In her most recent book, The Way of Integrity, Martha Beck offers this sage advice: "If whatever you're doing isn't working, don't do it harder."
Don't. Do it. Harder. Seems sound. It's not even new advice. You've no doubt heard the proverbial definition of insanity. Yet, faced with a situation that isn't working, do it harder is precisely what our culture tells us to do. We call it hustle, and we're obsessed with it, in very much the same way that rats are obsessed with the taste of d-CON.
Our cultural landscape is littered with messages about hustle...
Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle.
Your dreams are worth more than your sleep.
Stay humble, hustle hard.
Do it harder! Is it working for you? No? No worries, my friend. You just need to hustle on. Just do it some more. Do it longer. Do it with more grit. Do it harder.
While tenacity is an admirable quality, hustle is a line of bullshit. Here's what hustle culture will never tell you--if whatever you're doing is in alignment for you, there is no hustle needed. You don't need to skip sleep, grind it out, or show up with your game face on. You don't need to do it harder.
If whatever you're doing isn't working, stop doing it. That doesn't mean you have to stop evolving, stop creating, stop providing, stop receiving. It simply means you don't need hustle to do any of those things. Hustle is a bill of goods, sold to you in a package deal with the values of the patriarchy: competition, exclusion, suffering, stratification, misogyny.
Hustle is for pushing yourself beyond your limits. Everything you need to create what belongs to you can be found right now, within your current self. Your edges will expand naturally as you access what is already available. Your limits don't need pushing; your capacity will grow effortlessly, as you do.
Hustle is for forcing so-called achievements that don't correspond to your values. When you're working within your own value structure, there's no need for force. Work towards what enlivens you doesn't feel much like work. It doesn't require your hard-nosed adherence. That kind of grind is reserved for going against your own grain, for perpetuating the illusion that more of what you already have will somehow satisfy you, in spite of immense evidence to the contrary.
Hustle is for living someone else's dream. If you need hustle to create it, it's not yours to engender. The dreams that reflect your truest truth will flow from you like water from a spring. They don't need to be dragged into the open by the indominable force of your will.
Some of you don't believe that. You've eaten so many of the tasty hustle pellets that your brain cannot conceive of anything worth having coming easily to you. But that's exactly what I'm telling you. The things that are truly right for you--the income, titles, roles, adventures, friends, lovers, lifestyle--will come easy. When you act in concert with your highest self, in careful alignment with your core values, in absolute connection with your deepest truth, you are co-creating with The Force; capital T, Capital F. The Force that creates all things, imbues all things, is all things. The greatest and only Power races to greet and provide for you when you create this way, from this space and this energy.
Make no mistake, this is magic. But it's not that kind of magic. You will still need to work. Action is the magic. Your inspired action is what brings these things--the money, the people, the life--to you. But action is not hustle. Action is simple; it is choices followed by effort. The efforts needn't be Herculean. They need only be aligned and consistent. Hustle demands endless effort, beyond that which it is comfortable to give, an ever-increasing expulsion of energy. Hustle is slamming the transmission into 6th gear, revving it to the line, and breaking off the shifter. Nothing that is meant for you requires this level of expenditure. Your life, the life that will fill you with peace and joy, requires nothing more than a gentle push followed by miles of coasting, with frequent but minor course corrections.
You never need to do it harder. You may need to do it again. You may need to do it differently. You may need to change your thoughts about doing it, or heal the part of you that says you're not able to do it, or deserving of the doing. But you never need to do it harder. If it's not working, stop doing it and do something else instead. Do something that does work, and that feels good in the doing.
It may sound to good to be true. But then again, how does the idea that by constantly over-extending yourself, you'll eventually find satisfaction sound? (Twirls index finger by temple and crosses eyes) If you had to choose one, try one on for size, which one would you choose? Getting clear on your own values, saying no to constant scrabbling, settling down for some easy co-creation? Or clawing your way up, inch by inch, driven by an inner devil wielding a wicked whip who has no sense of humor and thinks success is easier to find if you're up before 5:00 a.m.?
Call me a cream puff, but I'm going for Door #1. And I'm inviting you to join me. Consider this your gold foil, satin finish, scalloped-edged, personalized invitation to say fuck hustle. Let that shit go. Release your fevered grip on the lie. Cleanse your mind, heart, and soul of the poison. Welcome the work that feels easy, gracious, purpose-filled, connected, guided, magical...and simply refuse to do anything that feels like hustle.
Go on, give it a try. If whatever you're doing isn't working, stop. Ask why. Make a change. Check in with your values. Take a nap. Dream a little. Meditate on it, journal about it, create some art around it. When you feel the answers flowing from you with grace, without the need for grit, you'll know what to do next. And you'll never need to do it harder.