You gotta hustle.
No pain no gain.
I’ll sleep when I die.
Phrases like these are commonplace in several contexts. After all, they sound pretty bad ass, right? Sometimes you’ll read something like that and it’ll help light a fire for you to go for it. All of that is wonderful but do you want to know what the best part is? That it isn’t mandatory.
Many of us are all too familiar with burnout and for the vast majority of instances, it’s a counterproductive state to put it mildly. Alas, it’s also fairly common especially during these times of such turmoil, changes, and need for adaptability. Several fields are all too familiar with grinding their workers to dust with no consideration for the individual and almost a sole focus on getting results.
When you look at social media, how people conduct themselves compounds the feelings of inadequacy and as if we’re not doing enough in any given day. It is this way by design and you have to remember that people are showing you the highlight reel of whatever it is that they do. If you watch any video with extreme sports, SO many people make it look so easy. What’s curious is that even elite riders make mistakes, have nasty falls, get injured, and struggle. The same goes for professionals of every single field and all manner of art. The struggle is real, the effort is huge, and making it in any field takes a variety of things to coincide.
Do you have to hustle? Do you have to push? Well, rather than give a plain ole “of course” as an answer, think about the questions. You honestly DON’T have to hustle or push. There is no shotgun on your temple saying you have to do any of what you’re told to do. Now, if you want elite level results, then you’ll need to put in elite level effort…which doesn’t need to include burnout, but we’ll get to that later.
A common saying I see pop up from time to time which I absolutely love is: work smart, not hard. The curious thing is that what that means to you is different to other people. You often see the 10 things you HAVE to do to achieve X or Y result, the 5 things you NEED to do to be successful, and countless other arbitrary lists stated by someone who is a supposed subject matter expert. The curious thing is that the 10 things that worked for one person maybe won’t work for you. Although this is honestly more common than anyone hints at, many people would rather take the stance of an eminence than be honest. Now, if 2 of those 10 tips work for you, that’s where logic might state you should focus on because each person’s path to success is different and like so many products out there, results will vary.
All of this is to say that you should focus on finding out what works best for you in regards to pretty much everything. Think about recipes. They’re extremely helpful though how often do you adjust a measurement to fit more to your preference? A little more salt, a little less paprika, and suddenly you say eureka! The same goes for all processes in life.
Does this mean you have to be more hands on in how you go about what you want to do or life in general? Well, yes. A lot of people want foolproof steps to follow to get results and that would be great if we were conducting a science project in a controlled environment. However, life is definitely NOT a controlled environment and learning how to do things in a way that works for you to get the results you want is one of the most important lessons any of us could learn.
The school of life is a lot more heterogeneous and variable than academia. In school-school, you learn, you study, you revise, you practice, and you execute. That’s all fine and dandy, but what happens when life throws you a curveball? What happens when you are suddenly stripped of resources and have to adapt? What happens when following steps 1-10 does not deliver the results you want? Will you keep repeating the same steps or will you adjust and adapt until finding a solution?
Although that’s a scenario that might sound daunting, that’s what’s waiting for you in life and although it can give a little cause for pause, it shouldn’t inspire unbridled fear. It’s life inviting you to learn and be creative with what you know.
Now back to that whole burnout business. QUITE often, you’ll see people push themselves to the brink of harming themselves either physically, mentally, emotionally, or a combination of all three. Stress appears in different ways in each of our lives and also affects us differently. This is where balance and mindfulness come into play.
With balance, it’s all about knowing how much you can push and what you need to recover after you push. For instance, I’m 41 so doing an all-nighter is still something I can do though it’s something that’ll take a while to recover from. And yes, it’ll take much more time than in my teens or twenties where you think you’re invincible and do things that baffle the mind like go partying late into the night and then wake up at 5 AM to go surf (true story, don’t recommend it). Now before we pass on to the next paragraph, ask yourself this: how often do you really need to pull an all-nighter. If it comes to the arts, then there’s another hurdle to jump over, which is the whole “working until the wee hours of the night” romanticism that SO many people think is true for them or their only means of getting results. The fact is that we get used to a lot of things and develop all sorts of habits. Some are healthy, many are not.
As time passes, I’ve learned that looking for balance has been instrumental in getting the best results because if I’m healthy, happy, and well rested, good things can and do happen. By the way, that’s not to say we can’t be productive on a bad day. We can be absolutely prolific if we know how to tap into emotions and practice what I call emotional alchemy, but that’s a topic for another day.
The other concept mentioned above was mindfulness. This term refers to being present in the moment though we can also extend the definition to being aware of who and how we are at any given moment. The truth is that our bodies are endlessly smarter than our brain. Not only that, your body will give you signs when something is awry. That we pay no attention and push through discomfort, pain, or any number of symptoms is a recipe for eventual disaster. Case in point, there are only so many times you can drink coffee, an energy drink, or other options to get energy to do “the thing” before the body passes the bill. This can include disrupted sleep patterns, arrhythmia/high blood pressure, shortness of breath, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, reflux, muscle spasms and beyond. If this sounds a bit much and you’re not sure if it’s real, do some research and see what you find. For me, it’s been the reality on more than one occasion. Small symptoms lead to bigger symptoms lead to health problems. That’s normally how it goes. If you’re mindful, you pay attention to your mind, body, and soul. It’s all about listening and trust that what begins as a whisper can become a roar.
People glorify overworking as if that is the only way to get things done. That doesn’t have to be your truth. Do you work best in bursts? Then try and organize your schedule to do that and do things in between tasks. From a short meditation to making yourself a cup of tea or even writing a blog entry or poem. The main thing is to find what works for you. Consider yourself a treasure hunter sifting sand from the river. Will you keep everything or will you just keep the golden nugget? The same goes with advice, how-tos, and this blog post. If something clicks and resonates, apply it. If something sounds hokey or not your cuppa tea, no need to force yourself to drink it. The main thing is listen to yourself and to how things feel.
May you shine bright with no need to burn out.
Peace, love, and maki rolls.
Although JD Estrada currently resides in Atlanta, GA, home shall always be Puerto Rico. With 18 published works and many more on the way, Estrada likes to explore a variety of genres including urban fantasy, middle-grade, poetry, non-fiction, and horror in both English and Spanish because if variety is the spice of life, then let things be spicy.
Beyond books, he is also a Creativity Ambassador with a sock collection that borders on the ludicrous and is the original banana secret agent #00Bananas. If you don’t know what that is, check that hash tag for some silly.