I’ve always been an overachiever with a high capacity to get things done. I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit proving and impressing and pushing myself to accomplish things.
I’ve embraced phrases like, “Good things come to those who hustle” and “Nothing worth having comes easy.”
We equate going above and beyond with success. We believe our ability to hustle and to work longer and harder than other people are what lead to straight As and accolades. We carry that into adulthood, and it puts us at risk for exhaustion and burnout. Failure isn’t an option.
We fear what will happen if we stop hustling and pushing ourselves so much.
Will we lose our edge?
Isn’t hustling what got us here?
If other successful people are telling us it’s supposed to be HARD, aren’t they right?
Maybe the answer is “No.”
Two years ago, I sat across the desk from a speech language specialist. I had lost my voice yet again and couldn’t figure out why my voice strained so easily and frequently. It had been an ongoing issue since college, but I couldn’t pinpoint how to fix it.
I was frustrated.
Since I speak for a living and love to sing, not having my full voice and not knowing whether it would hold up worried me.
I went through a series of exercises to test my voice, my breathing, and my vocal tone. At the end of the session, the speech pathologist commented that I have a tendency to push my voice out with my breath, which creates strain and taxes my vocal cords.
Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places, and what he said next was likely insignificant to him but profound to me:
“Voice is released, not pushed.”
That’s what I’d been doing my whole life. I was tired. Two months later, I was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Virus, an acute form of mono. I had burned out at the age of 32.
I’d been pushing too hard for too long.
That’s why the speech pathologist’s words were exactly what I needed to hear in that moment.
I learned that when we’re speaking and singing like babies do, we’re literally releasing air from inside our diaphragm over our vocal cords. That process creates sound.
It’s effortless and easy, something we are born doing instinctively, not something we do consciously.
On the flip-side, when we push out too much breath and force air through the voice box, we can blow out our vocal cords.
It taxes our vocal cords and causes us to experience strain and even loss of voice.
Pushing our voice is unnatural.
As I sat across from the speech pathologist, his words sunk in deeply.
I knew that he wasn’t just talking about my voice. He was speaking into my soul to remind me of a truth that I had resisted all of my life:
Releasing is less effortful and more natural than pushing.
It feels better, too.
It wasn’t all of my hustling – rooted in fear and scarcity – that led to my success.
In fact, some of the most meaningful and memorable moments in my life are ones that I didn’t orchestrate but simply invited in by being open.
During a semester abroad in Spain my junior year of college, my heart was broken by a guy I liked back home. I really wanted him to be my boyfriend. When I returned to the States, I noticed a cute guy who was a freshman but kind of wrote him off for being too young. We started hanging out. I had no agenda in mind and assumed I’d graduate and forget about him.
But a series of unpredictable events led to a different outcome.
Thirteen years later, that “young” guy and I are happily married.
A few years ago, I applied for an award in my field. It was the last day the application could be submitted, and a friend suggested I apply. I turned it in with no expectation.
Five months later, I was named the #1 Health Promotion Professional in the U.S.
After giving an acceptance speech at a conference that spring, I wrote on the last page of my journal, “I will speak at next year’s Summit.” I stored the journal in my nightstand and didn’t think twice about what I’d written down.
Four months later, I received a phone call asking me to speak at their conference the following year.
In the months that followed, people started reaching out to me to do podcast interviews, and last year, some of my stories and words were quoted in three different books.
I’ve been invited on retreats with other thoughts leaders around the country, not because I asked to be invited but because I was in my lane, doing my thing authentically and passionately, and other people were drawn to it.
I wasn’t trying to be anyone else.
When we are living in alignment with our calling and are on our path, we don’t have to force opportunities to happen.
We have to do our part and keep showing up, doing what we’re uniquely called to do, believing the truth that what is meant for us will not pass by us.
When we live from that mindset, we don’t get so upset when things don’t work out as we expected. Maybe whatever didn’t work out for us was an assignment for someone else. Maybe that apparent rejection was really just a redirection.
When we focus on forcing and pushing things, we end up feeling overworked, overextended, exhausted and inauthentic. Sometimes our overwhelm leads to distraction, and we start comparing ourselves to other people and their journeys to ours.
Here’s the problem. When we focus so much on what other people are doing, it keeps us from doing our work and making our contribution.
I can still get caught in the comparison trap, forcing myself onto someone else’s path, which is why I feel the need to remind myself, once again: “Voice is released, not pushed.”
A life of peace and purpose is one in which we are released and freed to be ourselves, not forced to push our way through to get what we want.
What you release comes from the depths of who you are and is uniquely, inherently, authentically you.
Allow it to pass through you.
What is meant to be does not need to be forced.
- In what areas of your life are you trying to force something to happen? What resistance are you facing in the midst of that?
- What skills and / or opportunities have come “easily” to you or without force? Are there any themes that stand out when you compare those experiences?
- What are you most often thanked or praised for? That can give you insight into your natural form of genius.
- Is what you perceive as rejection from something you are trying to “hustle to happen” really just redirection to something better?