BEWARE THE BARRENNESS OF A BUSY LIFE – Holly Foster Media

BEWARE THE BARRENNESS OF A BUSY LIFE

My mother always said “A busy life is a happy life.” Her motivation to keep me busy was three-fold (with an emphasis on number three):

  1. Exposure to a variety of extracurricular activities allows a child to find something they’re passionate about.
  2. This exposure helps your child become well-rounded.
  3. Busyness keeps your child from “getting into trouble.”

Worthy goals, indeed. For those of you who were raised with this model, do you truly find happiness in your “busy-ness?”

Socrates said “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”

Look up the word barrenness and you’ll find an intriguing entry.

barrenness
The quality of yielding nothing of value.

I am struck by the similarity between the word “barrenness” and the phrase “shallow work” (defined by Cal Newport in his book Deep Work).

shallow work
Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

Yielding “nothing of value” is the prime characteristic of barrenness. Can we make the logical connection between these two definitions to conclude that shallow work can produce barrenness? And if we do, should we go one step further and adjust Socrates’ quote to read “Beware the shallow work of a busy life?”

It’s possible that my mom’s well-intentioned parenting model — one shared by a great number of Americans — could, in fact, result in a child who is poorly equipped to do “deep work.”

deep work
Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

I admit it; I enjoy being busy. But I think I need to redefine busy. Busy should include longer stretches of time doing things like reading books that will challenge me to think more deeply.

For me, the adage “happiness is fleeting” applies. Being busy can make me superficially happy, but I’m seeking the profound feeling that comes from going deep. And yes, I’m diving in.

until nxt time …

REFERENCES

Newport, C. (2016). Deep Work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world. New York, NY: Grand Central Publishing.

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