The Pursuit of Busyness Is the new pursuit of Happiness
Yesterday, I found myself watching a clip of Will Smith playing a broke salesman in a movie on YouTube. I remember watching the film back in 2006 when it first came out and remembered thinking — daamm, it should have won more than just nominations.
Back in 2006, I was a sixteen year old kid watching a grown man struggle to do more than just survive. It was heartwarming to see him succeed. But yesterday, after watching a few more clips from the movie, I found myself looking at my own life. By the end of it all, I ended up with a few revelations of my own.
Growing up, I remember watching the adults go about their daily lives — bills, work, eat, sleep, repeat. It was a never-ending cycle of the same things over and over again. It was a mediocrity filled with the constant pursuit of free time but never having enough of it.
My mother always wanted to be an accountant — not exactly your dream glamour job, but that was her thing. To her, if she was an accountant, it would solve all our financial problems. However, rather than pursue her dreams, I would watch her live her daily life with not much variation. She did not go seeking it — using her language barrier as a reason and her lack of time being the other contributing factor. She needed to work to help pay the bills. It was the same with dad and his lost dreams.
They were always busy with their 9–5 (or in dad’s case, 1pm to midnight) and I always remember the constant fear of not having enough. They avoided the risk and potential to thrive for the instability it may bring to my living conditions. It got to a point where I became the excuse for their busyness and reason why they did not pursue their individual happiness.
Breaking the cycle of our ingrained habits
It is human nature to seek the path of less resistance. In fact, most things in existence seek and select the path of least resistance — from animals to water to electricity. But for humans, choosing such a path often have long term repercussions.
When we reward ourselves with instant gratification, we forgo the opportunity and possibility of a bigger reward in the future. It’s sort of like deciding to switch jobs instead of staying at the same place for a promotion. Or staying at a mediocre job rather than going after something that you’ve always wanted to do.
Perhaps it is watching how our own parents choose the easy path that there are more entrepreneurial activities among Millennial than their predecessors. Their methods made them miserable and we fear it like the plague.
Yet, we still fall into the same trappings of busyness. We try to be more effective with productivity apps, hacks, trips and constant consumption of everything and anything that will give us time. But in doing so, we load ourselves with the thing that takes it away.
Lessons from a Will Smith movie — This part of my life…is called “being stupid”
On our quest to succeed, we often get sidetracked by the things we think will help us get there faster. However, what we forget and often ignore is the fundamental thing that helps get us there. We forget and ignore the fact that we need unwavering focus and persistence in order to move forward at the possible fastest speed. Instead, we try to cheat the system. We try to get to our destinations faster and find a path that has less resistance. We play the role of the rabbit in a race against the tortoise.
Growing up, I believed the over-told story was silly until I find myself all grown up and playing the rabbit — always getting sidetracked by a thing called life and always pursuing busyness in hopes that it will get me to my happiness.
And that was Will Smith’s character Chris Gardner. He had periods in his life where he chased after choices that contributed to his homelessness. With a toddler to take care of, he eventually and very quickly found his focus — even when it didn’t reward him financially right away. He saw his goal and went after it. He pursued the thing that eventually bought him happiness.
We often get confused and mix up our priorities. The pursuit of busyness does very little to bring us the happiness we desire. What we need in life is an unwavering focus and the conscious habit of discarding excuses.
Every now and then we will face a wall. But the thing with walls is that it’s not there to stop us but test how badly we want something. It weeds out everyone else that’s not determined to put in the work and experience the fleeting joy of success. When we pursue happiness with true focus — that is, without the past, the excuses and reasons not do or be — that is when we’ll actually and eventually get it.