What to Do When Your Life Becomes “Busy Work”
As college students, we are not fond of “busy work.” Why? Because we see no purpose in doing it! We don’t see how it will help us achieve our goals of passing the class or how we will learn anything useful from it.
Whenever work is assigned that we deem to be busy work, we quickly and mindlessly plow our way through it, turning it in with a sigh of relief just to be done.
Homework may be one thing, but what happens if we begin to let our lives become busy work? Work with no real purpose. Just going through the motions. Doing things just for the sake of getting them done. Sighing when one thing is over, only to sigh into the next thing on the list.
This is not living. This is not the life we long for nor the one we were created for. We were given this life as a gift, not as a death sentence. This can be easy for us to forget in a world that constantly elevates the “busy work” of life to be the very thing that we should be striving for, while hiding from or ignoring the deeper work that we were created for.
Let’s flip the script. What happens when you’re working on something you love?
Whether it’s an art project, a science experiment, a book, designing a new line of clothing, or even getting to the top of a 14,000 foot mountain — whatever it is you love, it’s when you’re working toward that love that you come alive!
That is what it means to live. Life is an opportunity to discover ourselves, our origin and our purpose. It’s our chance to seek answers to questions that truly matter and to begin to orient our entire lives towards that purpose.
It is the lack of that very word, purpose, that is key in distinguishing busy work. And it is in the discovery of that purpose that we can break free from the empty cycle, that we can allow our lives to be without it.
When we see the purpose, we see the goal, and suddenly we find the drive.
This is who we long to be: people of intention, of drive and of purpose.
So how do we go from longing for purpose to living for purpose?
Ask yourself the big questions. Who is this Father who created me? What is His purpose for humanity and for my own life? So often children look to their parents to find out how they are supposed to act, or how to talk, or what it means to live. We must do this as well. Just as a child recalls his or her parents, we recall our Father; so in seeking to know Him more, we inherently learn more and more about ourselves.
Become self-aware. Doing a short-but-daily examination of conscience is a great way to gain self-awareness. It can be as simple as asking, “Where today did I love, and where today did I fail to love?” It can be more extensive, if you want. Either way, doing this allows you to notice habits that are preventing you from becoming the person you are being called to be.
Surround yourself with purpose. Just like being on a sports team increases your drive to reach a goal, or studying with someone who is really good at a certain subject increases your ability to learn it, finding a community of people living for Christ will inspire you to keep striving for a life our society so often devalues.
Invite God into every moment. Begin to consciously invite Christ into your day,especially into those moments that your daily examinations may highlight as challenging for you. In moments of discouragement, pray for gratitude and joy. In moments of self-doubt, pray for the ability to see yourself through Christ’s eyes. In moments of fear or anxiety, pray for trust and a greater ability to surrender. Let Christ transform your entire life, starting with each and every day.
Choose a new focus. When you walk into a room, shift your focus from “I wonder what other people are thinking about me” to “I wonder what I can do for the other people in this room to make them feel loved.” St. Francis of Assisi says it best: “Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, or to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”
So whether you are a student, a burger flipper, a janitor, a CEO, a stay-at-home parent, a missionary, etc. — wherever you are, and whatever you do, don’t let your life become busy work. Give your life purpose by making it all for the sake of love.
Now you are living for a reason.
“We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa