Toxic Obsession: The Hidden Risks of Hustle Culture

In recent years, the concept of “hustle culture” has gained significant traction, particularly in the realm of entrepreneurship and business. At its core, hustle culture is centered around the idea that success is achieved through hard work, determination, and an almost obsessive focus on one’s goals. While this mentality can certainly be motivating, it can also lead to a dangerous glorification of obsession and burnout.

At the start of my career, I remember the words of my first boss: “If you don’t get a heart attack by the age of 25, I will fire you for slacking and taking it too easy”. While I consider myself an ambitious and driven person, his words didn’t resonate with me back then and neither do they now. Needless to say, I passed my 25th birthday, without having experienced a heart attack.

It’s nothing uncommon to feel dissatisfied with your daily job at times and feel the need to change something about it. Creating a space for something fuelled by your true passion can nurture your soul and give you the sense of accomplishment you may be lacking at your regular workplace. Some may call it a side hustle, some see it as a passion project, and for some, it’s just a hobby. Occasionally it can indeed reach a point where one can switch from their day job to work full time on their side hustle because it has grown enough to provide. I dare to say that there’s a small inkling of that dream in everyone’s heart.

The desire to work on your passion project comes from the need to balance a part of your life that isn’t fulfilled on your “default” career path. But instead of balancing out your life in a healthy manner, the hustle culture tends to promote the “give all or go home” approach. The concept of obsession in hustle culture is particularly problematic because it often leads to the belief that one must sacrifice everything – from relationships and existing careers to mental and physical health – in order to achieve success.

Obsession is what differentiates you from all the other hustlers, who aren’t making half the success you are. If your goals and actions aren’t followed by success, it means you are not obsessed enough. It is often implied that the biggest sign of strength and dedication is quitting your day job cold turkey, eliminating everything and everyone in your life who is holding you back, and directing all your energy to turn your passion into your new day job.

To me, this type of approach, often fuelled by impulse and spontaneity, is reckless and close to being madness, especially if you have obligations that involve others around you. It can also be especially damaging for individuals who are already predisposed to anxiety or depression, as the constant pressure to work harder and longer hours, after paying such a high price to do so, can exacerbate these conditions.

Using obsession as a technique to faster results

Obsession can provide a strong motivational force that drives individuals to work harder and longer hours toward achieving their goals. When someone is obsessed with a particular goal, they may be more willing to make sacrifices and work through challenges and setbacks in order to see their vision come to fruition. It makes sense that if you are willing to put in more hard work in a more concentrated period of time, you will get better results, right?

However, while obsession can provide a temporary burst of energy and focus, it is not a sustainable long-term strategy. Those short bursts of energy and focus should be preserved for the moments where you indeed want to get a core portion of a project done in the shortest possible time and you are functioning at a high energy level at a time.

It’s important to realize that these intense periods will take a toll on your physical and mental health and should be balanced out with a period of time that focuses on recovery and taking it more gently, analyzing the results instead of making big steps of new progress. Otherwise, over time, the negative effects of obsession, such as burnout and deteriorating mental and physical health, can actually slow down progress and lead to diminished results.

Moreover, the quality of the results achieved through obsession may be compromised if the individual is sacrificing other important areas of life in order to focus solely on their goal. Often those sacrifices are made impulsively in a manner that leaves us no path of return because all bridges have been burned.

When the initial enthusiasm settles and the cracks in our confidence start to appear, not everyone is prepared to deal with this realization. Instead of pushing through the rut, for many, the regret over things they tossed aside may overpower them and turn what initially was their passion and a dream into something that seemingly ruined their life.

Obsession as the key pillar of success

Obsession as an intense, all-consuming focus on a particular goal or idea, is often seen as a key ingredient to success. However, while obsession can fuel motivation and drive, it is not a necessary or sufficient condition for success. Instead, obsession can be detrimental to success, often leading to burnout, poor mental health, and even damage to personal relationships. An obsession that takes over one’s life can result in a lack of balance and perspective, ultimately hindering progress toward achieving one’s goals.

