Unhealthy Hustle: 3 Signs You’ve Crossed the Line
This article by Emily P. Freeman originally appeared on March 31, 2017
We confess our desire to light up our worlds with our own abilities, smarts, and accomplishments. May we have the courage to revisit our associations with the word small. May we be willing to change our minds about it, to decide to fold ourselves into it rather than run fast away.
Last week I mostly felt normal and good and fine during the day, but when I settled down to read or try to sleep at night, there it was: my loud, pounding heart.
I googled “heart pounding loud” more times than I want to admit to you. But it’s because I kept looking for a different answer than the one I was getting.
All signs pointed to anxiety.
I didn’t feel anxious, couldn’t point to a reason why my heartbeat sounded like a drumbeat. But sometimes our bodies know things before our minds can catch up, and I feel sure my heart was trying to tell me something.
When my insides start to hum with that familiar low-grade buzz, it’s a sure sign for me that my soul is being held under the thumb of hustle once again.
I don’t want this to be normal.
But first, a word about hustle.
I believe hustle can be a good thing.
As a writer, my ability to hustle is both a gift and a skill I’ve learned over time. I would never have finished a book without it, not to mention four of them. I would not be able to keep up a blog for the past 11 years, co-run an active membership site, or get dinner on the table at night.
The problem for me comes when the healthy hustle energy needed to finish specific tasks morphs into a general state of low-grade anxiety even in the midst of non-tasks.
The line from one side to the other isn’t always easy to see.
Here are three signs you’ve crossed it.
1. You’re distracted.
The hustle hostage often comes on the tail end of a big project. You’re working hard toward a deadline and you make it! But weeks later you realize you’re treating everything like it has a deadline even though it doesn’t.
I have also experienced this after back-to-back travel, a busy weekend with houseguests, or when our routine is interrupted for an extended period of time.
To counterbalance the frenzy, I might try to do something calming like read a book. But instead of sinking into the story, I read two sentences and notice my mind wandering.
Or I’ll take a picture of the book and put it on Instagram instead of actually enjoying the book. The chronic inability to focus is a sign you may have crossed the line.
2. You lack inspiration.
When hustle has seeped into the level of my soul, I realize it most readily when I lack inspiration. I’m particularly sensitive to this because, as a writer, inspiration feels important.
To be clear, it’s maybe once a month that I write from a truly inspired place. Usually it’s more of a discipline, a walk of faith from one word to the next, trusting that because God made me a writer, he will turn my tired words into something meaningful eventually.
But when it comes to my life in general, I know hustle has taken over when I don’t feel inspired about anything.
Whether I’m in my kitchen, deciding what to wear, planning out my calendar, or having a conversation with John, if I feel unable to see the lovely, if I notice that I am only able to see the downside of everything, this is when I know hustle has too loud of a voice.
3. You have decision fatigue.
From inability to choose my meal at a restaurant to prioritizing goals and vision for my work, when hustle takes over I feel unable to make a decision.
Sometimes this feels like I’m drowning in a sea of options, as if there are so many directions I can go and I don’t know which to pick. Other times it feels like the opposite, like all my options have dried up completely and any hope for moving forward is gone.
Maybe you can relate to this distracted, grey, indecisive mindset. Maybe you are feeling it too: the rush to produce, the pull to compete, the thoughts flying fast and furious, the mad sprint toward the finish line.
I’ve got a secret for us both: that kind of race doesn’t have a finish line. It just keeps on going as long as we’re willing to run.
There have been times I’ve been tempted to compare what I’ve accomplished in the past with what I’m unable to do now.
I’ve written all these books – why can’t I manage to write this email or make this simple decision or finish this paragraph in this book?! Why can’t I keep my mind from wandering during a five minute prayer?!
That’s when I know I’ve allowed the hustle mentality to seep into more of my daily moments than is necessary.
When I feel overwhelmed in my schedule, the answer might be to organize my calendar. But when I feel overwhelmed in my soul, these kinds of rigid systems no longer work.
Because the soul and the schedule don’t follow the same rules. My soul is begging me to remember this.
“The deepest need of my soul isn’t a personal organizer or an empty inbox. The deepest need of my soul is Christ. But the problem is, I often forget where to find him.”
– Simply Tuesday
The gift of friendship with Jesus is that there is no long, meandering road back to Him. Though it may feel as though I’ve hustled my way far off the path with Him, the truth is He’s never far away. I don’t have to retrace my hurried steps to find my way to Him again.
I simply turn around and there He is, walking right with me in the weeds, finding His way with me in the darkness, ready to be enough for me in every situation.
Yesterday I did a Facebook Live on my author page sharing about these very things if you are someone who prefers listening to reading. I’ll include that video in this post so you don’t need to click over to Facebook.
Basically I shared everything I’ve said here in this post except with a lot more annoying ums and likes and you knows.
At the end (about 8 mins into it) I share one thing I do to help to hush the hustle and I hope it’s helpful to you.
For even more practical help to create space for your soul to breathe in the midst of your fast-moving world visit SimplyTuesday.com and watch a free video series I created just for you. Transcripts are provided for each video for my Deaf/HOH friends.