I was drowning. Struggling, fighting, trying hard to breathe.
No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I stayed stuck. Will I get out this time? Will I make it through or is this the end? I had been here before and I got out eventually. I kept struggling, fighting, trying to remember what I must do to break through.
Work harder - that's it!
Work faster - yes!
Keep at it longer - done!
But, did these work last time? I lost my energy, lost my drive, lost my hustle. Why do I keep working so hard to get through if I end up in the same place? What's the point if I end up drowning again? There must be a better way.
I closed my email and shut down my laptop. I was determined to find a better way.
The Hustle Fallacy
Does this struggle sound familiar? It’s one I was intimately acquainted with. I hustle, work hard, and make progress in my career, yet I lose grip on the rest of my life. My kids, my wife, my friends, my health - everything is impacted negatively. To make matters worse, all I hear and see are people out-performing me. Each time I try digging deeper to make it happen. Push myself harder. Motivate myself more. Seems insane to try the same thing again but expect a different outcome, but that’s exactly what I did.
We all receive a constant message in life: “the more work you do the more successful you will become.” There is non-stop pressure to perform better, get more done, and be more successful. This is hustle culture. The culture that tells us our identity is entirely derived from our work. The belief that our work is “the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose”.
Most of us don’t want to give up our hustle mentality because we like to work hard, make progress, and be successful. That’s good. However, we need an adjustment. We need to take our career hustle, dial it back a bit, and stretch those positive qualities over to the other areas of our life. Instead of focusing on all the work you are trying to get done, focus on what your overall purpose is in life.
Create your Purposeful Hustle.
"The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her own life." – Viktor Frankl
Hustle with Purpose
Rather than focusing on your career hustle as the ultimate goal, you need to align your hustle with the purpose of your life. You can’t keep working like a cyborg all day, all week, all year. We need to take mental breaks, step away from work and engage with the other key areas of our lives.
We all have a moral imperative that propels us in action towards what’s important to us. It’s our compass that helps direct these actions. This is key to us embracing our purpose. As we evaluate what actions we take, understand where your compass is pointing and focus your action in that direction.
We are not just our career and vocation.We are emotional, physical, relational, spiritual beings. We are multidimensional. Treating our lives as if it stopped at our career dismisses all other aspects of who we are.
So instead of looking at yourself as a person who only has a career, shine a light on the other areas of life that are important to you.
- Which relationships are important to you and do you make them a priority?
- How is your physical health and do you need to pay more attention to it?
- Do you get enough rest and schedule time away to recharge?
- What other areas of your life are heading in the wrong direction?
There’s a helpful technique called the Regret Minimization Framework. The framework asks a simple question: When you are 80, will you look back and regret this action or decision?
What decisions are you making today that you will regret when you are 80? I have never heard of someone in their 80’s wishing they had worked longer hours, spent more time replying to emails, or got one more promotion.
No. Nope. Negative.
The regrets in the last days of life are focused on more time with loved ones, working less, and giving themselves permission to be happier. Above all, the biggest regret was not living a life that was true to themselves - a life focused on what they want, not on what they were told to want.
Take a tip from your 80-year-old-self and shift your focus from the one-dimensional view to the multidimensional complexity you are. Shift your hustle from only being about your career to the areas of your life that give you purpose.
With that in mind, I have a proposition for you: what if you could make your hustle sustainable and purposeful? What if you could still have your hustle (dialed back a bit) while keeping your sanity and minimizing regrets?
Let me introduce you to my own story on creating my Purposeful Hustle.
“Our purpose sets our priority and our priority determines the productivity our actions produce.” – Gary Keller
Creating my Purposeful Hustle was a journey. I was hit with the cold hard reality that more work was not going to get me what I truly sought in life. Instead, I was going to drown.
When I stepped back and evaluated the bigger picture of my life, I didn’t like what I saw. So I looked around, seeking how to change, determined to find a way to keep from drowning. What I found was not a hack or the best of intentions to dig deeper and suck it up for a bit longer.
I discovered other dimensions of my life from which I derive meaning, belonging, and peace. The other sides that really make up the importance of my life. I decided to write them down and then evaluate them in the broader context of my life.
I came up with a name for each dimension and then listed them in the priority I wanted them to be in:
- My wife & kids
- My health: emotional, mental, physical & spiritual
- My self-growth & dreams
- My extended family and friends
The priority is based on how much value I wanted to give to each dimension of my life - not the priority I was giving them today. After creating this list and putting them in priority order, I realized I was focusing all of my time and attention on my career - the 6th most important area. It was getting all of my energy and starving the more important priorities.