Instead of making it a goal to work in a state of obsession, aim to develop a strong work ethic and dedication to your goals. Success, then, is not solely dependent on obsession. Other important factors include hard work, dedication, creativity, problem-solving skills, emotional intelligence, and a willingness to adapt and learn from failure. These traits are essential for achieving long-term success in any field, and cannot be replaced by a singular focus on a particular goal. The key to success lies in developing a range of skills and abilities, while also maintaining balance and perspective in life.

Prioritizing self-care and work-rest balance doesn’t reduce the chances of achieving success. The success that was achieved while also thriving in other areas of life balance isn’t any smaller than the one achieved through obsession. In fact, studies have shown that overworking can actually hinder productivity and lead to decreased creativity and job satisfaction.

Develop healthy obsession

To put it short, obsession can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can fuel our drive, motivation, and ambition, propelling us toward our goals. On the other hand, it can be all-consuming, leading to burnout, isolation, and even mental health issues. It can turn you blind to the failures and mistakes on your journey and reduce the ability to analyze your progress objectively. However, there is a way to harness the positive aspects of obsession while avoiding the negative consequences: by developing a healthy obsession.

A healthy obsession is a state of being that involves a deep passion and commitment to a particular goal or project, while also maintaining balance in other areas of life. In other words, it is an obsession that does not take over every aspect of our existence but rather coexists harmoniously with other important aspects such as relationships, mental health, and physical well-being.

What does a healthy obsession look like?

Sense of purpose and direction

Firstly, it is characterized by a clear sense of purpose and direction. Individuals who are healthily obsessed have a specific goal in mind and are willing to put in the hard work and dedication necessary to achieve it. They are motivated by a deep sense of passion and a desire to make a meaningful contribution to the world.

Emphasize balance

Secondly, a healthy obsession involves balance. While pursuing their goals, individuals who are healthily obsessed also make time for self-care, relaxation, and social connection. They recognize the importance of taking care of their mental and physical health, as well as nurturing their relationships with others.

Allow flexibility

Thirdly, a healthy obsession involves flexibility. While individuals who are healthily obsessed remain dedicated to their goals, they also recognize that life is unpredictable and that sometimes, plans may need to change. They are adaptable and open to new ideas and are willing to adjust their approach in order to stay on track.

Back with knowledge

Fourthly, healthy obsession involves knowledge. Instead of just focusing on doing and ticking off tasks, balance measurable actions with learning and analyzing. Knowing more about your goal will make you more resilient to challenges and provides you with the solutions to overcoming obstacles. Reading and learning can be something you do after you’ve had a more intense period of work, as it allows you to take it easier and be more reflective of your progress so far

5 Strategies to Long Term Success and Results

  1. Set clear, achievable goals: Instead of focusing on the end result, break down your goal into smaller, achievable milestones. This will help you stay motivated and focused on the next achievable step rather than getting overwhelmed by the bigger picture.
  2. Develop a routine: Creating a consistent routine that includes time for work, rest, and self-care can help you stay focused and productive without becoming obsessive about only one aspect of life. Incorporate activities that you enjoy into your routine to make the process more enjoyable and sustainable.
  3. Find your motivation: Instead of relying on obsession, find other sources of motivation that are healthy and sustainable. For example, remind yourself of the positive impact your work will have on others or focus on the personal growth and development that comes with achieving your goals.
  4. Embrace flexibility: Recognize that setbacks and obstacles are a normal part of any process and that it’s important to be flexible and adaptable in the face of these challenges. Don’t get too caught up in one specific approach or strategy, and be willing to make adjustments as needed.
  5. Celebrate progress: Don’t forget to celebrate your progress and achievements along the way, no matter how small they may seem. This will help you stay motivated and positive, even when progress is slow or setbacks occur.

It’s important to recognize that success is not a one-size-fits-all concept. While some individuals may thrive in a high-pressure, hyper-focused work environment, others may perform better with a more balanced approach. Rather than glorifying obsession as the key pillar to success, we should strive to create a culture that indeed values hard work and dedication on a consistent basis but also prioritizes mental and physical health, as it’s something much more sustainable and non-damaging to more people

Remember, success is not just about achieving a specific result, but also about the journey and the process that leads to that result. By focusing on sustainable motivation, creating a healthy routine, and celebrating progress, you can achieve your goals without becoming obsessive or sacrificing your well-being.