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As I write this, I feel the temperature in my chest rising because this goes against everything I thought I believed in.
“Work hard and you’ll succeed!”
“Hard work pays off!”
“Life is hard!”
Growing up, I received a lot of praise for my “hard work.” From the days of parent-teacher conferences to my first bosses telling me, “They’ve never had someone so hard-working”—the notion that hard work pays off was reinforced time and time again. I smiled with pride every time I would even think about these affirmations.
Having left my corporate job and begun my entrepreneurial journey in the role that I know I am here to fill, I began to catch myself on more than one occasion making something harder than it was. I would be so stressed when there was really no reason to be at all. For example, if I had written in my planner that I would work on marketing at 10 a.m., and 10 a.m. rolled around and I was sidetracked by something else—I would be so frustrated.
But here’s the thing: I am my own boss! Sure, you could say that that’s all the more reason to hold myself to high standards, but I knew I’d still accomplish everything I needed to accomplish. So, why was I making myself upset, acting in the same panic-driven way that I would have if I did have some deadline-crazed boss breathing down my neck? This didn’t make sense.
It was a long, tumultuous journey to arrive at the place where I actually get to live my dream job, so why was I still so stressed?
My whole life, like most of us, I was told that life is hard, work is hard, but if you put in the hard hours, you’ll be able to take pride in what you do and provide for your family. The American Dream. Since I had worked hard, I was on my way. It wasn’t until I caught myself actively making my life harder that I began to think, was I doing this all along? Are we all making our lives harder than they need to be?
In my life coach training, I’ve learned a lot about how our beliefs inform our realities. Henry Ford said it best, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Could it be that life is hard and success is hard because we say it is so?
Maybe work doesn’t have to be hard. Maybe life doesn’t have to be hard. Maybe we should admire those who succeed and who live happy, fulfilled lives with ease the way that we admire those who work so much that they miss out on everything else that life has to offer. So I’ve been putting my theory to test.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not your “Get Out of Work Free Card.”
I still have been working, but instead of finding it hard, I actively make it fun. I treat it like what it is: something that I am choosing to spend my time doing.
The results? Not only am I happier, but I am more productive; getting better work done in shorter amounts of time. Realizing that success doesn’t have to be hard has been one of the greatest weights lifted off of my shoulders.
So what are my tips?
>> Dedicate time in your morning routine to reconnect to your why. Why did you choose this job? What does this opportunity give to you? Where will it lead you? Where does this fall in the grand scheme of your big dream for yourself?
>> Cut yourself slack wherever possible. Odds are you have more agency than you act like—yup, even you at the cubicle! Play with your schedule, switch it up, and find what works best. Should you try morning workouts instead of the evening? Should you start the workday with focused work on what matters instead of clicking through emails?
>> Lighten up. Don’t take yourself or your work too seriously, even if you do serious work. Take a break to take a walk or watch a five-minute comedy routine that’s sure to make you laugh. I guarantee it’ll be less time wasted than when you’re so stressed out you can’t really get anything done.
>> Return to your why. As frequently as you can and as frequently as necessary, return to that big dream! This thought takes seconds and it gives you perspective, excites you, and can talk you off of any stress-ledge.
Put these into practice and not only will you see your mood shoot sky-high, but you’ll find that that dream is not as unachievable as you’ve been told.
We were taught that life is hard and success is harder; the day you stop believing that is the day you see it’s not true.