race with an illusive finish line. They feel trapped, but they remain ignorant of why. Being too busy to find balance is simply much easier that doing the hard work of changing.

I remember when most people answered the question, “How are you?” with “Fine.” Now, the pat answers more often than not is “Busy.”

After all, busy is what you’re supposed to be, right? If you’re not busy, you’re probably missing out on something. Or, maybe busyness just keeps boredom at bay. What would you do if you weren’t so busy anyway?

I remember when busyness kept me moving and gave me purpose. Those were the days when my “Busy” answer existed as both a boast and a complaint. I knew I was too busy, yet I didn’t know how else to be considered successful. Then one day I just couldn’t keep up anymore.

My crash and burn forced a choice between doing the hard work to change, to become unbusy, or remaining unhealthy, depressed and miserable. After much searching in the form of doctor visits, counseling sessions, reading, studying and praying, I came to realize that not only did my approach need to change but also my thinking.

In this process of becoming unbusy, the road to balance became increasingly clear. Right action and right thinking — the steps and the path — must partner to create a balanced life.

Stepping Toward Balance

Finding balance is not about establishing the right time-management habits or organizational strategies. After all, none of these will matter if you have too much to manage and organize in the first place.

Finding balance begins with implementing actionable approaches that allow you to do the hard work necessary to become unbusy. For me, that involved three choices that daily direct my steps through the healing process and into a relatively balanced existence.

  1. Ask “Why?” and “What?” These questions serve to get at the root cause. Why do you feel sick all the time? Why can’t you sleep? Why did you say “yes” to that commitment? What keeps you at that job when you hate it? What pushes you to be involved in every activity that comes along? Continually asking “What?” and “Why?” questions can help discover motives at the heart of chronic busyness. They help you understand your life rather than continuing to live from one reaction to the next.
  2. Refuse to quit. Persevere. Keep asking “What?” and “Why?” until you have answers, then ask some more. Dig until an understanding of the root cause emerges. We live in an information age like none ever before us, and the answers are there for those willing to pursue them. You don’t have to live in ignorance of why chronic busyness plagues your life.
  3. Keep taking small steps. Most progress happens in small steps taken gradually over time that add up to make a big difference. Rarely does progress happen in leaps and bounds. Asking “Why?” and “What?” gives the steps to take, and refusing to quit makes taking another step a non-negotiable. Eventually, if you refuse to give up, you’ll look back and realize you’ve left busyness behind and have found balance.

These three approaches kept my actions headed in the right direction. At the same time, I realized that I could take right steps but still head in the wrong direction if I was on the wrong path. So while my choices to find the root cause, not give up and keep taking small steps gave me the motivation to keep moving forward, I also needed to change my thinking in order to make sure I was headed toward balance and not just another version of busyness.

Next week, we’ll explore the principles of balance that create the thinking necessary to leave busyness, overload and overwhelm behind and to achieve and maintain a balanced life.

DISCUSSION: How will you take steps towards a more balanced life today?

Preventing Decision Fatigue

Decisions

The best way to become overwhelmed with decisions, to experience Decision Fatigue, comes through doing absolutely nothing to prevent it. People who consistently make good decisions & maintain consistent self control structure their lives to conserve willpower (their decision-making energy). In other words, they employ habits that allow for consistent regulation of decisions.

Scripture has a lot to say about decision making to help each one of us make better decisions and better direct our decision-making energy.

1. Develop a habit of preparedness. (Matthew 24:44)

Preparedness requires spending regular time with the Father and learning His will. It means letting the Holy Spirit guide and direct decisions. Preparedness also involves taking care of the physical self, which helps maintain a long-term focus instead of being driven by immediate needs.

2.) Simplify. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Many of us become overwhelmed because of unnecessarily complicated (heavy) lives. Simplifying means automating where possible and releasing where necessary. Very few things are truly mandatory, things we actually HAVE to do. Decide non-negotiables, and then use energy for bigger decisions.

3.) Learn to say “no.” (Luke 10:41-42)

We don’t have to accept every opportunity presented. In fact, opportunities often distract from God’s desire for us. Many of our decisions involve deciding among good, better and best, not between good and bad. Jesus emphasized this when he said that what Martha wanted to do wasn’t bad, but what Mary chose was better. Know “How to Make Consistent Progress” by focusing on your purpose as Jesus did, and you’ll have a clear idea of what to say “no” to and what to accept by way of opportunity.

4.) Let others do their part.
(Exodus 18:23-24; Acts 6:1-7; 1 Corinthians 12:27)

Jethro advised Moses to delegate, so Moses wouldn’t get worn out and the people frustrated. The disciples needed to delegate in order to focus on their roles and still ensure needs were met. The concept of the body of Christ tells us we all have our own work to do, which also tells us some decisions just aren’t ours to make. We must allow others to fully do their parts too.

