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The paradox of progress

Social media, self-help "gurus" and "hustle culture" are to blame for many misconceptions about progress, self-improvement, and growth. One of these misconceptions is thinking that in order to make real progress towards your goals, it's mandatory to dedicate one hundred percent of your time towards achieving it. While that may be true in some very specific cases, and for a very short time, the truth of the matter is that trying to be productive all the time is usually counterproductive. First, no one actually "hustles" 24/7, even if they say they do. Second, trying to progress every single second of every single day tends to do more harm than good. The new-agey, cliché phrase that states "it's all about balance", is actually true. If you don't believe me, go ahead and try to "grind" from 5 am to 11 pm every single day and tell me how it goes. After a week, chances are you'll be completely burnt out, injured, dead tired, and possibly sick as well. YOU CAN HAVE LEISURE TIME AND NOT BE A LOSER. Read that again. You can have bad days and still achieve your goals. You can have days were it seems as though you haven't edged any closer to your dream life and still enjoy life as a whole. The paradox of progress thus states: "in order to quickly move forward, one has to remain still for a while".

Don't burn yourself out

I understand. I know the pressure you're under. Many of us have been told for many years that unless the life that we live is EXACTLY the one we desire, we are a failure, and are thus undeserving of happiness. Now, hear me out: some pressure is necessary. You do have to push yourself. You do have to be better than you were. You do have to try to build the life that you dream of. Yes, those are all necessary things. And you do have to work hard for them. But, excessive pressure leads you NOWHERE. I have had periods of my life where all my thoughts and actions have been directed towards self-improvement, and what usually happens is that after a couple of weeks, my mind hits a brick wall. Energy goes down, nothing flows and no progress is made. That's burning out. And it's the result of unsustainable routines and mindsets that promote excess of work and put too much pressure on ourselves to be productive all the time. If you are a goal-driven person, and someone that is always trying to improve, you probably have experienced this as well. If you haven't, kudos to you for doing things properly from the get-go. It's best to avoid burning out by consciously accepting down time and non-productive days not only as acceptable, but as necessary.


Standing still is no easy task. Our brains tend to be extremely occupied with motivational quotes ("I'll sleep when I'm dead", etc.) and thoughts about progress, beating us down every time we don't do something deemed as "productive". It's mandatory to relearn how to be quiet, and to enjoy stillness and rest as blessings instead of curses. I understand the feeling of having no time to waste when you are trying to grow and fulfill your potential, but even if you're not living your dream life exactly as you picture it, you are allowed to rest. Not only are you allowed, but you are required to. Think about it: what gets you closer to your long-term goals? Steadily and slowly working towards them, say, 4 times a week or grinding and hustling your ass off 24/7 until you break down and quit altogether? Or until you become so tired that you need a month-long break of any work? As with physical fitness, the answer is always sustainability and consistency, over short blasts of excessive workload.

The paradox of progress thus states: "in order to quickly move forward, one has to remain still for a while".

Patience and hard work

To be clear: this doesn't mean that all hard work is unproductive work, quite the opposite actually: actual hard work wears you down, which means that you'll need to rest and recover to go again as soon as possible. I'm encouraging you to work hard, as hard as you can, and then rest. Your body is wise, and so is your soul. Both of them know when it's time to be still for a while. Listen to them, trust them. Work hard, rest, have a sustainable routine, and then have enough patience to wait for your work to be rewarded. Lack of patience is a generational consequence of instant gratification and the shorter attention spans that we have grown accustomed to. Learn to wait for things to come, most good things don't occur instantly, and you can't simply work longer hours to have them faster.

Reset your brain

Being still resets your brain, allowing you to be more creative, have more focus and perform better whenever you get back to work. Use that free time to read, meditate, be in nature, even watch a good movie. When you're not forcing yourself to think big or be productive is when your brain works at its best. That's the paradox. Accept it, use it, and live a more balanced, peaceful life.

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