#47: Clearing up some myths about working hard
We seem to have it backwards in our society
Hello, lovely readers. Something clicked this weekend and I became more aware of the “why” of this newsletter. I want to share my “why” with you because I believe that providing this context will enhance your experience with reading my writing.
Sharing this is a little scary, but it feels necessary to face my fears and get this out. After some context setting, I’ll get into the meat of today’s post (also scary, but important, for me to write).
On January 27, 2021, I started Sharing is Caring to prove to myself that I could start and maintain a writing habit. My intention was to write primarily for myself, to help make sense of a broken world filled with antiquated advice - urging us to work harder, to keep pushing, to suck it up, and to be strong. This - the advice says - is how you become successful.
Sure - this is one path to success. And - in an Ayn Randian/Atlas Shrugged world, strong-willed behavior is incentivized. But it also creates many problems - problems with dire consequences that we see all around us today, like overwork, burnout, health, and relationship problems.
As they say, shit rolls down hill. We don’t have to succumb to the environment that our parents and grandparents had to survive in. We can do better. We must do better. Our wellbeing, our quality of life, is on the line.
My intention with this newsletter is to share new perspectives. To share new ways of living, working, and being with one another, so we create a world of harmony and not conflict. What started out as a self-indulgent newsletter, to prove to myself that I can start and maintain a writing habit has actually turned into a wake-up call. I have realized that I am not alone in feeling stress and despair - and my writing can help others as much as it can help me.
Today, I asked myself, what is the most important thing that I have access to that I can send to my newsletter subscribers?
I arrived at a scary answer - scary because what I’m about to share is personal. But I also recognize that it is a lifestyle dynamic shared by many of us, so I figured it would be most helpful to lead with vulnerability and lift the veil because it’s only in making the invisible visible that we can create change.
Here’s the story.
This past weekend, my husband told me 7 words that felt like a dagger in my heart.
He said: “I think you need to work harder.”
Wow. My gut reaction was to start pulling out my hair and shouting, “ahhhh this is the root of so much that is wrong with our society,” but I refrained. I have learned (painfully) that getting defensive, arguing, yelling, never yields fruit, so instead I did something different, something that felt authentic to me, yet still respectful, and that was to pull out a small little book that made a big impact on how I live my life.
The book is Don't Sweat the Small Stuff...and it’s all small stuff by Richard Carlson. I wanted to share with my husband a few excerpts that I thought would help him see things from my perspective.
Here’s the first excerpt:
Let Go of the Idea that Gentle, Relaxed People Can't Be Super Achievers
One of the major reasons so many of us remain hurried, frightened, and competitive, and continue to live life as if it were one giant emergency, is our fear that if we were to be come more peaceful and loving, we would suddenly stop achieving our goals. We would become lazy and apathetic.
You can put this fear to rest by realizing that the opposite is actually true. Fearful, frantic thinking takes an enormous amount of energy and drains the creativity and motivation from our lives. When you are fearful or frantic, you literally immobilize yourself from your greatest potential, not to mention enjoyment. Any success that you do have is despite your fear, not because of it.
I have had the good fortune to surround myself with some very relaxed, peaceful, and loving people. Some of these people are best-selling authors, loving parents, counselors, computer experts, and chief executive officers. All of them are fulfilled in what they do and are very proficient at their given skills.
And the second excerpt:
Give Up on the Idea that "More Is Better"
We live in the most affluent culture the world has ever We seen. Estimates are that although we have only 6 percent of the world's population in America, we use almost half of the natural resources. It seems to me that if more were actually better, we would live in the happiest, most satisfied culture of all time. But we don't. Not even close. In fact, we live in one of the most dissatisfied cultures on record.
It's not that having a lot of things is bad, wrong, or harmful in and of itself, only that the desire to have more and more and more is insatiable. As long as you think more is better, you'll never be satisfied.
As soon as we get something, or achieve something, most of us simply go on to the next thing-immediately. This squelches our appreciation for life and for our many blessings. I know a man, for example, who bought a beautiful home in a nice area. He was happy until the day after he moved in. Then the thrill was gone. Immediately, he wished he'd bought a bigger house.
And the third excerpt:
Lower Your Tolerance to Stress
It seems that we have it backward in our society. We tend to look up to people who are under a great deal of stress, who can handle loads of stress, and those who are under a great deal of pressure. When someone says, "I've been working really hard," or "I'm really stressed out," we are taught to admire, even emulate their behavior. In my work as a stress consultant I hear the proud words "I have a very high tolerance to stress" almost every day. It probably won't come as a surprise that when these stressed-out people first arrive at my office, more often than not, what they are hoping for are strategies to raise their tolerance to stress even higher so they can handle even more!
Fortunately, there is an inviolable law in our emotional environment that goes something like this: Our current level of stress will be exactly that of our tolerance to stress. You'll notice that the people who say, "I can handle lots of stress" will always be under a great deal of it! So, if you teach people to raise their tolerance to stress, that's exactly what will happen. They will accept even more confusion and responsibility until; their external level of stress matches that of their tolerance. again, stressed-out health issue. Usually it takes a crisis of some kind to wake up a person to their own craziness-a spouse leaves, a emerges, a serious addiction takes over their life-something happens that jolts them into a search for a new kind of strategy. It may seem strange, but if you were to enroll in the average management workshop, what you would probably learn is to raise your tolerance to stress. It seems that even stress consultants are stressed out!
When I shared these excerpts with my husband, he was skeptical and quizzically asked, “how do you know that this is right?”
I respect that question and I think a level of skepticism is important; but, too much skepticism can keep us paralyzed in inaction, repeating the same patterns that lead to self-destructive behavior.
In my experience unwinding my own anxiety, I have found that it’s important to take a leap of faith. Because anxiety makes our world feel really small, and it makes us feel like we are the center of that world. Anxiety is fueled by us repeating the same thought patterns - this keeps us feeling in control. Our world becomes an Ayn Randian/Atlas Shrugged one where we think that we, and we alone, are in control of our destiny.
I want to end by saying this to my husband, and to anyone else who may be struggling with burnout and stress - you are enough, just the way you are. Thank you for being just the way you are. You’re going to be just fine so go and take that walk or bath that you’ve been delaying for when you have more time (but the right time never seems to come). Go read a few pages of the book that’s been on your list for months. Put your phone down for 10 minutes and take a few deep breaths outside.
Be well and take care of yourselves.
Lots of love,