It’s not exactly news that us Millennials (and, er, Xennials?) are a very conflicted generation.
So with health and wellbeing ranking higher on our priority list than any generation before us, why is it that certain unhealthy behaviours are still seen as a status symbol?
More is more – and we’re constantly competing, whether we admit it or not, to be doing the most. The most what, you ask? Well, anything. But in the interest of making this readable in the age of zero attention span (myself included), let’s look at two key gauges of “success” in 2017…
1. Working the most hours
I was the poster girl for this. I wore my ridiculous working hours as a badge of honour and it was perceived by others as such too. I was even interviewed for a national magazine about why I loved working 120 hour weeks. I’m not going to lie – ridiculous hours are, in most cases, fundamental to getting a start up off the ground, especially one that’s unfunded and operated by a one-man team. But it’s a means to an end – it is not the best, most productive or most smart way to work and you need to learn how to NOT depend on working like this, because your brain and body will not be able to sustain it forever. (NB – I am also the poster girl for burnout).
Work also has a great deal of guilt attached to it. Maybe once upon a time there was a clear divide between 9am-5pm and the other hours of the day, but that line has become increasingly blurred. Whether working for yourself or within a company, competition to hold on to (and ultimately increase) your pay-check is rife and there is huge pressure to over-deliver, all the time. We are also compelled to appear busy at all times – and this gets confused with productivity. And let’s not forget that as long as you’re busy, you can push away guilt, anxiety and any other uncomfortable feelings you’d prefer to suppress.
Working lots and achieving lots aren’t synonymous, but it often seems that the former is valued more in the short term – we think it’s proof of our worth. We need to remember that in the long run, no one cares how many hours you worked and how many meetings you sat through to reach your end goal – all that matters is that you got there. And unless you have a seriously durable financial safety net, risking burnout to prove a point is a very dangerous game.
2. Being the most balanced
The irony is not lost on me as I write this. Balance is the buzzword of now, the elusive state of being that we’re all striving for (apparently). An idealistic view of balance is a perfect split between a productive, enjoyable work life and a fulfilling, experience-rich personal life. But in practice, “balance” means squeezing as much as possible into an already excessively busy lifestyle – where in addition to getting through the daily grind you are also expected to socialise, meditate, work out five times a week, adopt a quirky hobby, travel frequently AND ensure that all the above is Instagrammed (once you’ve completed your photography short course).
When we are already leading stress-intense lives, adding further stress through over-scheduling, over-training and over-spending is not a healthy practice. The illusion of balance is more important to our generation than actual balance – because it’s much easier to achieve (albeit pretty challenging to sustain) and because on the whole, we don’t really want balance, we want financial freedom – and that, unfortunately, usually has an extreme IMBALANCE of work vs personal life attached to it.
Think about what you really want out of life and who you’re doing it for. Would you be going to that (twelfth) launch party, doing that (2 hour commute) yoga class or Hygge-ing your (already Feng Shui’d) home if no one else knew about it? Don’t waste any more time prioritising an illusion over your real life values.
So with two of 2017’s most prevalent status symbols not only conflicting with each other, but counterproductive to their own end goals, how do we change our mindset?
I think the first step is to assess our priorities after we, extremely honestly, take status out of the equation. If you genuinely didn’t care what others thought, what would you be doing differently to achieve success in each area of your life? You don’t have to prove that you’re dedicated – you just have to BE dedicated. It’s a freeing concept. And you might just find that when you start prioritising your actual self over your personal brand, your endeavours become a whole lot more rewarding.