Are You Feeling Guilty For Being Free?
September 30, 2021
Up until a few years ago, I used to be troubled by a problem.
Whenever I found myself free, there was a noise in my mind reminding me that I was wasting time, that I could do something more productive. I had this underlying belief that successful people do things rather than sitting around doing nothing. This feeling persisted even when I went on holidays or breaks. It felt as if I was wasting time. So, to give myself a sense of assurance that my contribution mattered, I would try to stay connected with my workplace. I also unconsciously started stereotyping colleagues. “Oh, he takes too much leave” or “she does less work than I’d like her to”. I appreciated anyone working 12-14 hours, and anyone going home by 6 pm was a clock watcher.
I was able to break this chain of warped thinking as I became more introspective and started asking myself some fundamental questions.
- Why is it that my self-worth is associated with being productive?
- More importantly, why am I thinking about productivity from the perspective of career-related work only?
- Why do I associate success in life with career success only?
- I measure success based on what my career gives me, like titles, money, power, or fame. Instead, why can I not think about my life being successful for being a decent human being, being a good son, a loyal friend, or having a fulfilled life?
My misguided thinking did not disappear overnight when I asked myself these questions.
The exercise of asking myself these questions did, however, stimulate awareness of how I was viewing my life unidimensionally. I started becoming more aware of my emotional triggers and my personal choices. I realized that there is a fine line between being mindlessly busy and being productive. Nothing at work could be so vital that it defined my life to the point of obsession. I discovered that there is more to life than just chasing after career-related metrics.
Today, I cherish my free time because it allows me to experience the power of being productive. It is this free time that gives me the space and freedom to ask myself questions about what I am doing in my life. In turn, this reflective process leads me to focus on doing those tasks that truly matter for me, both work-related and deeply personal.
For me, productivity has taken on a whole new meaning today: to engage in activities that give me meaning. Making a sales pitch, engaging with teammates, sitting in silence, reading a book, doing nothing, writing a blog, coaching someone, and going for a run- these are all productive activities.