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Busyness Is No Excuse for Bad Attitude

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Have you ever been impatient with others because you were really busy?

Icon Sources: 1, 2, 3

Recently, I got annoyed at my mother for something dumb. Basically, I was going to cook lunch, but because my mother saw that I've been very busy recently, she offered to cook instead. I said, "OK, if you have time, that would be great. Oh yeah there's that pack of vegan chicken that I kept forgetting to cook. Please cook it all."

Later, she told me lunch was ready. I came downstairs and saw that she only cooked half the vegan chicken. I got annoyed and said, "Why did you only cook half of it? There isn't that much. Didn't I say to cook all of it?"

She said, "Oops. I forgot you said cook all of it. I cooked a lot of vegetables so I didn't think we need all of it."

I said, "But we already defrosted it. Putting it back in the freezer might mess up the texture. And you already put water in the frying water so I can't fry it now. What are we supposed to do with this remaining chicken?"

I was clearly annoyed. My mother calmly said, "Well, if you want to cook all of it, then just take out the water and cook it. It's no big deal."

I was really surprised by her response. I thought she might say something like, "I already cooked lunch, and you're still complaining?" But instead, she practiced the quality of water that I admire so much, which is that water does not butt heads with rock, water flows around rock. In this case, I was like a rock because I was stubborn about my desire for efficiency, but she remained soft and flexible. To not get affected by others' negative emotions is very hard, and I have to admire her for remaining calm in the face of my annoyance.


Later, I reflected on why I got annoyed over such a small and frivolous thing. I think there are a couple interrelated reasons. First, I have been really busy recently, and I always feel like I'm in a rush and that there's never enough time to do all the things I need to do. When I'm already in this agitated mindset, then every small little thing annoys me. Second, I over-focus on convenience and efficiency, which only got exasperated by my busyness. The problem is in me, not in the outside circumstances.

I think this is a really common problem that I see in lots of people around me, and it really impacts our happiness and quality of life. Below are some solutions I'm working on.

1: Make peace with the present moment

First, I should remember this quote from Confucius:

"If you seek speed, then you will not arrive."

(Original Text: 欲速则不达)

One interpretation of this quote is that haste leads to mistakes, which delays you from arriving at your destination, completing your task, or achieving your goal. For example, when I rushed cooking before, I cut my finger, then I had to spend extra time to stop the bleeding and put on a bandage, then try to finish the cooking. If I was calmer, I would have prevented such a hassle.

Another interpretation is to avoid the Arrival Fallacy, which is thinking that I will be happy once I get what I want. In this case, I think I can be happy and peaceful after I finish all the things I need to do. In reality, we can never live in the future, we can only ever live in the present moment. Therefore, if I cannot be calm and at peace with the present moment, then how can I be calm and at peace later? When I finish all my things, I'll end up thinking about more things to do. The problem is not my present moment, the problem is my habit of wanting to live in the future, which is impossible. If instead, I can slow down and calmly do whatever I need to do right now, then I will also be able to remain calm and peaceful in the future.

2: Value relationships first

Additionally, I should value relationship harmony more than convenience and efficiency. I know that my personality type really values convenience and hates inefficiencies. So when I saw that my mom only cooked half the vegan chicken, I was thinking, "What is this illogical thinking! It would have taken the same amount of time and oil to cook all the vegan chicken. Why only cook half of it? Now we have re-freeze it, re-thaw it later, heat up the pan again, put in new oil, wait another 10 minutes to cook a second batch. What an unnecessary waste of time!"

The matter sounds trivial, but it's the principle of not wasting time that really bothered me. But this is precisely what I need to fix in myself. Next time, I should tell myself, "Relationship harmony is more important than convenience. The key to a happy life is happy relationships, not convenience or efficiency."

If I had remembered this, then I would have been able to calmly and nicely tell my mom that she can save a lot of hassle by cooking the whole batch at once. In other words, the content of my words were not the problem, my annoyance was the problem, and the root of that annoyance is my over-focus on efficiency.

Moreover, if I had remembered that relationships with loved ones should be my priority, then despite my busy schedule, I would still take the time to check in on loved ones and help out wherever needed. To redeem myself, I later took initiative to help my mom with some laundry even though I was busy working at that time.

3: Manage my priorities and time better

The above two solutions address the problem from the root: the mind. But I can also make adjustments at the action level. For example, I should carve out some time every day to reflect on my time management and to choose my priorities more thoughtfully. As the saying goes,

"You can do anything you set your mind to, but not everything."

I need to be focused on my one or two priorities and let go of the rest. When facing interruptions or new requests for my time, I shouldn't get sidetracked so easily. I need to ask, "Is this important? Is this urgent? Must I absolutely interrupt my original plan to do this thing right now?"

In my experience, when I have crystal clarity on my priorities, I can be more disciplined in my time management and resist distractions. This prevents me from wanting to do more than what is realistic, which prevents the feeling of not having enough time and getting annoyed as a result.

I also learned that when planning my time, I should give time to others in order of gratitude because this aligns with our innate sense of right or wrong.

Since I am more grateful to my family than my workplace, I should prioritize them first. If I'm doing work, and my family needs some quick help, then I'm happy to help out immediately. If they need a big favor, then I can calmly communicate a more suitable time to help out.


We are all busy people, but we should not let busyness be an excuse for a bad attitude towards others. After all, the key to a happy life is good relationships, not convenience. Do you have other solutions? If so, I'd love to hear them.


Weekly Wisdom #245


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