Does Our Best Work have to Kill Us?

One afternoon last summer I was meeting with my therapist and we were discussing the idea of hard work. I'd just come off a pretty successful week building my business and, though progress was made, I was unable to appreciate the work that had been done. My therapist asked why I couldn't celebrate the wins from the past week and my response was: "Because it should have been harder. If I really did good work, I feel like last week should have beat me up a little more." 

Not only did I believe what I said about hard work, I secretly wanted the punishment I thought hard work required. I wanted to feel more weary and beat down than I did, because then maybe I'd have permission to consider my contributions valuable. 

Have you ever been there? Have you ever stared down the barrel of the next month and said to yourself, "For me to do my best these next few weeks, it's going to rough me up a bit."

When it comes to doing my best work I was taught that if I’m not scrambling, frazzled, tired, or malnourished that I'm not doing enough. Even after shifting careers a few times, that tireless ghost has followed me. Even on weeks when I've put in sufficient effort it's hard to stop and feel satisfied because conventional wisdom says if I want the most out of my life, I'm going to have to work until I have an asthma attack to get it.

Of course there is great value in the decision to work hard for something, but we must not fall prey to the belief that our best contributions should beat us bloody. I'm learning the path toward our highest quality work comes from the decision to realize our greatest gifts to the world often come easily. Our ability to remain focused on what matters and resist the temptation to find identity in busyness is the hard part.

For us to truly offer our best work we must adjust what we value and where we find identity. Do we really want to belong to a tribe that views their approach to work in such a binary way - either you're sprinting or you're failing - or would we rather transcend that soulless dance and witness how our best work comes when we see just how easy it is to do?

In my recent TEDx talk, I discuss three mindset shifts that have helped me push past the idea that our best work might nearly kill us. I'd love for you to give it a watch and let me know what resonates.