How to Challenge Yourself in the World of Hustle Culture

In my professional career, I have, and continue, to be challenged more than I could have imagined. I am grateful to be privileged to work in an environment of growth, that strives to be the best at what we do, but that also pushes me to be the best version of my personal and professional self.

Recently, my entire team has been encouraged to challenge ourselves in more ways than I had considered and, while it will be a lot of work, I am excited to push those boundaries and see exactly what we are all capable of. These recent reflections and motivations in my professional career have started to inspire a reflection of my personal life – how do I challenge myself in my non-professional life? And how to I make sure that I don’t “girl boss too close to the sun” and fall victim to the dangers of hustle culture?

When Was the Last Time You Challenged Yourself?

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This is the question I find myself asking most recently. And being honest with myself, I don’t really have an answer.

Through high school and college, I was notorious for lists. If you remember the infamous scene in the movie “What happens in Vegas,” (with Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher) I was the one who made a plan to make plans. As someone with anxiety and possibly ADHD, lists were something very calming and made me feel organized and in control. I bought in to all of the positivity and affirmation posts and life guides on social media, and was convinced that setting a million goals and plans was the path for success. And then I was continuously proven wrong. (perhaps this was an early pre-curser to hustle culture.)

Goals, planning, and lists are all valuable tools in our lives and all have a warranted place in our daily function. But, they are not a replacement for action and I learned, after many years of the same “failures,” that looking good on paper meant nothing if I never actually accomplished anything that I was putting out for myself.

The Influence of Hustle Culture

If you are not already familiar with the term, Urban Dictionary defines Hustle Culture as:

The glorification of working very long hours in hope of reaching one’s professional goals while having a disregard for their health, and relationships with loved ones

Unfortunately, a quick google search of the phrase does not yield much more positivity, with common article headlines declaring that: Hustle Culture is Toxic, The Toxicity of Hustle Culture, How to Break Away from Hustle Culture, and more and more variations of the above.

This is not to discredit the idea of having a strong work ethic; I don’t think that the idea of hustle culture started because of a desire to promote toxicity – hustle culture does not exist because it suddenly was defined, but this type of work has always existed in various cultures. The majority of cultures praise: hard work, efficiency, giving it your all, producing a high quality product, and so. These are all valid outputs for any type of work, but they become problematic when we prioritize these outputs at the sacrifice of our well-being as humans.

Health, relationships, and our personal goals and aspirations are vital to our overall fulfillment as humans. But hustle culture, whether or not it was defined at the time, may likely have impacted your life like it did with mine. As I mentioned above, my motivation towards lists and goals was driven not by what my needs were, but was driven by societal norms of what I should be capable of doing. These same norms also sent the explicit and underlying message that if I did not succeed at these goals, then I was not working towards my full potential and I was suddenly somehow less than those around me.

And with that level of discouragement from a plan destined to fail, you eventually stop trying.

Goals, Intentions, and Passivity

In realizing that I wasn’t tackling things the best way, I started to ease up on the excessive planning and lists. I learned to let go thanks to my husband. He is a go with the flow person, and plans or makes list only when it is absolutely necessary. While I felt uneasy at first, learning this balance ended up helping my anxiety and made me not feel so overwhelmed all the time, because I had an easier time focusing on what was most essential for what was going on and would be happening. This transition was a huge positive in my life.

During this transition, I also started to move away from goals and was inspired to try to set intentions, influenced by Instagram creators I was following at the time. I was discouraged by setting goals because I didn’t feel that I could set realistic goals for my personal life. I have always struggled with setting realistic expectations for myself in light of my autoimmune diseases. On good days I set my goals as a neurotypical person, but then I flare and I am instantly reminded that I have to set goals in a way that honors what my limitations are. But then I end up underestimating myself and not pushing myself because I don’t want to “overextend” myself. It’s a challenging mental cycle that many spoonies deal with, and sometimes the mental game is the hardest one to get through.

I find the concept of intentions, as opposed to hard goals, very appealing, and more in line with the natural fluidity of our days. But, this period was short lived and I don’t know that I can say that I really “gave it my all,” to determine if intentions were truly the better options for myself.

Over the past 2.5 years, I think I have been more passive about things in life than I ever have before. I am sure that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a large contributing factor to this, but also, from being overwhelmed in setting goals, I lost the drive to set goals. This is not to say that I am unsatisfied with my life, but I realize that my life would be better, if I started to push myself a little more.

