Just Because You're Working Hard...
Hard work is valued in our culture. It's good to work hard. It's right to work hard. It's productive to work hard. We should all work hard.
However, working hard doesn't mean we're good at what we do. For instance, a hard-working teacher is not necessarily a good teacher. This means that putting in hours upon hours of work after school and on weekends doesn't equate to good lessons. Excessive grading and giving feedback on absolutely everything doesn't necessarily translate to student learning.
So perhaps hard work shouldn't be a measure of quality or effectiveness. It's a good measure of something - probably commitment, tenacity, and determination - just not quality or effectiveness.
If we didn't have to work hard to show that we care, we're capable, and we're productive, how else could we show it? Maybe with enjoyment, curiosity, creativity, and vitality.
The other thing about hard work is that because we really think it's a good thing, we often feel that we should show that we're working hard. And the easiest way to show that we're working hard is to be stressed. Many of us wear stress as a badge of honor.
I'm so stressed, can't you see how hard I'm working?!
And that's how we propagate a culture of stress for ourselves and others, by modeling it for each other. It's particularly problematic that teachers who model being stressed are setting up students for a life of stress themselves.
Many of us have worked in businesses or schools with cultures of excessive hard work. Though it likely wouldn't be said out loud, in some of these cultures it's expected that you work hard, work extra, and wear your hard work as stress. These are unhealthy communities with their focus in an unhealthy and ineffective direction.
Next time you're feeling stressed about work or life, try to remember that the stress is optional and not very productive or satisfying. We don't have to be stressed to show that we care, and we certainly don't have to be stressed to be productive or effective.
Instead, find something else to replace the stress with. A few things that work for me at different times: ease and relaxation, engagement, enjoyment, and passion.
I can't remember where I heard this, but stress is just fear in a socially acceptable form. The stress/fear that comes with showing that we're working hard is usually the fear of being inadequate.
Thanks so much for reading. ❤️