The word ‘grind’ when used in the context of hard, gruelling work, is something most of us just want to give a hard pass.
It has now evolved into a new concept: The grindset. It’s not just about working hard; you just never stop working. Never enough and always more; that’s the motto of the grindset.
Well, in the past few years there have been several counter arguments regarding the grindset. In fact, according to Forbes, the global media company, there is an “anti-grindset movement” brewing that prioritises the work-life balance, well-being over the constant pursuit of productivity and achievement. Advocates of this belief shoot down the hustle culture and defines the concept of workaholicism as a state of mind without rest.
In 2022, a survey of 2,000 American workers by insurance company Prudential showed 70 per cent of American workers had prioritised, or were considering, prioritising their personal lives over their jobs and careers. Twenty per cent said they were willing to take pay cuts if it meant they could have a better work-life balance. Social media applications like TikTok brimmed with trends like ‘quiet quitting’, where people expressed their lack of interest at work, owing to rigid office hours and lack of downtime. There was even a ‘Bare Minimum Mondays’.
“All these trends suggest that many people now are more keen on prioritising their well-being. They realise that you can’t keep burning yourself out for the sake of work. This became a stronger trend after the pandemic,” explains Mindy Simmonds, a British UAE-based mindset coach and leadership mentor. “The lockdown allowed them to re-evaluate their work-life balance, as that time was coupled with financial uncertainty. So now, there’s more of a call to end this glorified idea of the hustle. They are slowly realising that the hustle culture doesn’t always lead to success. I think people are slowly realising that to get ahead, you need to rest, and ideate. If you’re always busy, you don’t have time for anything. You lose your sense of self and your productivity suffers,” she says.
However while TikTok and surveys might have their say, many still harbour the idea of the grindset. Why so?
Why can’t we step away from work?
For starters, the self-worth of many people is tied too closely to their jobs.
Joseph Belda, a Dubai-based American psychiatrist, explains that people tend to succumb to their own inner “demons and fears”. They have a sense of eroded self-esteem that relies on the external validation of others, as he says. Such people rely on praises from others to feel better about themselves. They are unable to draw firm boundaries and keep expecting work to fill a void. There could be several reasons for this. It could be the beliefs shaped in childhood, where they were constantly made to believe to be excellent at everything they did.
Such people also suffer severely from comparisons with others, using it as a weapon to motivate themselves to be better. This just has negative consequences, as Belda explains, as the desire to prove themselves burns them out. “There is this rooted belief of wanting to be the best, which puts them under further pressure,” he says.
Apart from internal battles, there are other work-related beliefs that are usually propagated by any work environments. Several organisations also encourage the belief that you must keep working, as it’s a sign of your passion. People start feeling guilty for relaxing at work, explains Simmonds.
There is evidence in Simmonds' words. In 2014, a study titled Enough is enough: Cognitive antecedents of Workaholism and its aftermath, which is published in the American Human Resource Management Journal, workaholicism emerges from a rather iron-clad belief that one should keep working till they feel that they have done “enough”.
There are several reasons why people can't separate themselves from their work. It's to do with their low self-esteem, their determination to be the best and survive in a high-pressure environment, or certain financial difficulties in their family that requires them to be the primary earner...
This perpetuates a person dissolving their work and personal life boundaries, trying to reach this mythical “enough”. As a result, they indulge in more exhaustive habits, like staying late and checking work emails at all times. In short, they mentally never leave the office.
There are an intricate web of reasons on why a person can’t separate themselves from work. Quite often, circumstances change in their lives, as Belda explains. Sometimes, there might be just one earning member in the family. There could be financial troubles, which could lead them to putting their heart and soul into work. They feel the pressure of being the breadwinner and slowly are unable to see how much the job is taking from them, he says.
They work hard as many also fear losing their jobs, which could stem from their own internal anxieties, combined with the environment itself. “They are uncertain about the job security,” explains Belda. As a result, they overwork themselves to the point that they perform and produce work every day of the week, hoping to keep their job safe.
What are the ramifications?
Well, in simple words, burn out. And, a loss of self.
“The problem is that people delude themselves that you need to burn out to succeed,” says Simmonds. “This desire to work harder and struggle, culminates in stress, anxiety and irregular sleep patterns that can lead to sleep disorders, too. People who harbour the idea that the grindset is the path to success, neglect their own well-being. They don’t follow self-care rules anymore and stop eating healthy food.”
This can trigger a further spiral. They suffer personal, cognitive and emotional distress, she says. Ironically, though the grindset emphasises “maximum” productivity, it has the exact opposite effect. You are not in any state to work. If you work for hours without rest, you suffer cognitive decline.
“Your decision-making skills, memory and creativity all suffer,” adds Simmonds. Moreover, their work suffers as they’re gradually unable to see the quality of their work, as they’re just focussed on a higher output. It also leads to erosion of personal relationships, she adds, as the person begins to isolate themselves from others for work.
How do you break out of the grindset?
Well, as we’re in the age of new words being added to our lexicon, here’s one more: Kindset. The American wellbeing website Resilience Institute came up with this term, in order to combat the enemy, grindset.
Kindset is not “fluffy” as the author of the site firmly states. This is not about working less; it’s about working smarter and kinder, they explain. So you need to focus on what matters and discover how you can be purposeful. The rulebook is simple: Take breaks, eat well, practise self-care, define your boundaries and work on your relationships.
But how do you get to that point? Well, you need to change the narrative in your head, as Simmonds explains. Every time you start ruminating and obsessing over work, stop and challenge yourself. You need to remind yourself that your self-worth is not tied to your work. Simmonds puts down some questions for you to ask yourself. Is there something you are trying to actively avoid by immersing yourself in work? What are you getting out of it? Are you waiting for external validation? Why?
Once you address your self-esteem and self-worth issues, slowly set your boundaries, as Belda says. It’s easier said than done, we know. However, it’s what you need to do to recover your physical and mental well-being. “Boundaries are an umbrella term for a host of tiny behaviours that can exert a profound influence,” says Simmonds. It stems from your own self-worth.
Keep your workspace separate from your home life, if you work remotely. Communicate that you will not work beyond a fixed hour. Stop taking on extra work, out of fear that you will not be appreciated.
Make your own personal improvement plan, Belda adds. Note down your priorities, progress and how far you have come. Make sure you have a clear routine. Ensure that self-care is a non-negotiable part of it; spend your time working out, reading, listening to music, or any activity that helps you feel refreshed and reset.
According to a 2022 study published in the British human resources journal, Personality and Individual Differences, researchers found that experiencing positive emotions actually allows people to succeed financially. They can save and create more wealth through better money management practices. The researchers highlighted the importance of allowing rest and investing in joyful life experiences outside of work.
Last, but not the least, ensure that you have a solid support system, both at the workplace and outside. It serves as an outlet for people to express their feelings, needs and concerns.