Chapter 6: Busy or Full

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Busyness is an American pandemic. Some would say busyness is an American addiction.

Here are some remarkable statistics on American families over the last 40 years:

  • The average workweek has increased from 41 to 47 hours.
  • The number of families that say they regularly dine together has decreased by 33 percent.
  • Free time for families has dropped 37 percent.

Busy or Full?

With this information in mind, let us consider the first question that will help us check our compasses:

Am I aiming for a busy life or am I aiming for a full life?

Here’s how we would define the terms:

Busy Life:

  • Hurrying from one thing to the next
  • Feeling like you are behind
  • Easily distracted by future tasks.

Full Life:

  • Sufficient time allotted for each activity
  • Feeling like you are on pace
  • Able to be “present.”

The Threat of a Busy Life

“I’m of the opinion that busyness is a deeper threat to the soul than pornography ever was.” – Gordon MacDonald

Pornography is a known evil. When individuals spend time viewing pornographic images, they recognize a risk to their relationships and to their thought life.

In dramatic contrast, busyness is a badge of honor. When we tell someone, directly or indirectly, that we are busy, it provides a sense of self-worth.

In a world where many of us struggle with insecurity, our busyness tells us, “I am needed in so many areas. I must be valuable.”

The people we admire, from CEOs to pastors to sports figures, all appear to be living the busy life.

We feel that busyness equals productivity, which equals success, wealth, and honor.

How can busyness be dangerous to us?

What can it steal from our lives?

In the book we attempt to answer this question by going through a carefully designed “Busy vs. Full” exercise.

Empty vs. Content

Contentment is something that is highly sought after and yet extremely elusive in our society.

Being over-committed tends to harm our appreciation of every facet of life so our discontentment grows. Because we feel empty, we say “yes” to too many things, hoping one or all of them will increase our contentment.

You see how a vicious cycle can develop.

“It’s Only a Season”

My wife and I have heard those words from so many couples on retreat as they reflect on the busyness of their lives.

While the statement, “It’s only a season” may be valid, it presumes we know what the future holds.

What if the demands in the next season of life are the same or greater than this one?

Many of us are “time optimists.” We have this sense that our schedules will let up and we will be able to spend time on the things that really matter once we reach a specific point a little farther down the road.

But what if that point out in front of us is really like the mirage of an oasis in the desert?

In Good to Great, business leadership author Jim Collins writes, “You cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts!”

So now let us confront the brutal facts about the busy life. If we persist in the busy life, what might it cost us?