5.) Refuse to second guess. (Matthew 4:18-22)

Just as the the disciples did when Jesus called them into ministry, make the best decision you can and fully commit to it. Second guessing wears you and your ability to make good decisions — or any decisions at all — down.

6.) Develop an eternal focus. (Psalm 61:2)

Developing an eternal focus involves prioritizing toward that which benefits eternally rather than just temporally. It means getting our focus off self and off of what satisfies only in this world and onto our Creator who knows what is best for us.

Overcoming Decision Fatigue

The path to overcoming and preventing Decision Fatigue requires unique steps for each individual, yet all can apply the same biblical concepts. For every person that means…

  • Examining hearts & removing idols of self-reliance.
  • Learning to say “no” to good and trusting God’s leading toward best.
  • Consulting with God regularly.
  • Being intentional about self-care.
  • Setting boundaries.
  • Living within God’s will.
  • Living in community.

Do you feel overwhelmed thinking about where to start?

Let that overwhelm draw you to Christ and to his power. Remember that the resurrection of the dead revealed God’s unsurpassable power, and that we have access to that same power (Ephesians 1:19-20).

Ask God where to start. Ask Him how to become less overwhelmed with decision-making. Let Him gradually lead you to a place of focus where you feel His peace and where you can live with joy and effectiveness rather than in overwhelm.

Sunday Reflections – Divine Uniqueness

1-16-13 comparisonsMy husband belongs to a Saturday morning running group to which he and about a half dozen other runners remain extremely faithful. We’re talking every Saturday morning regardless of weather, and in Michigan that sure creates some interesting running conditions at times. This group inspires me!

Their inspiration reached the point of me wanting to train for the distances they constantly focus on, mostly ½ and full marathons. So, I convinced (meaning, laid a guilt trip on) my exercise partner to train for and run a ½ marathon with me. After two ½ marathons apiece, we decided that we hated them.

Our bodies simply refused to cooperate, and the resulting chronic injury has forced me to reevaluate my approach to exercising.

This led me to truly understanding that some people are built for distance running, and some are not. So, I am now working to find the approach to exercising that works best for my body, schedule, temperament and lifestyle.

Guess what? I enjoy exercising again. I still run, but shorter distances. Plus, I do a lot of cross training. My husband on the other hand, while he will play almost any sport, focuses on running ½ marathons and on actually continually achieving a personal record. (His fastest ½ marathon is a 1:38.)

Non-Negotiables

Life requires a lot of non-negotiables in order to be physically, mentally and spiritually healthy. We all need certain nutrients. We all require rest. Everyone needs physical activity. And we all need connection with others. While we all need these non-negotiables, we each require a unique balance of them.

We all need exercise, but we don’t all have to get it exactly the same way. We all need rest & relaxation, but those can look very different from one person to the next. And we all need connection with others, but how our relationships operate and even the number of them we have exists as uniquely our own.

Divine Uniqueness

A relationship with Christ is also a non-negotiable. But just like with all the other non-negotiables, your individual relationship with Christ is unique and different from anyone else’s. Let’s explore this a bit further.

  1. God is limitless. His power is limitless, infinite, beyond measure (Psalm 147:5). He knows everything (1 John 3:19-20). Nothing is hidden from him (Hebrews 4:13). Doesn’t Him being unlimited take the pressure off though? I mean, if He already knows and sees everything, I don’t have to pretend with Him or hide anything from Him like I feel I have to sometimes with people. For me, that relieves a lot of pressure. I can completely be my unique self with God.
  2. You’re different. Yeah, I hate to break it to you, but you’re a little different. So am I. (Some would say I am a lot different.) But different is okay because that was God’s intention. He created us to be different from one another, each for a unique purpose. We all have a unique combination of qualities given to us by our Creator. (Romans 12:3-5)
  3. We need differences. A person without an arm or a leg can adapt and accommodate for what’s missing, but doing so doesn’t change the fact that a part is missing. The body of Christ works the same way. It can and does adapt when a part is absent, but nothing can exactly replace the missing part. The job that missing part was meant to do simply won’t get done in the exact way that part was meant to do it. Our uniqueness is essential to the body. (Romans 12:3-5)

Amplify: So, we probably all realize the truth of our uniqueness. Just a quick survey of the people you know personally should be proof enough of this truth. Though we fight against it sometimes and give in to conformity, we ultimately know that no two individuals are alike. Knowing that our relationships with Christ are unique should impact our actions. This happens through avoiding comparisons, appreciating differences, acknowledging strengths and accepting a person regardless of weaknesses.

DISCUSSION: What additional application do you see?