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Do You Answer “How Are You? With “I’m Busy”?

When someone asks, “How are you doing?” do you respond with, “I’m busy”? I experimented recently and paid close attention to my response and others when asked that question. While this experiment was not scientific, it gave me some interesting results. For example, three of the five people I asked all within a morning said “busy” or “I’m busy,” I responded four times out of five with the same answer.

Now, here is the reason I began looking at this. I attended a conference with the Kansas Leadership Center several years ago. The CEO, Ed O’Malley, made a statement that gave me a big “Ah Ha” moment. He said that instead of being “busy,” he suggested - try

being “purposeful.” This resonated with me because I know I responded that I was busy quite a bit. My perception and interpretation of what O’Malley said confirmed that we are all busy with family, work, and community activities, which can sometimes be overwhelming. What happens if we shift our view to being purposeful instead of busy? Do we understand the purpose of the things we do? Are we consciously aware of the focus and intentions of our day-to-day activities? Instead of just being busy, what is it we are busy doing? And why?

So, I began looking at what busy defined for me and identifying the day-to-day things I had to do to make everything work. I must do laundry and feed my family and pets; I must pay my bills. All of these are “have to.” Then I began looking at the purpose behind those things. Let’s take the “have to” of doing the laundry. This is not one of my favorite things to do. Pretty mundane, right? Well, digging deeper into the purpose of this chore, I thought the goal could be to have clean clothes to wear, then deeper yet to look “put together” to others, but as I dug deeper, the real purpose for me was that having clean, nice clothes made me and my family feel good. That was the purpose I came to about the laundry, which changed how I thought about that chore. Now holding awareness in mind to the purpose of that task makes what I usually dislike easier to get through.

While I am “busy,” I plan to be busy with a purpose. Shouldn’t there be a purpose behind our busyness? If there isn’t, maybe those things that keep us busy must be evaluated. First, determine what the real purpose is behind each task. It takes digging a little deeper than the surface. This is an excellent time to ask the five “why’s.” Why is it important? After coming up with an answer, ask why again. By the fifth “why,” you should have the actual purpose.

Holding to purpose is critical to exercising leadership, personally and within any group you work with. Understanding the deeper meaning of your work will provide a reason for doing that work. Take the time. Imagine the look on people’s faces when you can go from saying, “I’m busy” to “I’m purposeful.”

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