Busy with a Purpose

Photo by MD_JERRY on Unsplash

2022 is gone. And like every new year, 2023 begins with many making their resolutions. Some would suggest this is a waste. Instead of resolving to do something in the future, they would advise us to already be moving ahead with our plans, to be already engaged in our goals rather than waiting for the new year to make some momentous change to our lives. Though I agree to some extent and actively work throughout the year to improve, I like the age-old tradition of making resolutions at the beginning of the year. It is a time for me to look back on the year, a time to look back at the goals I achieved and the ones still lacking, and a time to look ahead and consider whether my one-year goals are still in alignment with my big-picture three and ten-year goals.

Go to the ant, O sluggard, study her ways and learn wisdom;

For though she has no chief, no commander or rule,

She procures her food in the summer, stores up her provisions in the harvest.

Proverbs 6:6-8

The above passage may be one of my favorite proverbs. It is a reminder to get up and get going, to get busy with life’s purpose. The ant isn’t lying about, chilling in the mound to some Netflix. No, she is busy. She is living her purpose. And on the face of this proverb, the message is clear: get busy.

Busy is nice. It is a sign of industriousness and productivity. Your parents, boss, teacher, and maybe even your spouse want to see you busy. To be busy is to be engaged, to be getting stuff done, and to be putting those little check marks in the box. But Solomon doesn’t tell us to be busy in  this proverb. Instead, he tells us to study the ways of the ant and to learn wisdom.

Past, present, and future. Here is the wisdom of the ant.

Past: Remember your training and learn from your mistakes.

Today’s ant is a product of countless generations of ants. Encoded in the ant’s genetics are the basics: food, shelter, and community. Mistakes made by previous generations have become the blueprints for survival today. Mistakes made by the young ant are corrected by the colony.

We have the basics given to us by our ancestors. And no matter how technologically advanced we have become; we should not dismiss the legacy for survival and success passed down to us by those who went before us. We must take these lessons to heart and learn from both the good and the bad. In addition, we must learn from our own mistakes. There is nothing wrong with failure if we learn from the experience. Through learning, failures become the catalyst for success.

Present: Complete the task at hand.

What does the ant do in the present? Whatever is the task at hand. The past was a learning tool. The future doesn’t matter if the work today is not completed. The ant is either working on the community center (mound) or scouting/gathering food. He gets in formation and starts marching. Survival tomorrow depends on the actions of today.

Being present is one of my greatest challenges. I love reminiscing about the past. Preparing for the future gets me excited. But neither gets the work done today, especially with all the distractions our modern world presents to us. If we can’t stay present, then our tasks remain incomplete, our productivity grinds to a halt. The ant doesn’t stay in bed because he got a bad night of sleep. He doesn’t hang out in the mound because he doesn’t feel like going out. Instead, the ant gets busy.

Future: Busy with a purpose.

Is the ant busy for the sake of being busy? Not a chance. The ant’s tasks are in alignment with future objectives. Gather in the summer to prepare for the winter.

The wisdom of the ant: Get busy with daily tasks that meet the plan’s objectives. Plan, then execute. Busy, with a purpose.

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?

Henry David Thoreau

The New Year really is no different than any other time of the year. It is a time to get busy. But as Thoreau asks, what are we busy about? To be busy about fitness without a plan will never generate the desired results. To be busy at the office without a focus will ultimately bring the business to ruin. Arrows are designed to hit their intended targets. But if we never aim at a target, those arrows become ineffective and useless. It is not enough to be busy. We must have a purpose for our busy-ness.

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