Working Hard, Easily

We often associate working hard with slogging and trudging along. But working hard is often more about getting into an easy state of flow, a sign of being deeply engaged with our work.

Tired of trudging along and pushing forward?

Here’s a slightly different advice- stop and reevaluate, instead of pushing harder.

In this hustle culture, it is often a sign of grit and motivation to keep pushing when it gets harder. If you are a working professional, it is rarely that someone would tell you to stop and revaluate. Most of the motivational advice out there is to keep working harder. To try again and again and again until you succeed. To rise in one’s career, or to come up with a million-dollar idea, or to run a business or to be the star employee, the chief advice is to slog and work hard. Work harder. It’s always about being more disciplined. More focused. To push against all odds.

But is that always good advice? Does achieving something and working hard always mean we must feel like we are constantly swimming against the tide? Would it not be better if we could rather swim and flow amidst everything? Is there a different interpretation to ‘working hard’?

An insight by psychologist Julie Gurner is worth paying attention to. Speaking on a podcast for the online mindfulness and motivational page Farnam Street, she says: 

“I think we talk about discipline because it feels tough to do. We’re doing the hard thing. We’re slogging through. But when we are at our best, we’re not slogging through. Great people are obsessed and they’re not slogging through. They are driven. They are motivated. They are deeply, deeply engaged. … If it starts to feel like a slog and you’re pushing yourself every day—I mean, we all have periods of that—but [do it] too long and that really becomes laborious. To me, it’s often a flag that perhaps you shouldn’t be in that area at all.”

Haven’t we all, at some point, found ourselves working in a state of flow, working deeply, losing all track of time and finding a deep sense of accomplishment within ourselves?  Was that about ‘pushing’ harder? No, it was about flowing with our work. It was about being so engaged in what we were doing that we felt one with it. It was hard work that didn’t feel like ‘hard’ work.

Good, hard work should put us in a state of flow. It should engage us. After some slogging, after some pushing, if we still haven’t reached that state of flow, of the state of feeling engaged enough, perhaps it would be a better idea to reevaluate things instead of continuing to slog and push harder. Revaluate, so that we can find a way to flow.

Revaluating could involve changing our approach, or changing our thinking. It could also involve changing our objectives. It could also involve changing our path, in a minor or major way. The point is to aim for a state of flow, of deep engagement with what we are working towards, instead of feeling the slog.