Let’s Talk About Work Ethic, Rest, & Guilt

I’ve been battling with two intentions that seem to contradict and work against each other in my work and my life:

My desire to hustle, and my desire to rest.

Work ethic, rest, and the guilt so many of us can feel as we navigate these waters have been heavy on my mind recently. And it’s an inner battle that I know I’m not alone in facing each day. My clients tell me often how guilty they feel when they make space for their need to rest and forgo those 15 hour workdays that are so glorified when you’re running your own business. They feel guilty when they admit to themselves that they don’t want to build a business that demands 60 hour weeks and all of their energy to build and sustain, and making space for time off and doing it without guilt or shame is something I’ve personally battled with in recent months and I’m  certain that I’m not the only one.

Here’s where I think the problem starts:

1. We’re told how important hustle and hard work is

So many articles, podcasts, videos, and blog posts are reminding us daily to hustle it out in our work and our lives. How good things only come to those who hustle; that she who works the longest and the hardest is the one who will succeed, and that we can’t truly want this if we’re not willing to sacrifice everything for it.  

2. We see how impactful it can be in our business and our lives

There’s a reason why we glorify hard work; big and beautiful things can happen when we show up, do the work, and make things happen. When we give our business 100% and all of our focus, incredible things can start to happen. Hard work and growth will almost always go hand in hand, and once we’ve seen this to be true in our own work and lives we can start to get hooked on the hustle along the way.  

3. We see rest as weakness and hustle as strength

In our desire to do it all, we’ve glorified the hustle and pushed aside our innate need for rest as something that makes us weak and less worthy than those who seem to hustle it out without the same overwhelm and exhaustion than can haunt us along the way. 

And here’s the biggest mistake of all that some of us have made:

We’ve confused hustle and rest as two contradictory things, instead of the perfect companions for a healthy, happy, and sustainable creative life.

We cannot hustle without rest. 

Now, of course, this lesson is way easier said that done. Our work ethic is rooted in something way deeper than a sentence alone can fix. So many of us have attached our work ethic to our self worth that there’s a lot of personal reflection to be done behind the scenes if we want to move past the stories we tell ourselves and rewire our brains to approach our work and our life in a healthier and happier way.

For me, so much of my struggle is rooted in the fact that my work ethic is attached to one of my core values in life: to be financially independent, to provide for myself, and to be a contributing member of society. Somewhere along the line I’ve confused rest with something that will take me away from fulfilling that value. 

This is why last year I felt so much guilt every time I took even just a day or afternoon away from work; why I felt so much guilt every time I was too tired or exhausted to give my business 100%, but wasn’t willing to take the rest I very much needed to recharge and relax. 

I thought my biggest struggle in my first year of business would be the money side of things - finding clients, making a profit, building something sustainable in the long run - but my biggest struggle of all was facing my relationship with my work ethic and my perception of rest and losing the guilt that was holding me back from making healthy and purposeful decisions along the way.

I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has struggled with this, or some version of this work ethic/rest battle that can rage on inside our heads.

It’s safe to say that we cannot go on like this, yet this isn’t a struggle that can be easily fixed with a one-sized-fits-all-formula or an quick fix; this one’s going to take something much more than that. It’s a journey we all must navigate ourselves as we figure out how to balance our ambitions with our personal lives, our financial needs with our need for space to rest, relax, and recharge, and our self worth with the things that define it and the things that don’t.

Here’s what I’m doing moving forward:

1. Valuing rest as much as I do hard work

Reframing rest as something that can fuel my hard work and my pursuit of a life full of happiness, joy, and inner peace, has been the catalyst for a whole new approach to rest and hustle in my life.

I love working hard; using my time to make things happen, be purposeful and profitable in my business, and growing and evolving through the work I do is essential for my wellbeing and happiness.

I’m just also accepting that rest is an essential too. 

2. Embracing a slower season

I felt so, so, guilty making this decision - which is when I realised how warped my relationship to my work ethic had become. The last quarter of 2015 felt like a season of rest to me, so I felt guilty prioritising the first quarter of 2016 as another, but looking back I now see that Q4 of 2015 was a season of struggle, not rest.

I was exhausted, burnt out, overwhelmed, and my health was compromised. I was completely disconnected from my own wellbeing, and I had lost clarity over what kind of life I’m truly trying to build. It may have been a slower season in terms of output (the blog and podcast took a huge backseat while I gave all the energy I did have to my awesome clients), but that decision to create less came from a place of struggle instead of intention.

This slower season is an intentional one, but it’s going to be slower in a different way. I want to prioritise more output (I am oh so ready to create again), more game changing work with my clients, less overwhelm, and personal growth in a more deeper and meaningful way. I’m so ready to work hard, but I’m so committed to working hard in a slower, more intentional way. 

3. Redefining my work ethic

Questioning my thought-process when it comes to my work ethic has been so helpful while I try and navigate this new approach to my work, life, and wellbeing. Every time I feel thoughts such as:

“Who cares if you need to rest; there are bills to be paid so get back to work"
“You’re so weak if you need to rest this much - can’t an afternoon off every now and again be enough?"
“You can’t take yourself seriously if you’re not willing to work every hour under the sun to grow your business and make more money"

I’m taking the time to question them and I'm working hard to redefine my approach to hard work, hustle, and rest. The biggest lesson of all has been this: by redefining my work ethic and prioritising rest as much as I do hard work, I’ve made more space for clarity, focus, and direction in my work and my life. My workday feels more mindful, my ideas feel so much clearer, and I’m up-levelling in a way that, although feels a little slower, is so much more purposeful for my business and my personal growth. 

To-Do For You

If you’ve been struggling with this too, here’s what I’d love to encourage you to do next:

  1. Assess your baggage: what’s shaped your work ethic so far? What stories are you telling yourself about your self worth when it comes to work, and are they serving you or is it time to redefine?
  2. What does rest look like for you? What do you need space for each day, week, and month to live a healthy, happy, productive, and creative life?
  3. What are your intentions for this season? How can your approach to work and rest enable you to prioritise and make space for what matters to you most right now?

Give yourself permission to work hard with intention, and rest and recharge without guilt.

And now over to you: I would love to know your thoughts on this topic in the comments below. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned when it comes to balancing hard work with rest?

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