Photo by Zachary Keimig for Unsplash

I’ve never liked referring to a side job as a “hustle”. There’s something that puts me on my guard because of the original definitions of the word: forceful, hurried, pushy, bulldoze, manhandle, even swindle.

Everybody’s familiar with the concept of a hustler – someone who is aggressive, will stop at nothing to get what they want, even when it comes at someone else’s expense.

If you have a side hustle, does that mean you’re a hustler, too? A swindler? A self serving, insensitive person who preys on the weaknesses of others?

Obviously, the answer is no for the majority of people in business for themselves. They honestly care about what they offer and the people they serve.

We all know that the meaning of words can change over time, and it’s become commonplace to use the word “hustle” to mean the efforts of someone who is hard-working, dedicated, striving, driven and determined to succeed. Those qualities are supposed to be admired and celebrated.

Nothing wrong with that. But we don’t have to forget the context in which those qualities are being expressed. In other words, there may be something going on beneath the surface that may be undermining true success.

I know several people, men and women, who speak with a certain edge as they talk about how demanding their work is and how much time and energy they’re putting into making their business successful.

All the dedication, the single-mindedness, the driven-ness that’s required to make their dream come true. At first that sounds like a good way to go after what you want, and yet, aggressive pursuit in and of itself has its downside.

There’s an energy that’s hard-edged, rigid, inflexible and even slightly grim about it. They’ll stop at nothing, or at least until they’ve stressed themselves out, hit a wall or simply run out of steam. It’s almost a militaristic, forced march to success. Do or die.

Can you imagine what that’s doing to their insides? Their psyches? Where is the joy, the flow, the yin and yang of creative energy moving through them? Is it all just an endless grind?

Creating anything doesn’t have to be all striving and control and pushing and pulling. That’s the hard way.

In fact, creation is a very fluid movement of movement and rest, invitation and execution. It’s not all self will and if-it’s-going-to-be, it’s-all-up-to-me. It’s a dance with all the energies of the heart, the mind and the body.

So much of our culture is hell-bent on being productive and successful, but at what cost to our own happiness and well being? Why is it that taking the time to stop and regroup, to rest and renew and allow ourselves to be freshly inspired is not equally if not more highly valued?

Why do we do what we do? Are we motivated by love or a need to prove our worth? Are we acting upon the advice of so-called experts rather than relying on our own inner guidance to go after our dreams?

If the way we’re pursuing our dreams lacks heart, lacks the desire to connect and contribute, then we will pay a price.

I know, because I’ve spent more time than I care to admit following advice that went against what I knew in the deepest part of my being wasn’t good or right for me.

We may achieve monetary success, but if it makes us ill or keeps us from spending time with loved ones or unable to stop and recognize the beauty of this moment, then we might want to ask whether “hustle” is really the right word for what it is we’re putting our precious time and energy into.

We can be a force for good, not only in the world but for ourselves and our own happiness when we allow ourselves to take a fresh look at how we’re going about accomplishing our dreams.

It may be time to replace the word “hustle” with something that inspires, uplifts, motivates and gives us energy rather than drains it from us.