To be productive or not: the illusion of striving and doing

I was listening to a Deepak Chopra meditation a few days ago.  The topic was focused on the cultural pressure that is placed on us to be productive each day.  I have been thinking about the reflections that were shared and have wondered whether being productive is really what most of us want to do with our lives.  

Because of the internalization of  cultural messages that push for doing, accomplishing, and achieving, it’s as though we hear an internal tape that requires us to make daily to do lists, to cross off as many items from the list as possible during the day, to review the list at the end of the day, and to know before we go to bed exactly how successful we were that day at accomplishing our goals.  The next day we start again with a new list, new items are added, and what has not yet been completed remains on the list. It seems that our sense of self esteem is tied into the to do list and how many items we are able to cross off.  Have you ever noticed that there is always something that needs to be done? Doing is just darn exhausting!  Imagine a hamster on a wheel – constantly moving but never really getting anywhere. 

The late psychologist Abraham Maslow created a theory based on a hierarchy of needs that lead to self actualization. He described self actualization as a state in which one feels good, is satisfied with themselves, and is content with where their lives are headed. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, millions of Americans have quit their jobs. What might be transpiring in our culture that is creating this phenomenon?   I think we may be witnessing a shift in what it means to be be a productive and successful human being in America.  

It seems to me that perhaps the pandemic has awakened an awareness of what it takes to be self actualized.  In my career history, it was assumed that I would work 60 hours a week, pursue multiple higher education degrees, and also volunteer my time in my community to be of service. That’s on top of self care demands like exercise, meditation, eating a healthy diet, looking fabulous, getting a good sleep, meeting the right mate, and if lucky taking two weeks vacation a year. Looking back, I felt like a human doing rather than human being. 

What to do?  For now, I will follow the advice given in Deepak Chopra’s meditation.  It boils down to exploring how to break free of old patterns and learning to create new patterns that lead to a life that we love and honor. In a nutshell: to be still, to be silent,  and to be loving of our humanity.