By Michelle Coates Mather 

“I’m too busy.”  “I have a million things on my to do list.” “I don’t have time for that.”  – Familiar phrases from those of us who feel we are working hard. 

“I brought in two new clients.”  “I hit all my targets.” “I met all my deadlines and fit in a run today.” – Familiar phrases from those of us who feel we are working with purpose.   

The myth of hard work

The phrase ‘working hard’ has been ingrained in us since most of us were children. “Work hard and you’ll be successful”. Wrong! Working hard to deliver busy work, to punch in a clock or on tactics that you don’t care about, won’t make you successful (or give you joy).

The truth is, success is not the outcome of hard work. It’s the outcome of a combination of motivating factors that you choose to bring to the table to achieve your goals. Factors like a sense of focus, mindfulness, determination, resourcefulness, commitment and most importantly, purpose.  

Clarity of purpose is a more efficient path to success 

If you are working hard without a clear purpose, then what you’re really doing is circling on an endless hamster wheel of inefficiency; wasting your own precious time and likely causing yourself unnecessary stress which is a sure fire way of burning yourself out. This is not a path to career success or personal fulfillment.    

Yet, many of us still use this ‘working hard’ phrase with a badge of honour. 

Ask someone who has experienced career fatigued or who has suffered from burnout how it happened. They are likely to say “I was working too hard.”  I know, because I was one of those people; killing myself to get into the office early; saying yes to everything because that’s what they tell us to do nowadays; and clocking in lots of extra hours to bring in new business and stay on top of tasks, meetings and deliverables.

I realize now, I wasn’t clear in my purpose. I wasn’t mindful of my ultimate goals and priorities.

So, what does “working with purpose” mean? To me, it means working towards a professional (and personal) goal by leveraging the experiences and responsibilities in your current job and in your personal life to help you get there.  

It does NOT mean shirking the tasks you need to complete. It means ranking your deliverables in order of precedence, with the ones needed to help you advance your objectives – the outcomes you want to achieve – at the top. 

It also means tapping into the skills and personality traits that will make you more efficient. Traits like:

  • Dedication 
  • Enthusiasm
  • Courage 
  • Reliability 
  • Creativity 
  • Collaboration 
  • Compassion 
  • Patience 
  • Flexibility  
  • Persuasion

And so fourth.

Shifting to a purpose driven mindset might just help you determine how much time is really necessary to spend on a particular task, and will also help relieve the stress and mounting pressure you feel as the deadline clock starts ticking. 

Perhaps it’s time we start to scrub the phrase ‘working hard’ from our professional vocabularies, focus instead on establishing clear priorities and embracing the characteristics needed to help us work with purpose.

Michelle is Director of Content Marketing and Communications of Nurtured Life Company. Mama to two beautiful kiddos, Michelle is an advocate for re-defining work-life culture to meet today’s modern realities. She believes we all have the power to prioritize personal well-being; sometimes it’s just a matter of getting out of our own way.

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