In recent years, authors and entrepreneurs alike have been fuelling and capitalising on the ‘burnout generation’s’ insatiable desire for the perfect and prosperous lifestyle, and definitely not in the traditional 13-hour-day 7-days-a-week investment banking sense. What millennials strive for are fast results and instant gratification, all while putting in as little effort as possible. With the rising popularity of books such Extreme Productivity, Smarter Faster Better and The Fast Diet, alongside the fact we share photographs of our lives on the same platform as the Kardashians, it’s no wonder that we feel ashamed of or dissatisfied with what we’ve got. We then turn to these books for help because we feel we need a system, and we’re made to believe that once said system is in place, we’ll be happy.
While ambition should always be encouraged, I worry that much of it now stems from a place of insecurity rather than passion. How often have you read one of these books, gone about changing your habits for a few days, reverted to your old ways and then within a matter of months found yourself back on Amazon looking for another productivity bestseller? Take, for example, The 5am Club. To begin with, you’ll feel empowered (…if a little smug), watching as others wake up at a normal hour when you’ve already journaled, meditated, gone for your daily walk, your daily jog, achieved a PB in the gym, posted about it on Instagram and set up your side hustle. What you failed to realise is that by Thursday you’ll be needing coffee on tap, your muscles will ache, you’ll feel irritable and impatient, and, ultimately, your productivity will plummet. By week 2, you’ll be setting your alarm back to its original hour, at the mercy of not only yourself but of all your family, friends, colleagues and the poor members of staff serving you in Pret. Putting all our energy into the efficiency of our work in lieu of the work itself is a bizarre and fruitless zeitgeisty phenomenon.
We want more than ever to rely on a tried and tested method for everything, and we’re constantly seeking answers from those with enough conviction to deliver them. But why do we want to follow the same systems as everybody else? Why do we need someone else to tell us what to do? In Pandora Sykes’ How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right she coins the term ‘Get the Look’ to highlight the way women have turned away from self-expression in an attempt to ‘copy one another’s style‘, in the same way that we all want to follow the same diet, wake up at the same time and subscribe to the same news.
The irony of it all is that those we’ve perceive to have made it are not those who have subscribed to a system, but those who have gone against the grain, followed a gut feeling and have alongside their so-called success faced relentless criticism. To behave out of the box will expose us to judgement, but in the long-term we’ll realise it’s remarkably more rewarding, (and a lot more fun!)
Instead of seeking a system or striving for the foolproof routine, why don’t we aim to be just a little bit better than we were the day before, and find what works for us as individuals? In our modern lives we have the privilege of so much choice, and we must endeavour to use it to our advantage 🙂
Rise To You- from Sophia Thakur’s moving collection: ‘Somebody Give This Heart A Pen’
With every tomorrow
and next time
and one day
and soon come
the sun grows tired of our waiting,
our excuses and entitled patience
our confidence in the second chance
that forever holds us from taking one.
What if one day the night never comes
and the sun holds the sky hostage
and acted upon aspirations are the price to pay
for night to ever come again?
How many twenty-fours would it take
to give action to these ideas?
Pump action into you
whether it’s making that call or making that plan
the sun shines brightest on those who stand.