Simplicity

Am I Supposed to Dream Bigger? My Problem with Productivity and Hustle Culture

April 17, 2020

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Am I supposed to dream bigger? 

Since childhood, we’ve seen those posters in our classrooms to “dream big!” “to shoot for the stars” and to live to our absolute fullest potential.  This is how we’ve been taught to be happy. But here’s my unpopular opinion: what if I’m happy with a life of humble dreams?

What if I receive deep fulfillment and joy living a slower, quieter life? What if all I truly desire is a simple, mediocre life? 

Is that enough? Am I supposed to dream bigger?

As someone who chased success, goals and dazzling shiny pennies for the majority of my young adult life, I am like most people in that I grew up being told that in order to be happy, we must be “successful.” It’s an old-school train of thought (my family still lives and urges others to live by this notion) to which I smile sadly and wonder if they are really truly happy….

This includes the usual mumbo jumbo such as go to college, earn a degree, land a good internship, get your dream job, buy the perfect apartment, move up the ladder, and buy all the pretty things your endless bank account can supply.

We’ve been told that if we have everything we want and do everything we want, then we’ll be happy!

And it doesn’t stop there, friend! In our modern, digital age, it seems like everyone online is screaming at us to start a side hustle, pay off our student debt earning passive income, monetize our creative hobbies, and that “you too can earn six figures living that mom boss life!! There are even “Study YouTubers” on the internet that have formed their entire identity around productivity and earning a living from studying for 14 hours a day. I can’t make this up!

I read a Youtube comment last week that someone has mentioned to their friend that they wanted to take up knitting, to which their friend responded, “oh, for like Etsy?”

To many people, success means wealth or even fame. The harder you work, the more money you accumulate, the more successful you are. This idea is far rooted in capitalism, and it stems from a belief that our worth is tied to our work.

This notion insists that our inherent value is tied to what we produce, not who we are. 

So, what do we do? We have to prove that we are “valuable employees.” This is why too many Americans don’t take their full vacation weeks, work after hours and are killing themselves by not staying true to their core desires. It’s why so many people feel guilty when they aren’t being productive. Because nothing is worth doing if it doesn’t make you money, right?

woman enjoying the simple joys of a slow life on the beach

Do not compare your lifestyle to another’s

If I read one more “HUSTLE!” or “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough!” in an Instagram caption, my head will explode. Because I don’t value achievement and success like I was taught to believe when I was younger. 

I don’t want to be scared. I don’t want my dreams to scare the bejeezus out of me. I want joy. I want inner peace and alignment, alignment, alignment. I yearn for simplicity and to enjoy the present moment, in all of its quiet moments and hidden treasures. I want a garden and a few rescue pups and to come home to my husband every day, knowing I spent my day, spreading some extra added light and joy to the world, in whatever way that is most fun for me! I don’t want to rule the world, I want to form connections with people and gift them art that they’ll cherish in that moment. 

I don’t need to live forever. I don’t want to be remembered and immortalized for whatever creation I decide to make and play with. In fact, I just want to play and make things and have fun while also having the right to be forgotten!

Productivity and Accomplishment Stems From a Fear of Death and Personal Insignificance

I believe that the drive to accomplish and achieve things – that aren’t aligned with our personal, core values stems from a fear of death and not being remembered.

I think that when people chase accomplishments that are not aligned with their inner-most values – a.k.a what isn’t fun for them – it comes down to this fear of being irrelevant and having no personal significance in the world. 

Think about it: if you weren’t afraid of death… if you know that you had one year to live and that you would be completely forgotten by the time you passed, how would you spend your time?

Would you do things just for the sheer pleasure of it? Simply because it is fun to do?  Wouldn’t you be content just being present, being alive?

If life were truly precious to us, we would never feel this pressure that we are supposed to dream bigger. Life can be wonderful just as it is. In this present moment. 

Striving for achievements is our human’s egoic way of maintaining significance and feeling that we matter. That we have value. It is our human mind’s (our ego’s) most basic, primal fear.

The ego fears death of itself, but the soul embraces death for what it is: completion and renewal. If death weren’t a factor, would we even chase achievement? Would we even feel guilty about not being productive? 

Consume Media and Opinions with Caution

So, my friends, I urge to scroll your feeds with caution. I implore you to practice mindfulness when you’re consuming other people’s lives online (including my own!) What works for someone else may not be the lifestyle for you!

When someone is posting about productivity, this “hustle” belief that seems to be so popular these days, pause and reflect on the level of consciousness of the person that is posting on that thing. To them, hustling and doing more, is their reality. They are choosing to a life experience where producing more and being more productive is tied to their value, worth and overall happiness. If it does indeed bring them happiness (hello to all the enneagram type 3s out there, I know you’re out there!!), they are living according to their own values of achievement.

But what lights someone else up might not light you up. What they value to be true might not be a value that you hold within yourself to be true. Life is full of contrasts and duality. Nothing is good nor bad, but different. 

There is this idea spreading on social media that we need to chase something. That we need to effort and strive and hustle and make something BIG. That we need to dream bigger and shoot for the stars and aim higher. I’m here to tell you that if all you want is peace, if all you value and dream of is simple joys, that is OKAY too.⁣

You’re not supposed to dream bigger.

In fact for me, having peace and joy within myself is more important than the follower number, the client roster, the awards and achievements, and the “hustle”. If your inner being wants simplicity, seek simplicity. That is enough. You, living, showing up, being present, are enough.

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On Youtube – Am I Supposed to Dream Bigger?

 

I share videos on anti-productivity, slow living, mindfulness, and gratitude on the Simple Joys youtube channel every Thursday! My goal is to inspire and uplift others to finding the simple joys in their day-to-day. I enjoy creating wholesome content on how you can integrate a more simple, natural and slow lifestyle. By slowing down, grounding ourselves and finding the appreciation in the simplicity of the moment, it is far easier to be more engaged and connected to life! We can just “be.” I love to explore topics such as values, mindfulness and intention-setting. In the busyness of our ambitious modern world, it is my hope to connect others who may also feel more at peace with a slower and simpler life. 

Subscribe to the Simple Joys channel here!

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  1. C B Esteban says:

    Thoughtfully written! I concur… Live your best authentic life with gratitude, mindfulness, and joy in the simplicities of life!

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I'm Helena, your new kindred spirit.

Sunny free-spirit, writer and creator in love with documenting the simple joys of life. I am passionate about noticing light and truth around me and reflecting it back to others.

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