Oh the hustle. You know, hustle culture: Go-go-go, produce-produce-produce.

Here’s my confession: I love getting into action and getting things done. In my life, I have been completely plugged in and hooked to hustle culture.

To-do lists.
Productivity hacks, tips, tools, and systems.
Lofty goals.
Big ambition.
Enterprising executive.

These words make me smile and feed my ego. Big time. How about you? What’s your relationship with the hustle?

In our society, hustle gets mixed reviews. Is an over-focus on productivity toxic? Is it damaging to our mental and psychological health? Where does achievement end, and burnout and overwhelm begin?

My response: It’s complicated. And, as with oh so many things in life, it’s about balance and moderation.

Finding the balance in the hustle

Personally, I love the hustler side of my personality. So I’ll start by giving the hustle some love and attention: hustling can be a great thing. We need to get into action; we need to get conscious about where we want to place our focus; we need to organize our actions; and often a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-it-done approach works wonders.


We also need pause and reflection. Too much hustle, blind ambition, busy for busy’s sake, can drive us to burnout and overwhelm. Without reflection, pause and focus, we can end up on a very busy, achieving and productive path that leads us directly to unfulfillment.

How can you find the balance? I have two exercises for you to tap into your inner wisdom and find the right balance for you – because each of us will feel comfortable and supported by a different balance.

Journaling prompts to unpack your relationship with hustle

First, a set of journal prompts. Set aside 20-30 minutes and free write your answers to the following questions:

  • What does ambition mean to you?
  • How do you identify with ambition?
  • How do you know when you’re overdoing it?
  • How do you know when you’re under-doing it?
  • How do you know when it’s time to slow down?
  • How do you know when it’s time to amp up?
  • What new insight have you gleaned?

When you’re done, go back over your responses – look for themes. What does balance mean to you? And how can you put what you’ve uncovered into practice?

Sit in the quiet: what is the hustle distracting you from?

When was the last time you sat still, in the quiet, with no distraction? And I mean – no phone, no TV, no one talking. Nothing but you and your thoughts. Days? Weeks? Years?…Ever?

A therapist once assigned me this as homework: after work, sit for an hour in the quiet – no distractions – every day, for two weeks. It sounded easy enough. How hard could it be, really, to sit alone and quietly for an hour?

5 minutes in to my first attempt and I was a disaster. Fidgeting. Checking the clock. Thinking about unreturned emails, the grocery list, my plans for the upcoming weekend, the dust that I could see collecting on the bookshelf. And then…

It got worse.

Sitting there in the quiet and not allowing myself to get on the computer to work, or numb out in front of the TV, or scroll through my phone, or call a friend, a bigger truth landed. I had to admit to myself: I was sad. And unfulfilled.

That was over 10 years ago and, since then, I’ve changed every single aspect of my life to create a life by my own design. Turns out, it was one of the most transformational exercises ever. That was the power of spending some time being versus doing.

Here’s your challenge if you’re willing to accept it: I’d like you to spend 15-60 minutes every day for the next two weeks sitting alone with your thoughts – no distractions.

See what comes up for you.

Here’s to reflection and intentional action!

About Agency II Change

If you or your team are looking to make changes, or further refine your team dynamics, Agency II Change offers individual and group coaching programs as well as customized facilitated experiences to create deliberate and sustainable change.

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