I DON’T HAVE TIME: The Newest Killer of Change
It takes a certain degree of courage to change one’s life. I know this because I have observed thousands of people make life-changing decisions and all the themes that become part of the journey from dissatisfaction to fulfilling their deepest career ambitions.
In 1990, I designed The Inspired Work Program, an immersive journey that leads people to define their best career options and their best relationship towards work. I have never viewed it as a “how to” process because people actually change their lives. The program became my university of life. As participants work through the curriculum patterns emerged that most everyone had in common. Changing one’s life, holding one’s ambitions to the light requires a certain degree of courage. Over time, I witnessed that all of us have to work through filters to reach the truth of what our heads, our hearts, and our souls most want and need. I also find that once we slow down and pay attention to our souls our right place in the world is in there. We obscure that truth by using filters that kill off change, all driven by fear. The filters are cynicism, contempt, aimlessness and resignation. However, in the last decade, another filter has stepped forward that seems to be overpowering progress for many of us. The filter is called “frenzy.”
For everyone one person that comes to our program, another five tell us, “I don’t have time to set aside a weekend.” Many of them are ambivalent or thoroughly unhappy with their work but they don’t have time to solve the problem. When we work in organizations the nicest outcome is the goodwill and gratitude that is directed towards our internal partners afterwards. However, the first few minutes of the program invariably has a number of participants expressing resentment of having to attend a program when they don’t have the time to do it. Frenzy is the new trance.
According to Dean Schabner of ABC Television, today’s full-time employees work an average of 49 hours per week, about six days out of seven days. Since 1993, the average full-time American worker has given up over a month of leisure activity because they are now working during the weekend. We work harder than any other industrialized nation, including Japan, where workers who used to die from stress received a hero’s funeral. About of our country’s 3.6 million workers spend over three hours per day commuting. According to Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post, our annual commute time, if added up nationally, could have built the Great Pyramid of Giza 38 times over.
Smartphones have opened the door for employers to reach employees at all hours of the day and night. In many cases and with increasing frequency, we are not allowing employees to renew themselves and replenish their energy. France has recognized the problem and even passed a law making it illegal for employers to email employees during off hours.
Many employers mindlessly push people to the edge of crashing and burning. Between commute times, taking care of children, making the mortgage payment, getting groceries and trying to get enough sleep, frenzy has become a state-of-mind that shields us from change because we simply don’t have the time to reflect on it, let alone pursue it. I find that when people engage in healthy self-inquiry, many realize that frenzy is tantamount to treating time as junk food, giving away our most precious commodity to issues that have little value but we are so busy giving time away we don’t even notice it.
Consider a couple of thoughts. Just five minutes of self-inquiry per day can undo hours of irrelevant activity. Learning how to deal well with a problem can give us the resources to be more alert, engaged and present. From a time perspective, work is usually our biggest relationship. Elevating our relationship towards work towards fulfillment, happiness, success, and meaning elevates every other relationship in our lives. Sadly, many of us are so frenzied we don’t believe we have the time to find that or pursue it. For organizations, building an engagement culture can erase millions of dollars of lost effort, human error and disappearing customers each month. Embedded organizational cynicism leads to arguments with ourselves and our colleagues about the non-ideal conditions and lack of resources, etcetera. These endless loops cloud the vision and generally have us doing a lot of running in place.
I am not a guru! At various times I have embraced most every dysfunction that is described to my reader. A few years back, I was in the midst of an Inspired Work Program listening to someone talk about how she was spending most of her waking hours engaged in work and activities. She talked about hours of daily commuting in awful traffic, she didn’t do work that “mattered” and her personal life wasn’t satisfying. I ran into her a few years later and didn’t recognize her. She was gorgeous and buoyant and told me how she studied an area of work that fascinated her, got a wonderful job in that field near her home, remarried, lost a lot of weight and stopped watching depressing crime series on Television. Moments like that are my greatest highs but driving home, I realized I didn’t like where I lived and how I was using my time. I was in a neighborhood I didn’t like, I was constantly rushing to make sales and feed everyone around me and while I loved my work, my life had somehow fallen victim to becoming too busy to invest in change. I was exhausted much of the time. A couple of years ago, I called that participant and thanked her for inspiring me to change my life. Today, I live at the beach in a neighborhood that is peaceful, beautiful and tranquil. I’m in a wonderful relationship. While I love to drive in a nice car at the beach, I spend far less time trapped in traffic. Right now, I’m looking at the Santa Monica Mountains to my left and the Pacific Ocean to my right. That one conversation gave me the courage to restructure the business as well as my life. Was it uncomfortable to change? Of course. But getting past the “why bothers” and “I don’t have times,” the actions allowed me to take back my time.
Life is good and that, my friends and readers, is all that I want for you.
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