Just do it

There’s a line I hear a lot when I talk to folks who’ve reached out to me because their working situation feels untenable and it is harming their mental health. They’ll say to me, “I have to find a way to work less.” It’s usually accompanied by a tone of resignation (ironically) that their current style of working is the only option available to them. They have a decidedly fixed mindset about how and when they work.

To be clear, in these instances I am talking to senior-level, privileged people with substantial financial resources who are not in the position of having to choose between work and food or shelter.

Here’s what I tell them. It’s not about finding a way to work less and they know that. They may be upset because they want to have their cake and eat it too.

If they can’t figure out how to stop working so much, it’s because they don’t really want to. If they wanted to, they’d say no. They’d delegate more, probably to someone who wouldn’t do it right (and by that I mean they wouldn’t do the work the same way, which isn’t necessarily wrong, but most of these folks feel a need to control things).

They know that they’d be giving up power, control, and the promise of more power and control in the future. Truthfully, they already know the answer. If they wanted to stop working the way they are, they’d stop.

The questions they must ask themselves are hard and personal. What are they so resistant to letting go of? What are they afraid of? What do they really want?

This process of internal inquisition requires rigorous honesty. In these instances, there is no external force making us work this way. It’s our choice and we have to name it and claim it before we can change it.

It is very hard. I know. I did it.

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