Always ‘busy’? Here’s the answer

Kate Neser

Everybody seems to be in a rush these days.

When you ask someone ‘How are you?’, it seems that the default response has changed from being ‘good’ to being ‘busy’. I think for some people (that is, me), this has become a habit.

A few months ago, I decided to start checking in on whether being ‘busy’ and in a rush had become habitual for me. How often am I mentally checking my to-do list while trying to check my email or do the dishes or have a conversation with someone? The answer – way more often than is helpful.

So I became determined to interrupt this habitual way of being. A great opportunity soon arose. I was getting my haircut when the dreaded phone call from school interrupted to tell me my daughter was sick, and could I pick her up. So we finished the haircut as quickly as possible, without walking out with an askew new hairstyle. I rushed to my car and started driving.

Now, on principle, I do not speed (yes, it’s true). So there I was, driving down Northbourne Avenue at 60km/h clutching the steering wheel as if my life depended upon it, leaning forward with my shoulders hunched, my teeth clenched, very stressed to get to the school as quickly as possible. It seemed that I was getting every red light on the way, and everyone in front of me was driving ridiculously slowly, and I was muttering under my breath criticisms of everyone around me.

With my recent commitment to observe (and hopefully improve) my default of being in a rush, I took a moment to think. I wasn’t going to drive any faster, and I wasn’t going to get to school any faster by holding my body with so much stress. So I deliberately relaxed, my hands, my shoulders, my jaw. It worked, I could feel my breathing ease, and my whole body relax.

And while I know that this can have had no actual effect on my chances of getting a red or a green traffic light, as I relaxed, I seemed to be getting green lights rather than red, and others on the road didn’t seem to be in need of driving lessons any longer.

In fact, as I drove, in my new relaxed state, thinking “All the lights are green”, it reminded me of a song from my childhood, and before I knew it, I was driving (still at 60 km/h), relaxed, smiling and singing aloud a long-forgotten song.

I got to school in a much better mood, no quicker or slower than I would have anyway (unless the green lights really were responding to my change in mood!).

This experience was eye-opening and made me wonder how often I do this in every moment of the day. How often am I stretched, and feel the need to rush, when really, it would be far more productive and enjoyable to relax. This doesn’t require going any slower or pulling back on achieving my to-do list – it focuses more on how I am ‘being’ in any moment, rather than what I am ‘doing’.

I am far from perfect, and every day I forget this lesson and find my mind on my to-do list and my habit of ‘being’ in a rush wins the day. But when I remember, I slow, and almost invariably smile as my shoulders relax. I’m determined to catch myself whenever I can, and give up the habit for good.

What habitual ways of being do you adopt? Are they working for you? How would you like to change them? Just observing them can be the crucial first step to living a life free from ways of being which aren’t serving you well. I highly recommend it!


Kate Neser

Kate Neser is a Professional Certified Coach who loves to work with people to find the pathway to fulfil on their full potential in any area of work, whether it be developing their leadership potential, managing people or seeking the elusive work-life balance. As a former senior executive who managed the role working part-time with young kids, she is passionate about challenging some of the beliefs held in workplaces that get in the way of people living the life they dream about. More about the Author

MEJ Leaderboard