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working hard is not the same as suffering

I’m going to say something a little revolutionary here: it’s possible to work hard without feeling absolutely terrible.

I think our culture gets this confused a lot. We think that if we are working hard, itshould feel and look like we are working hard. Furrowed brow, sweat, exertion, maybe some angry noises. Does that sound right to you?

In fact, we’re often rewarded for the appearance of hard work: “Wow, you’ve really been working hard;” “I can see how much effort you’re putting in!” At one point in my banking career, I recall being promoted to management and being told that I was expected to be at the office more than 40 hours a week– even if I wasn’t actually working while I was there. The appearance of working hard was just as important as (maybe even more important than?) the actual results.

I believe that being seen working hard is a virtue that encourages us to exert ourselves unnecessarily. This dynamic is really common at the gym, working with a trainer, and even in the yoga studio.

The thing is, if folks think they should be working hard, or if their trainer, coach or community encourages it– they will screw up their face, open their mouth to breathe, use their whole body and psyche to really push.