I recently arrived back in London from my travels. Struggling with jet lag and managing my work commitments, I decided to rest a bit in the afternoon. I tried to settle down but just felt restless. So, I googled: “How to take a nap?”
Yes, I actually felt the need to get advice on napping. How tragic is that? Have we really forgotten how to relax, how to enjoy, as the Italians call it, “dolce far niente” (doing sweet nothing)?
A few weeks ago, my good friend (and business partner) asked me to participate in a panel discussion around the negative effects of the “hustle culture”. She thought that having my lifestyle of travel means that I got that work-life balance pretty right. I said, “yes” to participating, and started thinking about what I had to say. Specifically, I thought about the culture of constantly going and doing, and how I have managed to cope with both the inner and societal demands of joining the rat race.
A few years back I owned and ran a local café; I was also one of the chefs and head baker. You hear stories about people being in a corporate environment and struggling with burnout after a few years. Then they go off and fulfill their dreams of setting up their own business and everything changes once they become their own bosses and manage their own time.
Well, I always had a dream that one day I would own a café, bake cakes and make my little shop part of a community. When it did happen, I was shocked at how unhappy I was most of the time. My café (and my dream) was successful in many ways but drove me to total burnout. It took me two years and divorce to be able to look at my business objectively and learn from my mistakes.
The main thing I’ve learnt from my experiences is that I don’t want my work to be my life. I need time for myself to do things that I like and sometimes to just be. So now, I live my life the way I want to (travelling, exploring, learning new things, meeting new people) and I arrange my work around it.
But here is the tricky bit that nobody tells you: If you are used to hustling – if you internalise the hustle culture – it doesn’t matter what career or lifestyle you choose, you will always have the urge to just go, go! The only way to change the culture is if we consciously refuse to participate in it, and that takes a lot of awareness and the ability to sit with the uncomfortable feeling of being different.
I am still learning how to balance everything and how not to feel guilty when I take time to just rest. I am hoping that one day, I don’t need to think about the ins and outs of napping, but I can just put my head down and relax.
If you are interested in the campaign that challenges the hustle culture, check out The Merit Club or look for #hustleforbetter on social media. And if you have a story, don’t forget to tell it–you may just help someone on their own journey.