The standard response to “How’s it going?,” has now become “I’m crazy busy!”  Or variations on the theme.

And it’s true.

If you think about it, this is an odd state of affairs.  For over a century, much of our technology development has been in labor-saving devices.  This has resulted in a large number of areas where we no longer invest much time or effort.  Your great-grandmother might have spent a couple of hours every day preparing dinner, now we just zap something in the microwave.

So why are we so busy?

Because we choose to be.

When I was growing up, a significant amount of my after-school time was unstructured.  Only in high school did I start having regular obligations like music lessons.  So one source of stress is all of the additional obligations we’ve added for ourselves and our families.

Another source is our shift towards “a good life” being represented by what we own.  The niftiest gadgets, amazing vehicles, and larger houses.  I’m glad to see that many in younger generations are now questioning this, realizing that possession of STUFF doesn’t actually impact quality of life as much as we think.

When you’re acquiring stuff, that puts stress on your finances.  After all, the vast majority of this stuff we didn’t create ourselves, we had to go out and buy it.

Which leads to multiple income earners, and the rat race toward higher pay.

Here’s an exercise I sometimes do with my clients:  Imagine that your life constraints change by a huge amount.

  • Instead of working just 50 hours a week, your boss demands 100.
  • You have a heart attack or auto accident and are taken out of commission for six months.
  • Your new child requires much more of your time than average.

Your first reaction, of course, is shock and despair.  As it should be; these are huge events.  But realize that this is just a mental exercise, and its purpose is to give us space to think calmly about the Big Picture.

This is the same kind of thing which happens with someone who has a near death experience.  Often they’ll come through it realizing that they’ve focused too much on money, and too little on relationships.  They find a whole bunch of things which can be eliminated from their life because activities and possessions don’t hold the importance they once had.

So what changes might you make in these circumstances?

  • You’d tell your boss to take a hike, that no job is worth ruining your life for.
  • You’d work on changing careers to something which gives you energy rather than destroys it.
  • You’d cut out all kinds of obligations so you can focus on your health and sanity.
  • You’d put yourself on a strict budget and NOT get that new TV just because it’s cool and five inches larger.
  • You’d restructure your life around health and family and spiritual nourishment.

These are big changes, the ones which could make a huge difference.

Take a deep breath, think calmly, then move forward with a new clarity on what’s REALLY important in your life.  Otherwise you’ll just continue to be crazy busy until you keel over.

This article was first published on the I Am Well Coaching blog.