Many of us grew up with the idea that to succeed in life we’ve got to work hard. Study many hours a day, be the nº 1 student in class, win the podium medals at all times, be the best player no matter what. The hard work idea, is embedded in performance cultures that are still dominant in the western world. Both in our homes and work settings. The emphasis is placed in results, often times undermining psychological safety. Even though the common language today is around the importance of experimentation and the search for new ways, specially in times of uncertainty, people often get punished for failures and mistakes. As a consequence, they become worried about proving their competence and protecting themselves. The pressure to conform to authority is real and our increasing lack of confidence in our expertise will lead to obedience to the norm and the death of creativity.
The idea of Hard Work, is associated with long working hours, placing work as the maximum priority and ahead of everything in our lives including health, basic needs and our loved ones. The norm is to work extra hours, not because it is needed, but because we believe that this what a good performance requires. Skipping meals, neglect our sleeping needs, failing personal appointments becomes the norm. It gets worse when we work in a performance culture type of environment. The hard work mindset is reinforced by a scarcity idea that we have to fight our way up to the top. We might fall into the belief that we have to say yes to everything ending up feeling overwhelmed. We have taken too much on, we’re spinning too many plates or juggling too many balls. The idea of saying no in a performance culture, generates in us the belief that we are potentially missing an opportunity or experience or chance to “get to the top”. Whatever that means for each of us.
There is this sense of urgency – everything feels insanely urgent! If we don’t do it all right now, our business will fail or the world will end! This is what is called Catastrophizing in cognitive behavioral therapy. This sense of extreme urgency is actually a cognitive distortion and an irrational thought pattern driven by the overwhelm. When we are overwhelmed, it is usually a sign that the challenge level is too high. And we become excellent candidates for burnout. To solve it, we need to reduce the demands we are placing in ourselves. And rethink about our purpose and goals in life, while identifying the limiting beliefs that keep feeding our behaviors towards hard work.
On the other hand, Good Work is fostered in a learning culture, where the norm is a climate of respect, trust and openness in which people can raise concerns and suggestions without fear of reprisal. It is the psychological safety that people need to make mistakes, ask for help and self report their mistakes, allowing everyone not only to learn from it, but to be part of the relearning and rethinking process that will lead to different outcomes in the future. Growth is the core value.
Good Work means that we have the safety net to do our best work at a given time. Our brain is free from concern and safe to create, produce and discover. We are fueled with energy, excitement and motivation. And we are more open to feedback, to constructively work with others. We do not perceive work time in a clock wise manner. Our mastery needs are being meet, increasing our willingness to learn and relearn and our motivation to socialize, take care of ourselves and pursuit a healthier life style. Good work is about learning and performing in a growing, reinforcing and safe environment. It is about the feeling of accomplishment attached to our connections, skills, learning, independence and achievement and not outcomes or performance reviews.
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