Don’t Disregard Kierkegaard’s Advice on Busyness


The popular way of thinking is that your work life needs to always be busy. We all know at least one person who is always busy and looking productive. You might be one of those individuals who pride themselves on always working. Let’s rethink that.

A long dead Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, can help us rethink the value of always being busy.

How then might people escape busyness? Kierkegaard’s discussion of busyness in Works of Love may provide a clue. By contrast with the busy people who harvest repeatedly, the person who wills the good has no immediate gains to rest on. Their action—unlike that of the busy people—is in pursuit of something meaningful, even though they receive no apparent reward for it. However, there may be other benefits.  As recent psychological research also suggests, helping others can result in helping oneself. Pursuing particular goods—like striving to help the particular people you see, as Kierkegaard recommends elsewhere in Works of Love—might thus provide us with the specificity we need to escape indeterminacy and the phenomena like anxiety, boredom, and busyness that accompany it. 

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Never Disregard Kierkegaard


There is a trend in our culture to be proud of how busy one is – and this approach to busyness isn’t a good attitude. Instead, we should look to Søren Kierkegaard the Danish existentialist who advocates for reflection on what one is doing and not how much one is doing. This can be hard in a world in which people are prideful of not taking vacation time.

You can begin positive change in your life today – just take a few minutes and think about what really matters.

Stephen Evans, a philosophy professor at Baylor University, explains that Kierkegaard saw busyness as a means of distracting oneself from truly important questions, such as who you are and what life is for. Busy people “fill up their time, always find things to do,” but they have no principle guiding their life. “Everything is important but nothing is important,” he adds.

Without answering crucial and terrifying questions about life, without deciding on a unified purpose, Kierkegaard believed that one could not develop a self. He called those with without one unified purpose “double minded,” and argued that this mindset causes busyness.

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