Are people who ‘work hardest’ are the most disciplined?
What do we mean by people who ‘work hard’? Well, frequently, this seems to mean the people who are over-worked or who work harder, not smarter, if you will.
These people maybe work a 60+ hour week. They don’t have time to enjoy a game with their children, to meet their friends for supper, to savor time out in nature, to watch a play or attend a symphony. They don’t have time for their hobbies, whether it’s soccer, piano, baking, gardening, fixing cars, or yoga.
People who ‘work hard’ never let the dishes or the laundry pile up or the food in the fridge run out. They sit on 5 boards, attend every meeting, and always bring homemade cake.
People who ‘work hard’ are perpetually exhausted.
There’s no time to rest, no time to relax, no time to just be. And there’s definitely no energy (after resting) for doing anything truly meaningful. How many people who ‘work hard’ come home each and every day and numb the pain of energy depletion by just sitting in front of the TV for hours until bed? Until a ‘new’ day of the same old ‘working hard’?
What if … it’s true discipline to say ‘NO!’?
- To say, ‘sorry, I can’t work late’ or to not take that promotion that would force you away from your family.
- To not be constantly reachable via text, call, or email; but rather truly available to your spouse, your children, your friends, to whoever the person is physically right next to you.
- To love yourself so much, care for yourself so well that you make a point of taking the time to truly rejuvenate yourself each day?
- To not have to maintain the ‘perfect image’ of the tireless husband who unceasingly provides for his family (but never sees them)?
- To not maintain the ‘perfect’ house that looks spotless but is devoid of love?
What if we stopped treating ourselves like work horses?
What if we stopped feeding our egos by starving our souls?
We must know what is truly important. Things that can seem very ‘urgent’ (e.g. answering that email immediately) are frequently not important and, additionally, thwart us from focusing our attention on what is truly important (e.g. listening to our 5-year old son tell us about his day and truly engaging with him).
Working hard on things that are important requires amazing discipline.
To stay that focused on the important, we will have to say “NO!” to a heckuva lot of unimportant but “urgent” things.
We have to know what we really value.
And we have to be willing to delay gratification.
It’s gratifying to be able to check all the items off your to-do list. It’s gratifying to have a spotless house or to get a raise. It’s gratifying to be praised (even if for the wrong things), to hear “Frank is such a good worker — he always get the job done; why, he even skipped his daughter’s dance recital last week in order to close a deal!”
It’s gratifying to be seen by others as someone who ‘works hard’ and ‘has it all together’, as someone who is ‘always on her game’ or ‘on top the ball.’
Our culture rather sucks at appreciating what truly matters. It’s rare for someone to praise you for watching the sunrise or to appreciate your refusal to help out because spending quality time with your family takes precedence. It’s rare to be lauded and applauded for not over-committing yourself so that you have time each day to recharge your batteries while doing something you enjoy.
When was the last time someone told you “good for you!” when you did something self-loving? When were you last praised for focusing on the important?
Instead, we are shamed for having true discipline. We are shamed for knowing what we value most highly and for being skilled at consistently and firmly saying “NO!” to anything unimportant. We are seen as selfish and lazy for having carefully laid, sacred boundaries around our time.
We’re ‘supposed’ to be always keen to take on more work. We’re ‘supposed’ to be super-humans who don’t need rest. We have to be always on the go, always ‘accomplishing’ something. Should, have to, supposed to, must …
What do we benefit if we gain the whole world but lose our souls?
We’re expected to ‘help’ others while hurting ourselves. We’re expected to give the best of our time and energies our bosses, colleagues, and mere acquaintances as opposed to our family and closest friends.
We have it all backwards.
When we “work hard” by saying ‘yes’ to the seemingly urgent, we necessarily say ‘no’ to what really matters.
Ten years from now, your child won’t care if the house was spotless; she’ll remember if you loved playing with her and consciously reserved sacred time to be with her. Ten years from now, your spouse won’t care if you made more money and bought a bigger house if it took you away from her; better to have less money and a smaller house but actually be living life together.
YOU are your most precious resource. What you say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to matters, deeply. It is each seemingly small decision that paves the pathway of our lives … Where are you headed?
How do you spend your time?
Are you focused on the important or the urgent?
Do you even know what you most deeply value?
If so, are you living your life in accordance with what you value, or are you concentrated on the wrong things — the things that take you away from what you care about most?
Ten years from now, what will matter? Do THAT thing.