As the sun starts to set earlier and the evenings take on that telling chill of autumn, I’ve been doing my best to make the most of these precious last few weeks of our waning summer – nightly nature walks, beach days with my babies, backyard bonfires, picnic work sessions, and patio wine dates with girlfriends.
Yet in this deliberate attempt to bid a fond farewell to the long and leisurely sun-kissed days with gratitude, it’s been really difficult to disregard the frenzy of fall that’s been descending all around me over the past month.
Many of my lady loves who were so easefully and gleefully drinking prosecco in their flowing, flowery dresses at the end of June have transformed into wide-eyed raving lunatics with the onset of school supply scrambling and the mad rush to register the babes for swimming, skating, and soccer.
Through it all, I can’t help but think we should be going about this differently. And by “this,” I don’t only mean the change of seasons or the transition into another school year, but our lives in general.
I’ve said this before, but so many of us are on auto-pilot these days – programmed to be perpetually pushed forward by pressure and other people’s priorities, while very rarely giving ourselves the space and permission to be properly pulled and more gently guided by pleasure.
And in the meantime, we’ve also somehow acquired this wholly destructive and wildly unhealthy tendency to romance the grind, becoming willing slaves to some hollow sense of satisfaction that seemingly derives from crossing off all kinds of endless items on our infinite to-do lists.
We’ve become mavens of, and martyrs to, the dangerous myth of productivity – the more we can do, acquire, and achieve on any given day, the better human beings we believe we are. And so then we measure our worthiness and assess our love-ability via homemade cupcakes baked at midnight, volunteer hours logged, emails answered, thank you notes sent, projects piloted, and online courses completed.
Yes, these are all important, worthwhile, and enjoyable activities, but when we start to make our value contingent on our outputs and routinely trade in our wellbeing for superhuman levels of accomplishment, there’s a big problem (if you’ve ever grabbed a fistful of almonds and your fourth coffee at 3:00 pm as your first meal of the day, you know what I’m talking about).
HUSTLING ISN’T A GOOD THING & BUSY IS NOT A BADGE OF HONOR
At least a couple times a week I hear some version of the following from the women in my life. Almost without fail, a girlfriend, student, or client will say something along the lines of:
“Things are sooooo crazy right now! I’ve got a million things on the go and I only had like four hours of sleep last night.” And almost always these sentiments are expressed with an undertone of pride, as though exhaustion is an accolade and being “busy” is a badge of honor.
Moreover, nearly every single day I see some social media post from a mama or girlboss idealizing “The Hustle,” and I can’t help but inwardly shudder.
There are essentially two definitions of hustle: to hurry or to swindle, neither of which being particularly desirable or admirable ways of operating in the world. So knowing that, it’s pretty safe to say that your children, customers, friends, and loved ones would likely wholeheartedly prefer that you take your time with them in most cases and/or also abstain from deliberately pulling some game on them.
And from a business perspective or task completion standpoint, “haste makes waste” is not just a tired cliché, but rather an enduring truth. While I rail against perfectionism at most turns, I’m no longer a fan of the idea of “done is better than good.” Anything worth doing is worth doing well and with care. If it’s not, you should seriously reconsider why you’re doing it at all.
The outcome of any effort emerging from a place of energy, enjoyment, and genuine excitement is dramatically different from anything forged from the forces of fear, obligation, and overwhelm. As Eckhart Tolle writes in A New Earth, “Whenever there is enthusiasm, there is a creative empowerment that goes far beyond what a mere person is capable of.“
So rather than glorifying “the grind” and “the hustle,” it’s more important that we devote ourselves to creating the optimal conditions for enthusiasm to thrive. As Mark Nepo puts it, “Enthusiasm is not a mood that can be willed or forced. Rather, it is a ripple that follows the stone. It can only be felt after we immerse ourselves in life.”
When we prioritize self-care, artistic pursuits, nourishing experiences, and rejuvenating rituals, enthusiasm more naturally emerges and we organically evolve into exponentially better mothers, lovers, leaders, and entrepreneurs.
Everyone around us reaps the tremendous benefits when we make peace, pleasure, and play non-negotiable in our lives. And while this may come as a surprise, the activities you "indulge" in your downtime often translate into improved and highly-leveraged results in business. For example:
Making the time to read fiction or poetry makes us more imaginative and engaging writers when it’s time to pen a marketing campaign, sales copy or a blog post.
A massage or a float takes the edge off stress, which leads to sharper focus, increased patience, and a sense of calm.
A vigorous walk releases all kinds of good endorphins enhancing our capacity for problem solving, innovation, and ingenuity.
Vacation time and weekend getaways remove us from daily routines, subsequently offering up fresh and new perspectives on our relationships, circumstances, projects, and priorities.
Ironically, all of those things that you currently "don't have time for" are actually where you should be directing a huge chunk of your hours and efforts.
FOCUSING ON “TO BE,” RATHER THAN “TO DO”
In business, success is always more about how we serve rather than what we sell. In life and love, how we show up is arguably more important than how often we show up. So rather than creating an arbitrary list of all of the things you want to accomplish, consider instead taking the time to reflect on the aim, intentions, and mindset you want to bring to your work and relationships this week:
Ease-infused expansion vs. ego-fueled endurance.
Purposeful presence in lieu of anxious attention.
Thoughtful elegance over knee-jerk urgency.
Creative liberation as opposed to compression-packed creation.
However, if you still feel compelled to make a to-do list, please put one of these three things near the top of your the list:
1) get rid of that book you're entirely not enjoying, yet continue to pick up night after night after night in the quest for that short-lived, empty rush of completion. Painful page-turning is not a good use of your time.
2) buy yourself some flowers instead of wishing someone else adored or appreciated you enough to do so. You are so WORTH IT.
3) cancel every coffee, lunch, engagement, and appointment that is not critical or doesn't totally light you up. It's really the wiser and kinder way to move forward.