Using Pride and Hollowness to Separate Good Work from Hard Work:

First the definitions:

  • “Hard” Work: work that is done at such a pace, amount, or intensity that it strains you.
  • “Good” Work: work that is self-rewarding.  You have much higher tolerance for this work.  Even when you do it at a level where it’d be Hard had it been other kinds of work, Good Work doesn’t strain you because the act feeds energy back to you.

In the book “The War of Art” Steven Pressfield identified that when you give in to Resistance, it produces Hollow feeling.

So let’s say you start out your day, and you do nothing.  You’re just lazy that day.  But you don’t feel good about it.  Your choice makes you feel Hollow.

So you grudgingly start some Work.  You don’t know if you Enjoy your Work but You feel better.  There is a sense of Pride about the choice to do the Work.

But Work takes longer than you expected and after long hours of Working, you start to feel fatigued.  The original goal you set yourself was too ambitious.  But instead of adjusting your expectations, you keep going.  You finish your Work, but it’s very late at night, and you don’t have any time left to relax or do anything else.  You are left, once again, with a sour taste in your mouth. You were once proud of having chosen to do the Work, but you don’t feel that way any more.

Sounds familiar?  It does to me.  What happened?  I thought it was a good choice to do the Work?

Well, to an extent.  The Art lies in the Balance.

At any moment, you have a simple choice.  Do the Work, or not.  One choice takes more courage than the other.  One choice makes you feel prouder than the other.  That is the right choice.

But don’t assume that the same choice will be the right one the next moment.

Any Good Work turns Hard when you overdo it.  It’s never a good choice to strain yourself, without leaving room in your day to recover.  Because that leads to burn-out.  It’s like running a car without refueling.

So before you begin, you sense Resistance against the Work.  Resistance opposes all good things.  You overcome it and start, and you feel proud.

When you have worked enough, though, then you’ll have Resistance against Rest.  Because Resistance opposes all good things.  Then at that moment, Work turns from Good to Hard.  You still feel proud about having done the Work thus far, but the choice to keep going doesn’t feel proud.

That’s when you need to stop.

Remember that your success depends on Good Work, not Hard Work.  Even if you are being productive, if it’s straining you it’ll have a detrimental effect in the long run.

Just do the Good Work.  That’s enough.