Insulting title, huh? The reason I used it is it reflects the common American myth that if you aren’t rich (or making ‘enough’ money) you aren’t working hard enough. I saw this in college when I worked in a factory. The way to make money was to work overtime, sometimes LOTS of overtime, so you could have the things you wanted. If you were white collar the solution was to work a second (or third) job to get what you wanted. Then, of course, there is the usual working late at the office to please the boss in hopes of someday getting that promotion. In these ways you were working hard and providing for your family and your future.

But what is really going on here? Let’s start with the core of the issue — if someone has money they are ‘working hard’. Conversely, if they don’t have money or are struggling they aren’t working hard enough. Um, okay . . .

The reality is money has little or nothing to do with working hard in the traditional sense. You can work hard at a fast food restaurant for a year and never make as much as a stockbroker who presses a few buttons and makes a killing on a hot stock. Likewise, a celebrity like Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga can put their name on any product and it will make more money than you could ever make at McDonald’s.

Even worse, statistics show that millions of Americans are working hard yet getting nowhere relatively speaking. Real wages are basically the same they’ve been since the early 1970’s. And a recent report shows the income gap between the majority of workers (often referred to as the 99%) and the rich (the 1%) is the largest in over 100 years. So, by the accepted definition of the term, the rich are the only ones who are really working hard.

Are you insulted even more? Don’t be. There are reasons I am bringing this all up:

1) It may sound weird but you have to give up the notion of ‘working hard’. If you live your life thinking you’re not working hard enough or that everyone around you (especially those portrayed in the media) are working harder you’ll drive yourself crazy. It’s a vicious cycle that never ends, unless of course you work yourself to death. (I’ve known many people who have)

2) Substitute ‘working hard’ with ‘working smart’. Working smart means everything you do is as efficient and seamless as possible. I can’t tell you the number of meetings and teleconferences I’ve been on over the years where the entire reason for the meeting could have been resolved in five minutes.

3) Learn to work in flow, from your core. Flow is about doing everything naturally, like breathing. Work should be both enjoyable and rewarding, financially or otherwise. In high school I used to work as a dishwasher in a nursing home. I actually loved it, and felt I had both worked hard and gotten something out of it. I have used that same feeling (doing a job in flow) to determine whether a job or project was truly right for me.

4) Don’t stress! If you are working in flow you are calm and content, and any challenge is surmountable. Plus, your concerns about ‘doing it right’ as far as working hard suddenly disappear. Only when you lose sight of who you are and how YOU work will you succumb to all the anxiety and stress people traditionally experience.

Bottom line? Discover how you work, ignore the media and the ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality, and ensure your work life revolves around you instead of the reverse.

Author's Bio: 

In 2003 David Leigh Weber decided to found what would ultimately become Learn About Flow, an organization dedicated to empowering people to find their true selves, what makes them their most successful on every level. Since that time Learn About Flow has helped hundreds find the contentment and life purpose they had always dreamed of.

Today David is an author (My Life Has No Purpose!), sought after speaker, and evangelist for true mind-body-spirit wellness. He has a B.A. in English & History from the University of Rochester and an M.A. in Communications from the Newhouse School (Syracuse University). Originally from New England, David now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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