Prioritizing Joy in the Culture of Busy

Maggie Gentry

As I write this, I am freshly removed from a cycle of immense productivity and burnout. I know I’m not fully recovered from the period of busy I just completed, but I’m catching a breath long enough to ponder, “How the heck did I find myself here? Again?!”

You see, I have a history of filling my calendar with activities from a young age. I was one of those kids on a competitive dance team (think: Dance Moms) from the age of 7 through high school. I was also a straight-A student. In college, the pace didn’t relent. I kept up my straight-A streak, except for a singular semester sophomore year. I continued dancing on a professional dance company, held two jobs, and also was heavily involved in a couple of student organizations. 

In those days, I didn’t question it. It’s what I had always known, so it’s what I continued to do. Perform. Strive. Produce. Rinse. Repeat.

I grew up in a household where my father worked incessantly to ensure that he provided a better life for me and my brother than he had growing up. I can squarely say that by the standards he was using to measure that venture, he was successful. However, the shadow side of these efforts is that I inherited a belief that success and work require sacrifice to the point of internalizing even stronger beliefs that my worth as a human being is directly tied to my productivity.

If we follow this belief I held, I had to continue producing in order to prove my worth. So the overzealous student turned into the overworked employee.

Then, in 2016, I decided to start my own business, and talk about diving into the belly of the beast! Now, my livelihood was dependent on my ability to “produce”. Pile on top of that that my business is quite literally me—I’m a business coach and marketing strategist—and you get the perfect storm of worthiness tied up in productivity with the necessity of making a living.

Thankfully, when I started my entrepreneurial journey, I knew that it would be a difficult road, so I simultaneously started to see a therapist for the first time. It was my initial foray into self-study and mindfulness and reflection. Around the same time, I had also started practicing yoga more regularly as my preferred method of movement after I quit the dance company. Fortunately for me, my home yoga studio does an impeccable job of weaving in spiritual teachings along with the asana, so I was slowly beginning to lift the veil on this deeply held belief that my worthiness was tied to my productivity. At 29 years old, I was finally questioning the reason behind my obsession with busyness.

It has taken four years, but I intellectually know now that this belief I’ve held onto for so long is blatantly untrue, and yet, I still fall victim to its gnarly grasp.

This summer, after a dry spell, work was beginning to pick up again. I found myself gratefully saying, “YES!” to all the projects coming my way. All of these yeses eventually turned into a maelstrom of activity, catapulting me back into a way of being that I had actively tried to never return to again. It was a strange place to be—putting my head down and just doing the work, while also knowing that this was not how I wanted it to be, while also being grateful for the work to support myself, while also falling back into old stories that my worth was directly tied to my output.

At the height of this madness, I was hardly sleeping. I didn’t go to the grocery store for weeks and after scrounging through the remnants of my pantry and fridge, resorted to ordering takeout regularly, which was food that didn’t truly nourish my body in the way it needed. I distinctly remember one Wednesday evening when I was finally running an errand and had the realization that it had been Saturday evening since I last left my apartment!

This past week, my body started to show signs of immense fatigue, and I realized that I had to make a change. So, I took a night off. In the middle of deadlines and with client emails still pouring in, I stepped away from my computer at 5pm, and I made myself a meal! And I ate that meal at the kitchen table instead of in front of a screen. And then I read a book, for fun! And then I went to bed before 10pm!!

Perhaps all of these seem like trivial things, but these are activities that bring me, personally, so much joy. And this one evening off, with these simple activities, reminded me of a newly minted core belief: Joy, and pleasure, and rest are not rewards for work done well or something to be earned. They are a prerequisite to work.

Inviting in joy brings with it a wealth of perspective and reinvigoration. Reconnecting to pleasure and play is a way to access my own power. And all of this I was denying myself in the name of busyness.

If you’re finding yourself caught in that same cycle, I encourage you to find moments, yes even mere moments, to help you reconnect to the true essence of your being. In our society that puts so much emphasis on producing and staying busy, it feels like the most freeing, defiant, radical act to put joy first.

It is very much a new practice for me—this whole prioritizing joy thing—but I can subtly sense the enormous impact it will have on my entire being. And, I’m excited to see where it leads.

If you’re feeling like you could use someone to connect with and talk about how you might incorporate more joy into your everyday and use it as a reclamation tool for your sovereignty, please know that I am here! Sign up for a free, 30-minute chat with me during my Virtual Office Hours. I’d love to connect and hold that gentle space for you.

maggie4

maggie gentry

Maggie believes in changing the way we do business and dismantling the idea that success has to look a certain way. As the founder of Own Your Why®, she is committed to creating a safe space for entrepreneurs to make meaningful shifts in their life and business with their eyes, mind, and heart open. Maggie enjoys yoga, hiking and deep conversations. She often has a few books from the Austin Public Library on her nightstand, deeply believes in the healing power of a good bar of dark chocolate with sea salt, and will most often opt for a night in for snuggles with her cat Waffles.

Stay inspired
throughout your day.