Busy as a Bee? What happens to us when we run out of buzz
It was a regular summer day. The gardens were infull bloom with flowers and lush greenery shimmered. The sun shared its warmth while the wind gently hollowed through the rough grass. Amongst this garden valley, a particularly Busy Bee went about his important work. He buzzed from flower-to-flower like a good courier picking up and dropping parcels of pollen.
One of Busy Bee’s colleagues in the hive, SteadyBee, called out amongst the grass as they saw the Busy Bee buzzing by in haste:“Busy Bee, how are you doing today?” Without pause, “Busy as a Bee!” hereplied from afar, with a hint of tiredness in his response.
Just as Busy Bee hurriedly went about hisbusiness of gathering pollen, Steady Bee went about his task calmly and productively. Daintily skipping from petal to petal, he watched Busy Bee dart
out into the distance.
The day for Steady Bee continued at a leisurelypace, enjoying the easy progress from flower to flower. This exploration was never too stressful or rushed. There was ampletime to find the best pollen.
Finally, the day ends, and Steady Bee retiresfrom work at a pleasant hour, ready and happy to return to it all the next day. Busy Bee however, powers on. His honey-craving has not yet been met, and no petal has yet been left unturned. Some say he is still out there, buzzing around. Steady Bee often worries about Busy Bee wondering how long he can continue before he runs out of buzz.
Who would you be at work? Steady Bee or Busy Bee?Sadly, I often observe myself and others living Busy Bee’s experience, where we have succumbed to the idea that being as “busy as a bee” is how we get results, drive success, and find feel accomplished. And there is nothing wrong with
being busy, I enjoy being productive. Where it gets problematic is when we think that’s the only way to get things done, we then “double down” on our busyness and that can lead us to overwhelm.
On top of this technology has seduced us torespond immediately anytime and anywhere to queries and requests, no matter their importance or worth. It is adefinite expectation in the workplace that all emails will be responded to immediately. Suppose your manager asksyou to seek out the answer to a question of vital importance. You respond out of habit that you can have it answered by tomorrow morning. In your eagerness, you have of course neglected to remember your child’s football game that evening, a finalization of a report in the AM, and preparation for a scheduled
afternoon meeting. Then, all in a passing moment, your keenness has been replaced by weariness and overwhelm. You feel torn and taken over by the dispiriting feelings of the list of tasks that stand in the way of accomplishing all of your commitments.
If you resonate with the Busy Bee, then the nextquestion is: how on earth can we be like Steady Bee and still get all these commitments done? How can we be successful, productive and healthy without being busy?
Simply put the difference between Busy Bee andSteady Bee is their state of mind. Or in other words the sole source of our busyness is our thinking. Our busy minds create our busy experience and not, as you might think, our to do lists, commitments, bosses, employees, deadlines,
emails etc. It’s not the things we need to do that make us busy but our it’s thinking about these things. Without our thinking about them they are in fact neutral things. The email, the boss, the deadline are in of themselves just a thing or circumstance. The stories and narrative we are making up about these things or circumstances is what give us a busy mind and stop us seeing things clearly.
“Ok, I get that my thinking has got something todo with how I feel” I hear you say. “But how can it be just mythinking and not the external circumstances and environment I am living with.
These are real, the boss is real, the emails are real, the kids are real. Your saying it’s just my thinking is not helpful!”
I understand your frustration but bear with meand take a moment to consider a little exercise. Take a piece of paper and put a line in the middle of it. On the left side of the paper write down the list
of things that you need to do or respond to. For example, the emails, the boss, the kids, the deadline etc. Then in the right-hand column write down all your thoughts, feelings and narrative about these tasks.
