Hustle vs. Happy: Choose Your Health and Mindset
More. More. More. People always seem to be striving for more. More money, more success, more breakthroughs, more winning. This is a direct impact of “hustle culture,” a term that came into the spotlight following the “entrepreneurial boom” in the 1990s and 2000s. Hustle culture promotes an intense, all-consuming lifestyle focused on working and earning capital. But what’s missing from the more? A lot of things, but most startling are the fundamental components of what makes up a meaningful life like happiness, love, and spiritual connectedness.
For those who subscribe to hustle culture, these missing fundamentals are replaced by a common misconception: Once I am successful, then I will be happy. But as Gary put it at Mega Agent Camp this year, “‘Hustle first, happy second’ is a broken formula. Happiness is a precursor to success.”
Forgoing happiness in the name of being a go-getter who stops at nothing to succeed won’t get you where you want to be. The idea of hustle culture may have started as an aversion to laziness, but over time it has morphed into a phenomenon that puts happiness second to a 24/7 work schedule that falsely promises fulfilment. But as most successful people know, there is no real “end game” to success. Once you achieve a goal you’ve been working toward, you set your sights on the next thing. If you focus on achieving all your goals before you focus on your well-being, you may never get to happiness at all. You’ll just be on the hamster wheel of hustle for your whole life.
People started to turn their noses up at the idea of hustle culture when global lockdowns were implemented during the pandemic. It gave people the time and space to rethink what they wanted out of life. While people’s Big Why’s had gotten lost in the shuffle (or should we say, lost in the hustle), they started to resurface when millions of people lost their jobs. But the perceived value of hustling over all else pervades, especially within the entrepreneurial community.
But just like everyone else, entrepreneurs deserve to be healthy and happy—in addition to successful. That’s why we want to look at how hustle culture affects our health, why we should put happiness first, and how to go about doing that.
Hustle Culture vs. Health
Did you know that working more can sometimes mean that you are actually working less? The number of hours you put in at work are not always mutually compatible with the work you get done. In fact, a 2014 study done by economist John Pencavel for Stanford University found that working more than fifty hours a week can decrease productivity. This is because people who work all the time experience burnout, are sick more often, and can become mentally and physically exhausted. Therefore, the time they spend at work is not always productive.
Working long hours can impact our health in many ways. This includes mental health issues like stress, anxiety, and depression. Perhaps more surprising, working too much can also lead to physical health issues like heart disease, chronic fatigue, excessive alcohol use, and more.
By dedicating ourselves to a culture of hustle, we not only are getting less real work done, but we’re also putting our health at risk. When we mistakenly think, “Once I work hard enough and achieve my goals, I’ll be happy,” we’re missing the point entirely. If all we do is work, there isn’t any time or space to breed happiness in our lives. We put ourselves in a cycle of overachievement and instead create a world of burnout, stress, and illness.
Happiness Fuels Success
On the other side of the spectrum, focusing on creating happiness within our lives benefits not only our mental and physical health, but also aids productivity.
Positive emotions serve as the foil to negative emotions that negatively impact our bodies and minds. According to research by the Harvard School of Public Health, emotional vitality—or “a sense of enthusiasm, of hopefulness, of engagement in life, and the ability to face life’s stresses with emotional balance”—may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Happiness also benefits mental health because it helps provide balance to the constant hurdles life throws our way. When we feel anger, stress, and sadness, those emotions tend to compound on one another, making it increasingly difficult to dig ourselves out of negative emotional pits. When we feel joy, optimism, and happiness in our day-to-day lives, we can more easily combat the negative situations and feelings we encounter. While we can’t escape the bad, we can move through it more easily when we regularly practice embracing the good.
The health benefits provided by happiness aren’t trivial—they’re crucial to success. Increased mental and physical energy as a result of improved happiness will yield better results in your work. In that way, investing in your happiness is an investment you can’t afford to pass up!
The Three Dimensions of Happiness
Instead of thinking happiness will come after we do everything else, we should make happiness the first step. When we put happiness first, we can still work toward our goals and meet them without hurting ourselves along the way.
Gary laid out three dimensions of happiness at Mega Agent Camp and how they fit into our lives: how we feel about a moment in time, how we feel over time, and how we feel about all our time. These dimensions shape who we are and play different roles.
Ultimately, happiness is a choice. It’s a state of being people can assume. Understanding these three dimensions allows us to choose to be happy and deal with life as it comes. And by choosing to be happy first, we can then focus on other things that are important to us, like earning a living and contributing to society, but without forgoing happiness or assuming it will come to us as a result of success.
- How we feel about a moment in time—our emotional reaction to an event.
This first dimension encompasses how we experience emotions as a reaction to something. Circumstances make us feel happy, sad, elated, disappointed, confused. The list goes on. This is how we naturally respond to things that happen to us or around us. But circumstances come and go and so do our emotions that are a result of them. Whether it’s a “positive” or “negative” emotion, the reaction is fleeting.
Where this can start to affect us is when we hold on to our bad feelings and dwell on them. And if of our good emotions come from things that are circumstantial, we won’t be able to develop a solid base of happiness in our lives.
- How we feel over time—our ongoing state of emotional being.
The second dimension is all about our disposition. It’s our emotional foundation. While circumstantial emotions shape how we feel at a given moment, how we feel over time is based on how we choose to be. It isn’t a negotiable state. If you choose to be a happy person, a bad event can’t make you an angry person. Sure, something can make you feel angry or sad. But if you choose to be a happy person, you can move through the anger and sadness and eventually make it out to the other side.
- How we feel about all our time—our emotional response to how our life turned out.
The third dimension is something we may not feel sure about just yet. While we know how we feel up until this point in our lives, there is still plenty of time to change things around. But it’s important that at the end of our lives we are able to say, “I’m glad I did,” and not “I wish I had.” To get there, we need to have foresight and ask ourselves what matters to us. And then live our lives according to those priorities.
We’ve heard it time and time again: no one says on their deathbed, “I wish I could work just a little more,” or “I wish I had just one more dollar in the bank.” Instead, these sentiments are usually someone wishing they had spent more time with their loved ones. Or chosen to be a bit more compassionate.
Wherever you’re at in life, it’s never too late to choose to happiness. You haven’t run out of time to spend with the people you love, doing things that bring you joy. But it is something you have to actively choose and live out if it’s important to you.
The next time you want to work a weekend instead of going on that picnic with your friends, or want to stay at the office late and miss picking up your kids from school, think about what will be worth it to you in the end. With all the pressures from society to earn more, do more, and succeed more, ask yourself what you really want more of. Do you want to be a part of hustle culture, or happiness culture?