We’re told that we have to push ourselves to get what we want, to get our goals, to reach success. If you want something in life, you have to fight for it, right? Push yourself and you’ll get what you want. Dream big, take massive action, make sacrifices and you’ll win. That’s what we’re supposed to do to be a success, isn’t it?
I’m not so sure that pushing hard is working for us. What does pushing do?
It causes stress and disappointment, it strains our relationships and friends, and we often end up with poor health. The additional kicker is that we often don’t reach our goals when we push. We get burnt out and frustrated from pushing so hard.
Why “Work hard, play hard” doesn’t work
I sometimes hear people proudly say that they like to “work hard and play hard”. I’ve always been confused as to why someone would want to live by that motto.
Notice that it’s got the word “hard” in there? Why should life be hard? “Work hard, play hard” implies that we should be striving, struggling, straining. That doesn’t sound fun to me. We can’t even relax when we play? That has to be hard too?
Belief is everything. If we believe life is supposed to be hard, it will be hard! Wouldn’t you prefer that things feel open, easy or flowing?
We don’t need to push ourselves hard to reach our goals. Pushing hard often gets us the opposite of what we’re looking for and only leaves exhausted and frustrated.
I would highly recommend reconsidering the attitude that you have to push yourself hard to get what you want in life. Contemplate why you think things can’t be easy. What are the underlying beliefs fueling the need to push?
I attended Buddhist/western psychology classes for a few years and the teacher used to say, “Work at playing. Play at working”. That makes way more sense to me than, “Work hard, play hard” which only serves to fuel our egos and burn us out. No thanks!
What should you do if you want to reach your goals?
Try using “the slight edge”
Jeff Olsen wrote a great book called The Slight Edge. This line from the Jeff Olsen’s web site sums up the “slight edge” strategy quite well: “Be a little better than you were yesterday. Repeat.”
Keep showing up, keep taking consistent action
Continue to take small actions until they become habits that you don’t even need to think about. As they become part of your routine, you can then increase the level of difficulty.
Strike a balance between work, leisure and health
Protect your health while going after goals, maintain a balanced inner state, nurture relationships. None of these need to be neglected while pursuing your goals.
1. If I don’t push myself, won’t I become a lazy person?
In the “try-hard” cultures of many western countries, we often think that unless our lives feel like a dramatic struggle where we’re working 60-hour workweeks and have no less than 30 goals that we’re striving towards, we’re lazy somehow. It’s time to re-think all of this. Making steady progress and having attainable goals that allow us moments to unwind, re-connect with friends and family or even do nothing, is an approach that works.
2. If I don’t push, I’ll never reach my goals.
Some effort is required, but not the over-the-top effort where you sacrifice your health and personal relationships. The alternative approach that I’m suggesting is healthier and requires consistent action. It’s more sustainable in the both the short and long-term. The action you’re taking might appear to be smaller, less grandiose, but you’ll achieve more in the long-term.
3. Life is competitive. I have to push myself so that I can blow away my competition.
Naaahhh… I mean, I guess you can do that if you want…but why? Being competitive only creates more striving, more stress, more worry and more unhappiness for yourself and those around you. Instead of being concerned about competition, focus on gradual improvements, focus on learning to enjoy your activities even more, learn from your colleagues…Collaboration, not competition.
As you begin to focus on gradual improvement, simplifying your life and striking a balance between work and play, you’ll notice that you can accomplish far more than if you were to push (struggle/strain) for your goals.
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Do you think we need to push ourselves to reach our goals? What strategies do you use to successfully work on your goals? Let me know in the comments below.
Really enjoy your articles Nige. There are some subtle ideas expressed here and they are simple to follow. I like that you don’t overwhelm with a lot of links and references. The simplicity makes it easy to digest the material.
Glad you’re finding the articles helpful, Matt. Yes, I purposefully try to keep them simple, actionable and I try to limit links/references because we don’t need a ton of info in order to take action. We just need to…take action. Thanks for reading the articles!