This is a true personal example of mythinking! In fact, I could continue the right-handcolumn for a few pages. Can you see that the amount of thinking I had about one thing is what caused my busy state of mind? The “not meeting a deadline” is of itself a neutral statement, but my busy mind decided to make it into a story of something much bigger. My mind creates the stories, these can come from my past experiences of not meeting a deadline and feeling bad, or fear of the future
bad things happening. Funnily enough my mind does this to protect me. Over the years of my life my mind has figured a lot out about my experience, what I like, don’t like what I fear what brings me joy. It then serves this up as thought in any moment, especially when it thinks I need help. Paying attention to this clutter of thoughts is where I go wrong and that is what is exhausting and makes for a very busy state of mind. Then if I were to add more and more things in the left-hand column with the same state of mind, I end up in overwhelm.
So, what is the antidote?
The answer lies in the simple misunderstandingthat we think as humans we are responding to our circumstances. For example, if something bad happens at work then we feel bad. But, in truth we are living in the feeling of our thoughts about the circumstance. For example, something bad happens at work and we have a bad feeling and that bad feeling has come from thought. Our human experience is a 100% an inside job. To say this another way: what is happening to us (out there) has nothing to do with our experience of it. It’s our thinking about what is happening out there that is creating our experience.
OK, but what can I do about it? How can I get to that clear, steady,insightful state of mind? The good newsis that same power of thought that give us a busy state of mind can also offer us a clear state of mind, with fresh new thinking and perspective about the circumstance or thing. In fact, more importantly, that’s what we are designed to do. We naturally seek peace andequilibrium.
When we use the incredible gift of thought as acreative process for us, not against ourselves, we see that thought is a source of new and insightful thinking that can change our story in a moment. We don’t have to listen to the same old thoughts we had about the thing (my right-hand
column). We start to see there are no real answers for us in these stories. We will never get to the end of our to-dolist if we take them seriously. When wesuspect that they are not the whole truth we are looking for, we can start to drop them for something fresh, new and helpful.
Now take another look at the things in your right-handcolumn. Are they really true? Could you see them start to dissolve, or atleast look a little suspect? Are they a truereflection of the reality of the task on the left-hand side?
So, while our thoughts dwell on the undone tasks- the endless “to do” lists, meeting schedules, unreturned messages or unanswered emails we do not have to listen to each and all of them. They are “just” thought. It is a simplemisunderstanding. The explanation forwhy we are feeling so rushed lies in our misunderstanding of the thoughts that we pay attention to. In our work life there are often conditioned beliefs that tell us to push through, go harder, say yes to tasks when we already have too much on our plate. It is not that these tasks are not important, surely, they are, but by themselves they have no power to harass us. The harassing narrative of these tasks is entirely created by our own thinking, where our own thoughts turn against us. (What we put in the right-hand column).
Knowing this gives us two hugely empowering benefits:
One, to see that these negative, busy-mindedthoughts as just thoughts. To accept our reaction to them rather than to condemn ourselves for having them. That it is perfectly normal. Our minds are in fact trying to protect us bycreating thoughts of not being unable get everything done. Creating thoughts of being too busy to devote quality time to an issue, or in fretting over how many tasks must be accomplished in so little time. This is the job of our conditioned mind, it is trying to protect us, but we can’t always rely on it to help us navigate out way through life.
Two, that underneath all these busy thoughts wehave a deeper intelligence, wisdom we can rely on. Here we find common sense, space, perspective, an open mind that is curious about our moment to moment thought created reality, to see more of what is true and what is made up and see that the power of thought as a creative gift.
So, let’s be a Steady Bee, who like us knows itstrue nature is the state of “beeing” flow and presence. Trust that amazinglywe are designed to be productive, not busy-minded. Being, or being aware of the story our conditioned minds make up, but not needing to succumb to it.
If we embrace this understanding of our human experience,we might realize that to settle down our minds and focus our thinking away from the overwhelming narrative, then our most urgent need at that moment – time to think– is provided. Like the Steady Bee, who affords the most time to check each petal thoroughly, rather than buzzing through as many as possible. In between each parcel of pollen, this Steady Bee has enough time and energy to plan well for the next one.