The Hustle Culture Paradox
Let’s be honest. Who does not love a winner? We watch movies, game shows, and attend sporting events to experience, albeit vicariously, the tingling delight of being on top—the thrill of winning. No one wakes up thinking about how he or she is going to lose. Most of us wake up planning how we will conquer the world (e.g., accomplish our predetermined goals).
Unfortunately, we live in a hustle culture that has become the golden standard for many to gauge their accomplishments. What is hustle culture anyway?
Hustle culture is overly obsessed with winning. This cultish philosophy pushes participants to work harder, longer, and faster than anyone else. In hustle culture, winning is a zero-sum game—it’s a winner-takes-all paradigm.
Hustle culture emphasizes the following: (1) Replace who you are with who you desire to become, and you will be successful; (2) If you do not change who you are, then you will remain stuck in a perpetual state of mediocrity and nothingness.
Those who buy into hustle culture’s branding messages of hyper-productivity are promised a reward at the end of their nonstop grind. The reward is the perceived elevation of their social status and, therefore, social mobility.
Those who do not buy into these sexy clichés and glamorized lifestyles are shamed into believing they are losing out on life’s best rewards.
The Dependency Dilemma
The primary issue with hustle culture is that it is built on the premise that external rewards will lead to internal validation, satisfaction, and happiness.
The feelings of empowerment that accompany the rewards often lead to doing more of what gave us that initial dose of success. So we double down on working harder and longer—frantically grinding our way to our goals.
Over-reliance on “grinding” one’s way to success leads to dependency. The feverish pace at which we overextend ourselves means having less time to nurture our most important relationships. We have less time for self-care (e.g., sleep, exercise, proper nutrition). And before too long, we find ourselves in an ever-repeating loop of reward-seeking behaviors—never crossing that elusive finish line.
Playing the game of buying our way to success through obsessive and relentless effort means we are no longer in control but are controlled by false and toxic images of happiness.
No matter where we find ourselves in this overstimulated culture of hustle and grind, it is not too late to change course. We can accept our present reality in a nonjudgmental way. We no longer have to live as slaves in the absolute pursuit of success. We can choose to anchor ourselves on what’s happening right now.
Don’t get me wrong. It is vital to have an intelligent and robust work ethic. And we should not sit around hoping for our circumstances to improve without putting in any effort.
When we engage in hard work and productivity, we learn valuable life lessons of patience, persistence, focus, problem-solving, commitment, cooperation, and personal responsibility. These are the qualities that can help us reach our highest potentialities.
Just as important, however, is not rushing through life. The lifestyle you seek is possible and can become yours. But first, take time to prioritize your priorities, which entail putting health before wealth, choosing moments over money, and practicing self-love rather than self-indulgence.