I’ve come to realize, more and more, that I’m always rushing.
I dash from one task to the next, race through meals and speed-read books and articles. I’m always anxious to get a task or project finished. I’ve also noticed an impatience to get through my daily meditation.
When I write these articles, they are as much a reminder to myself as they are a suggestion to others. I’ve found that these ideas work, but that doesn’t mean I always remember to practice them. Writing about them doesn’t mean I’m perfect, by any means.
So, back to the problem: Why do I hurry so much? I’ve been reflecting on this, and the answer seems to be that my mind has a tendency toward greed. It’s not greed in the sense that I want a lot of wealth, but that when my mind finds something it likes, it wants more. Always more.
Here are some examples of greed I’ve noticed in myself:
Food. When I eat a food I like, such as chocolate (or wine, or coffee, or cookies), I want more, even though I’ve just had some.
Productivity. When I’m doing a task, I also want to do 20 more tasks, because I want to accomplish as much as possible. Wanting to do everything at once leads to a lack of focus and ends up being counter-productive.
Knowledge. When I learn, I want to learn everything about a topic. I’ll look up every book, every blog post or article, every podcast or video, and I’ll want to consume them all. Of course, I can’t possibly get through all of them, but I want to. I’ll buy 10 books and jump around from one to the next, not finishing any of them.
Experiences. When I travel to a new city, I want to see it all—the best sights, restaurants, bookstores, and museums. I can’t possibly, but I’ll do my best to fit everything into my short trip, and will research it for weeks beforehand.
Maximizing. When I’m going about my day, I try to cram as much as possible into it—not only work-related tasks, but also spending time with my wife and kids, working out, meditating, reading, answering emails, watching all of the best TV shows and films, and checking all of the news sites and blogs. And more and more, on and on.
I rush around, trying to fit it all in, trying to get everything possible out of life. This comes from a good heart—I appreciate the briefness of life and its brilliance, and the short time I have here. It’s not a bad thing to want more out of life. But what is the result of always wanting more, always wanting to maximize? It’s never having enough, never being satisfied, and never stopping to enjoy and appreciate.
Indulging in this greediness for more, this maximizing, doesn’t satisfy it. It just creates more wanting. Indulging isn’t helpful. What is helpful is staying with the feeling of wanting more, wanting to do it all—and consciously resisting it.
Instead, be here now. Don’t rush, but appreciate the moments in between just as much as the tasks themselves. Don’t try to maximize. Instead, practice letting go: Let go of greedy tendencies, let go of whatever you’re clinging to (having it all, doing it all), and let go of the urge to rush. Then, after you’ve identified the problematic habit, you can replace it with a positive one: generosity.
The Practice of Generosity
Whenever there’s a tendency toward greed, counter it with generosity. What does generosity have to do with rushing? Some of us might think generosity means giving money or possessions to people who need them, but that’s just one sense of generosity.
Generosity is shown when we turn away from our self-centered view and start turning toward others. It could be as simple as giving another person in our life our full attention and trying to see what they need—rather than focusing on what we want to get out of life. Really trying to be present, with an open heart, and trying to understand and hear another person—that is the spirit of generosity.
When doing something alone, the spirit of generosity can be turned to at each moment so that you give that task the full gift of your attention, seeing it fully and opening your heart to it. This is a salve to the usual spirit of needing more, more, more and wanting to satisfy me, me, me.
I’m trying to practice the spirit of generosity whenever I notice my greedy mind wanting more, wanting everything. Instead, I turn to this moment, this person, or this activity, and give it the loving gift of my wholehearted attention.
Leo Babauta is the author of six books and the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with over 2 million subscribers. Visit ZenHabits.net