How to Challenge Myself

Photo by David Suarez on Unsplash

First, I want to go back to setting some short term and long term goals for the personal aspects of my life. If you are setting goals for yourself, there are different approaches to take and I encourage you to do some research and to select the approach that most benefits your own life and any limitations that you have. I don’t perceive limitations as something negative but simply what in your life may change your journey compared to someone else’s?

I have learned that I want to create goals with some timeline flexibility because life is very unpredictable and I don’t want to be discouraged if I can’t accomplish what I need to for things that happen outside of my control. I suppose that I like to have a balance between intentions and goals. Intentions for the flexibility, but goals to have a concrete element to keep me accountable.

I want to set goals in three areas of my life, all which overlap a bit: general personal life, family life, and blogging life. As I write this, I can already feel my brain itch at wanting to create multiple goals for each category – the desire to overcommit is strong. So for each category, I will settle on one long term goal and then set one short term action goal to work towards that long term goal. This is a great way to work in steps, as I complete the first short term goal, I can generate another one to keep working towards my overall goal.

Although I can easily brainstorm a 5,10,15 year plan with micro steps, I am only going to allow myself what I stated above, so that I can see success and stay motivated.

I prefer to keep personal goals to myself, but here are some examples of what my goal set-up would look like, and a model that you can use as well:

  • Personal Life
    • Long Term Goal: Better manage time to always arrive 10 minute early to appointments
      • Short Term Goal Step 1: Wake up 15 minutes earlier for 30 days
  • Family Life
    • Long Term Goal: Eat together at the table for dinner every night
      • Short Term Goal Step 1: Every Sunday evening, involve the family in meal planning for the week
  • Blogging Life
    • Long Term Goal: In two years have 100,000 unique page views a month
      • Short Term Goal Step 1: Post consistently 3x a week for 6 months

Why Am I Setting Goals and How Is This Different Than Hustle Culture?

Setting personal challenges/goals for myself is directly in opposition to hustle culture

Setting personal goals for myself helps me to honor myself and find better balance in my life

I set goals for myself through my own personal experience, which allows me to set realistic expectations based on my capabilities

Limitations are not negative, they are just our own criteria for how to move forward and to challenge ourselves in a way that is not harmful to us

While I have learned to relax in a beneficial way in my life, being challenged in my professional career has reminded me of the added fulfillment I will experience in my personal life by pushing myself. We are always growing and developing as humans, and there is always an opportunity to be a better human and a better version of ourselves.

I want to know that I didn’t pass by opportunities to find joy in life because of passivity that creeped into my life over the past years. I want to know, for myself, that I am striving to be the best person that I can. Focusing on setting personal goals for myself, focused on my own personal narrative, is a form of growth and personal development that is the opposite of hustle culture. I may still be working hard, but this time I am putting myself at the center of the narrative.

By taking my personal narrative into consideration, I am consciously setting goals and looking for ways to challenge myself that make sense for my specific needs. It is much the same as when a doctor provides a medication regime for a patient, that specific combination and doses is for that patient, and is not automatically a good fit for another patient.

If You Want to Set Some Goals

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Absolutely, go for it!

As we slowly move on from this long and arduous pandemic, and carry with us whatever else we have, I desire for all of us to not lose the drive to make ourselves happy, to allow ourselves to grow as humans, and to challenge ourselves. And as we strive towards that dream, I want us to do so in a way that honors our humanity, and does not allow arbitrary pressures of the world to impose unfair expectations on us – unfair expectations that supposedly determine our worth.

Challenge yourself, honor yourself, and most importantly, ground yourself in the truth of the world.

3 thoughts on “How to Challenge Yourself in the World of Hustle Culture

  1. This was such a wonderful read. Finding balance is something I strive for each day and reminding myself to go with the flow. Creating goals with timeline flexibility is such a great tip. Life is unpredictable and when we give ourselves wiggle room, it’s less stressful when something comes up that’s out of our control. Thank you for sharing such great tips on setting goals with your own well-being first, versus focusing on hustle culture.

  2. Widalys Santiago March 29, 2022 — 11:29 pm

    Loved your post. I agree with having flexibility in life. Trying to always follow a strict goal doesn’t match the fact that we are imperfect. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I find it challenging to find that balance of being motivated and working towards my goals and having balance and enjoying my life so it was nice to read your mindset and approach to it 🙂 I like how you had different categories and one long term goal with one starting short term goal.

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