Work Smarter, Not Harder

Stress and anxiety often come from too much expectation and too much ambition.

The Dalai Lama – The Book of Joy

Many of my clients are self-proclaimed Type-A personalities. They are very ambitious and have become very successful professionals.

What I (and they) often find interesting is that they realize that this ambition is not necessarily their natural way of being, their natural personality but rather a result being raised in a society that values and reveres ambition, initiative, persistence, drive and success. When they realize that the stress they feel is self-imposed from high (and even impossible) expectations they tend to have 2 reactions; frustration and relief. Frustration from the realization that they have created a stressful life by buying into something they don’t necessarily value and relief that shifting this can now be in their own hands, their responsibility.

Chronic stress and the glorification of working hard has become a global epidemic. This is a global epidemic with huge individual and collective ramifications. We are at a point in work-life history where 70% of the population is dissatisfied and not engaged in their work, physical and mental health is at an all-time low and suicide rates are at an all-time high.

What is it that is really worth pursuing?

What is it we truly need?

According to the Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, and the Dalai Lama, when we see how little we really need – love and connection – then all the getting and grasping that we thought was so essential to our well-being takes its rightful place and no longer becomes the focus or the obsession of our lives. We must try to be conscious about how we live and not get swept away by the modern trance, the relentless march, the anxious accelerator.

Symptoms of chronic stress are feelings of fragmentation and of chasing after time – of not being able to be present. What we are looking for is a settled, joyful state of being, and we need to give this state space. The Archbishop once told me that people often think he needs time to pray and reflect because he is a religious leader. He said those who must live in the marketplace – business people, professionals and workers – need it even more.

The Book of Joy

Of course, we do have to put food on the table and meet other financial needs for ourself and for our family but what is it we truly need? What is it you truly need? What do we want to hold for ourself and for others so that this societal message of ambition and expectation, that contributes to individual and global stress and anxiety, is no longer perpetuated in the way that it is now? What is it that you want to be conscious to, how do you want to work smarter instead of harder, so that the getting and grasping takes its rightful place and you do not get swept away by the modern trance, the relentless march, the anxious accelerator that I and many of my clients are very familiar with.

Kristen Bentley