Hustle Culture Needs to take the Back Seat


60 characters. 15 seconds. That’s how long it takes to bore us nowadays.

With the rise of social media platforms like Twitter and TikTok, a greater emphasis is being put on briefer, more concise material that can keep up with the shortening attention span of users. Ever thought about why you just can’t help falling asleep whenever your teacher drones on for an hour about some topic that you vaguely remember? It may partly be because you’ve grown so accustomed to the short videos and posts that you come across all the time that anything longer than a few minutes – let alone an hour – can't hold your interest. 

This newfound value for “hustle” that our culture embraces with open arms has seemed to spill over into every aspect of our lives. 

Seemingly, our need for instant gratification is everywhere. It consumes us as we continue to watch episode after episode in what seems like a harmless binge-watch; little do we know how this media marathon fuels our obsession with wanting to know everything immediately. We can’t even go one week without finding out what happens next on Grey’s Anatomy. 

Each morning we plan to wake up early and get some work done. But when the alarm rings in the morning, we hit the snooze button without any further thought. All plans go out the window just because those few irresistible extra minutes of sleep. 

Concurrently, as soon as Amazon announces a sale, we wait eagerly to scroll through the deals and add one item after another to your cart. We hit the buy button and go back to whatever we were doing, smirking about saving a hundred dollars due to the discount, while also knowing deep down that we don’t need half the items we purchased we bought in the first place. 

Everything about the world we live in today is fast – fast fashion, fast food, fast passes. It’s hard to imagine living without all these shortcuts that seem to make our tedious days just a little bit easier. 

Some would say that quickening the pace of life is a good thing because it makes us more efficient and our time more well spent. But the truth is that society in 2020 has us running too fast, trying to meet deadlines and deal with too many wearisome tasks. Being able to work slowly and meaningfully is a rarity in this digital age and with good reason: virtually anything can be found with the touch of a finger. There's no slowing down, or else you're left behind. 

But with all this connectivity, we’re sacrificing something that is far more important – ourselves. We’ve begun to buy into faulty systems under the pretense of efficiency, burning ourselves out in the process of half-mindedly getting things done. Speeding from one task to another, our mind doesn’t necessarily seem to be present in doing anything specific. 

Now, these changes in our attitude as a society might seem subtle, but they are certainly there. It’s not to say that we should go back to the way things worked in the good old days (which may not seem all that good in retrospect) but there might be some outdated practices that we should consider adopting once more - one that would benefit us all would be a simpler, slower lifestyle. 

Amid such a fast-paced world, we need to remind ourselves that one of the most important things that one can do is to take a minute and really take in what they’re doing (which the current COVID-19 situation has admittedly helped with).   

While we all endlessly worry about everything we have left to do in the future, the present lays waiting to be experienced. We throw ourselves from one commitment to the next, barely present enough to remember the journey to and from each location; the clarity and self-awareness that is so crucial to building us as people is as good as lost. 

Solving the puzzle is out of the question when we spend so long obsessing over each and every jigsaw piece.  The big picture is nowhere to be found. 

Now, when was the last time you took a minute to just take a deep breath and reflect on yourself? You probably don’t even remember – that’s how caught up you are in thinking about whatever you have to do next.

Many fail to see past the cheesiness of this soul-searching approach in order to see just what kinds of wondrous merits it holds. Instead, those skeptics ask how this brooding would ever help them, why taking such a moment to ponder would make any difference, or even what good wasting that precious time even is. 

Well, the answer to all these is quite simple and lies in this well-known proverb: It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. With that, some (such as our skeptics) continue along the path of life blindly believing that it will ultimately take them to the right place, when all it takes is for them to open their eyes and redirect themselves. The mindfulness that allows them to take in their reality and adjust their ways makes the difference between self-actualization and not being able to reach their full potential. 

Instead of thinking of self-reflection as a waste of time, think of it this way instead - every moment you spend slowing down is a moment invested in yourself. Just like any other investment, with the right decisions, you can certainly see your value skyrocket and reap the benefits. 

Who would ever say no to such a great deal? 

The concept of hustling doesn’t promise these profits. Despite both requiring the same, extreme amount of effort, the difference between hustling and getting work done can be measured through the sheer amount of productivity. 

Notably, one dean at a medical school has his first-year medical students inventory their time, writing down their activities every 15 minutes for a day. Of course, it would be easy for the students to just foolishly complete everything that is asked of them, not keeping track of the time wasted in the process; however, this push for such a reflection has them instead take a second to analyze what they have been able to do with their time and adapt to become more efficient. 

Then again, keeping a journal is not the only way to shift toward this slower take on life. Just realizing that rushing is a habitual mindset can take you from there. Soon enough, you’ll find yourself making changes to your life, realizing that you do, in fact, have a minute or two to spare. 

Once you’ve recognized that you’re caught in the hamster wheel, you can make the decision to step off.  

In some ways, 2020 and this coronavirus pandemic have forced everyone to slow down their fast-paced methods by giving them time in lockdown to reflect. 

Those who had not been able to speak with their loved ones simply due to the fact that they were “too busy” now found themselves having heart-to-hearts with the people they were quarantined with; and as for the friends and family that they only saw rarely beforehand, this experience instilled a gratitude in many for the kind figures that they used to take for granted. Homemade meals, which used to be a rare sight, had become almost daily occurrences as everyone was stuck with nowhere to go and grab a bite but their own kitchens. Those who claimed there was just not enough time to indulge in hobbies now found themselves picking up books and paintbrushes. Just glancing out a window, one could easily find families going on walks together, talking to one another, appreciating the beauty of the nature around them. 

Although there’s not much positive that we can accredit to the pandemic, this shift is undoubtedly one of the best things to come out of it – both for us humans and the planet we live in. 

As much as most of us relished taking a break from driving for that period in time, it’s safe to say that Mother Nature enjoyed it far more than any of us humans did. With the rate of carbon emissions at an all-time low during lockdown, the overall air quality worldwide is reaching levels not seen in the past few decades. It’s a given that this finding does not mean that the issues with air pollution and fossil fuel emissions are all resolved; but it's one example of hope in these desperate times. 

Our actions, when taken after a period of clarity, can completely reshape our own lives but also the world itself. As a race, we all have the ability to bring about change, but it starts with making those changes on an individual level first. 

Incorporating more introspection into our lives helps us gain focus on so many things that are overwhelmingly lost in the thrill of the chase. 

So, whenever you can, take a moment to stop and smell the roses – you need it. 

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