The Damage of Hustle Culture

“Look forward! Just Grind” was the response I received after asking how the past few months have gone for an individual professionally and personally. There is something about that word, “Grind” that grates on me. Yes, we want to work hard, but have we thought about the need for silence, reflection, and slowing down? Have we thought about reframing how and why we work? Not only have I thought about the ever-popular hustle approach to life, and how it impacts our society at large, but I also have pondered the negative impact on those living and caring for those living with dementia. When we say, “just grind” we are intensifying this idea that one must be a “productive” money-making member of society to have any worth. So, when someone living with dementia no longer can work (even if they want to) and their care partners are having to step back to care for them, we are telling those on the dementia journey that they don’t matter. We are saying to the world, that our current view of what it means to be active in the world is okay. And, while to some degree it is okay, we have an enormous amount of work we need to do to shift away from the “just grind” mindset and into intention-filled productivity.

As we work and live with dementia in some form or another, we know that there is greatness to life, even with dementia. We know that life does not end after retirement, or with the diagnosis of some form of dementia. But does the world know this? I don’t think so. Stepping back to take an even wider view, how does this impact all who have retired, or have decided to become the stay-at-home parent? We have come to think there is something wrong with this idea that we can simply be where we are called at any given time, and that too is a beautiful productive life.

Those living with dementia have had this productive label removed from their lives. Not by choice, not reflecting the reality of the situation. I know individuals who live with all different types of dementia who are doing great things! They are writing books, creating art, volunteering, connecting with grade school students, and leaving a lasting positive impression on their life, and many are praying for the world and those who come to them asking for their prayers. I know many productive individuals living with dementia who are giving themselves to the betterment of their community, just as much as those who are immersed in the “just grind” way of life.

I wonder what will become of these “just grind” individuals when they get older? Will they lose all sense of self upon retirement or after a situation that requires them to stop working? What is the impact on their family? And, are they taking enough time to spend with their older relatives and friends? Do they realize the beauty and gift that can come to both their relationship, their personal life, and their work-life if they step away from the grind and into intention?

We have a responsibility to accompany those as they transition from work to retirement, from life before dementia to live with dementia. I don’t think we are doing a great job of this accompaniment. The greatest way to accompany someone in this area is to transform the way we live ourselves. We can shift our mindset away from what is or isn’t productive, unravel our purpose from employment, and engage with others. We can take time to, yes work hard, but also stop for reflection, silence, and live a holistic life.

I fear the negative impact this “grind and hustle” culture will have on our society as we move into the coming years. In reflecting on the past, generations before us did work much harder than many of us do today. Factory and farm life were grueling for generations of individuals. The safety of their job was not what it is today. The hours they had to work so they could put food on the table, and clothing on their children’s backs far exceeded what many families must do today. We can reflect on where we are now vs then and use it as an excuse to hustle, OR we can realize how far we have come as a society and better distinguish the work needed to take care of our food, shelter, and clothing from the cultural pressure to keep going. Today’s working population will require a new group of individuals to help guide us into retirement, care, and even illness. If we don’t start taking time to reflect, sit in silence, and realize a productive life is more than the money we rake in and the professional status we reach, we are in for a rocky road.

Published by Kathryne Fassbender

Creative Gerontologist, Speaker, Catholic Innovator. I am also the granddaughter of someone who lived with Vascular Dementia.

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