My priorities were upside down.
No wonder I felt out of balance, overwhelmed, and drowning from the onslaught. I wasn’t paying nearly enough attention to the areas of my life where I derive meaning, belonging, and peace. I was solely focused on my career.
It was time for a change. I decided to step back from the daily grind for a day and bring the rest of my life into focus. Instead of my energy being solely focused on the 6th priority, I turned to look at how to improve priorities 1 through 5.
I thought more about those key relationships in my life, my health & growth, finances, and hobbies in addition to my career. I dug into each area, asking myself, “How do I move from drowning to find the freedom I am seeking?”
This is how I created my Purposeful Hustle and I’d like to teach you to do the same.
4 Steps to Re-calibrate your Compass
I suggest you start in the same place I did. There are 4 steps you can take to step back from the chaos and re-calibrate your compass to head in the right direction. The direction of your Purposeful Hustle.
1) Define Life Dimensions: what make up your life?
Start by listing the many dimensions that make up your life. Here are a few examples:
- Emotional health
- Mental health
- Physical health
- Spiritual life
The initial step here is to simply list out the dimensions important to you. There may be several or few - I recommend having no more than 10. If you find you have areas that can be combined into one, combine them. This first step gives you an idea of which areas you want to focus on as you create your Purposeful Hustle.
2) Assign Priority: what is most important to you?
You’ve defined your dimensions, so now you need to assign a priority to each dimension. Which area is the most important to you and makes you feel the most fulfilled? What about the second? Third?
You can’t focus on areas at once so you need to identify which one is most important. This is an intentional constraint to force you to continue to refine what is important to you. There can only be a single #1 priority.
3) List Goals with Next Steps: what is your goal for each dimension?
After you have listed out your dimensions and prioritized them, ask yourself these two questions:
- What is one goal I have in this area of my life?
- What is one small step I can do to progress towards that goal?
These can be lengthy, 1000 word essays or they can be short sentences. The intention is to get you thinking about where you would like your compass to take you.
Here are a few examples:
Goal: spend more time with my kids.
Next step: when I am done with work for the day, spend 15 minutes doing an activity of their choosing.
Goal: invest in key relationships in my life.
Next step: text my buddies to find a night or morning this week to grab food together to catch up.
Goal: run 5k this summer.
Next step: run for 3 minutes.
You’ll find the work of listing these steps out helps you start the process of moving towards these goals. Taking the next step is just the beginning.
4) Take Action: what life will you create?
Do the work in priority order. When you’ve completed that first step, identify the next one to take to continue moving toward your goal. Repeat. This starts you on your journey to create your life full of purpose.
This exercise doesn’t need to be complex or a lengthy journal. Make your Purposeful Hustle work for you. You may find it helpful to simplify this by only creating 2 or 3 dimensions. Or you may want to create more steps per goal, with due dates, and have someone keep you accountable.
The main point is to break away from the focus solely on career hustle and giving all your energy to a single dimension. Learn to step back and take a larger view of your life. A view that is filled with purpose, meaning, belonging, and peace.
How did this work for me?
After going through this exercise, I was able to create my own Purposeful Hustle. No longer am I drowning in emails and work - I am now focused on spending quality time on what is important to me. I am growing in my relationships with my wife and kids and building better connections with friends and family. I am improving my health and my career is still progressing.
Also, I am pursuing my goals and dreams. In fact, it’s my goal to share this story with others - to help them see their life through a different lens, find their passion, and create their own, unique Purposeful Hustle.
"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." – Howard Thurman
We all move through life at the same speed: one day at a time. Yet some people feel like they are drowning as they move through their days, while others feel disengaged. The challenge for you and I is to step back from the aimless hustle of each day to prevent drowning.
We do this by pausing for a moment to re-calibrate our compass with 4 steps:
- Define Life Dimensions: what makes up your life?
- Assign Priority: what is most important to you?
- List Goals with Next Steps: what is your goal for each dimension?
- Take Action: what life will you create?
This is just the beginning. Your life is ready to be defined, ready to be in action. When you take action, it’s up to you to ensure those actions are heading the direction you desire. If you can pause for a moment to re-calibrate your compass, you will identify steps to head towards your goals.
Are you ready to create your Purposeful Hustle? Let me know. I want to encourage and support you in this journey.