By Leo Babauta
I’ve noticed that so many of us are incredibly focused on getting stuff done. Productivity systems and tools, anxiety about being behind on all the things we have to do, a complete focus on all the stuff to do, at the exclusion of all else …
But here’s the thing: if you ever get really really good at executing and getting stuff done … you realize that it’s an empty, meaningless game. I’m a testimony to that — I’m very good at getting things done. And I can absolutely crush my task list for months on end. And at the end of all of that, I still don’t feel much more satisfied.
There’s some satisfaction in getting a bunch of things done, but that’s not what really drives us. What drives us is fear — fear of what will happen if we fall too far behind, if we drop all the balls we have in the air, if we can’t get a sense of self-worth through accomplishment. Our fear is really about what it will mean about ourselves if we don’t get stuff done.
That fear never goes away, no matter how much you get done. It’s like a sex addict who has a ton of sex, and still doesn’t feel fulfilled, and has to go get more. We’re addicts who are never fulfilled.
What would happen if we decided not to play that game? If we could set aside for a moment the fears that drive us, the hope that we’ll ever finish everything, the hope that we’ll somehow get a feeling of being good enough if we are good at getting things done?
What’s beyond all of that?
I don’t know the answer, but here’s what I’m finding:
- First, that the moment is perfect, and getting stuff done is not required in order to achieve peace, freedom, happiness, play, joy, curiosity, connection, love, or anything else I truly desire. I can sit right here and be present with the wonder of the present moment.
- Second, even though nothing else is needed … there’s stuff I want to create! I want to make a podcast, for example — and that’s my motivation for getting my butt in gear. Not to get stuff done, not to keep all the balls in the air, not to keep my head above water … but to create what I’m committed to creating in the world.
- Third, I can play any game I want to play. I could play the game of checking things off my task list endlessly, but that’s not very fun after awhile. Instead, I can make up other games — what about getting on calls with people and discovering their life’s purpose together? Or finding out what their heart wants most? Or bringing love to whatever is getting in the way of that? Or maybe I could discover a new game today that I’d like to play.
- Fourth, my heart wants to express itself in many ways. It’s expressing itself with this article right now, but it might want to express itself through a podcast, through a call with a coaching client, or by go outside and enjoying movement in nature. This is so much more satisfying than the game of getting stuff done.
- Fifth, I’m finding sacredness in each day. In the work that I’m doing, and in not doing anything. In conversations with people, and in conversations with nature. In my heart’s expression of love, and in the fears and struggle I face. This is so much richer than just focusing on getting stuff done. And I’m finding the sacredness in getting stuff done that matters to me.
Those are a few observations I’ve found in the space beyond getting stuff done. What might you find there?