“Comparison is the Thief of Joy”

As always, today’s #SAchat has me thinking. The topic was the glorification of busy, a topic near and dear to my heart as I am a self-confessed, recovering busy-holic. I’ve been known to spend entire weekends making 300 hand-made Valentine’s for my residents or stack my schedule so I barely have room for lunch, much less a conversation with a student. I realized a few years ago this need for constant busyness wasn’t motivated by my own professional goals, but rather the need to “keep up” with my peers and colleagues. Early in my career, I distinctly remember pulling up other RD’s calendars, comparing them to mine, and then adjusting accordingly to seem busier than the next person. Not a proud moment, but in the spirit of vulnerability, there it is. 

When I transitioned to my current position, I experienced a dramatic shift. We are highly decentralized and encouraged to make our communities work for our residents’ specific needs. We even went so far as to shun a “Community of the Year” campus award because the spirit of our system is that we are all unique and all meet needs differently, so how could we possible choose a community that is doing this “better” than the other? This culture of autonomy has allowed me to breathe, personally and professionally. The trust that has been instilled in our departmental culture means I can roll into the office after 9am or make a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day or, stay with me now, take moments to connect with students. I have spent more time having conversations with residents at the front desk, checking in with quick convos with my staff, or simply connecting with my colleagues than I thought was professionally possible. Guess what? I still meet my deadlines and am still respected as a competent professional. In fact, these two seemingly competing skill-sets actually dovetail quite nicely. According to my evaluations, I am viewed as a professional that is connected to students, able to articulate their needs, and advocate on their behalf. All the committee work in the world can’t beat time with students. 

One of the (many) tweets I sent out during today’s chat brought up the idea of comparison to others and why we can’t sit with ourselves and allow that to be enough. The culture of busyness is an outward one. It’s the concept of being validated as “important” because we are “needed” at meetings, committees, work groups, and the other names we come up with to call a group of people in the same room talking to each other. What if we allowed those conversations to happen more organically, more conversationally, but with the same amount of accountability? What if we encouraged self-reflection instead of self-preservation and the constant comparison to others? As Stacy OliverSikorski so eloquently stated “Your calendar is not your self-worth.” 

I realize my experience is not yours. My departmental culture does not happen everywhere, and my department is still not perfect, nor am I. The big takeaway is that you control your own professional experience. If you don’t want to be busy, then stop throwing your hands up in the air and take a step back to reflect, discern, and re-adjust how you operate in your professional world. As Teddy Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Think how much more joy you could have in your life in you cut out the comparison and increased your capability to sit with yourself! Believe me, your brain and heart will thank you. 

Check out some awesome posts on this topic! (Sidenote: Their posts can be awesome without any of my post’s awesomeness being taken away!)

Renee Piquette Dowdy: Not all that can be counted counts

Charlie Potts: Developing Capacity 

Matt Bloomingdale: Busy

Who else did I miss? What do you think about our culture of busy?

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