Cyclists complete the final laps of the Tour de France, Photo credit Keely Double

Life. Am I trying too hard or not hard enough?

Most people I know feel as if they’re underachieving, myself included. The trouble is what to do about it. Two popular motivational gurus are opposed: Arnold Schwarzenegger says work harder and Adriana Huffington says relax. Who should we listen to?

Sleep less with Arnie

Arnie epitomises the old school approach. Never give up, work bloody hard and right at the moment when you’re completely exhausted and at the end of your tether, double your efforts.

Gems from his 6 rules of success speech include “sleep faster” (6 hours will do, apparently); don’t listen to the naysayers; and, naturally, no pain, no gain.

My favourite Arnie-ism, however, goes: “It is important to have fun in life, of course. But when you’re out there partying, someone out there at the same time is working hard. Someone is getting smarter and someone is winning. Just remember that.”

Right then, I’ll pop that bottle of wine back in the fridge, shall I? Life never felt so fun.

Given he’s had three pretty successful careers in weightlifting, acting (sort of) and politics, Arnold’s not a bad bet for advice. And his main message about working hard and not expecting good things to come easy resonates.

Yet there are a lot of moments when his rules don’t feel right. One of my life goals is to have fun! I don’t want to spend every holiday wondering who’s sneaking up behind me.

Sleep more with Adriana

Adriana’s more new age. Her TED Talk How to succeed? Get more sleep does pretty much exactly what it says on the packet.

She reminds us that “the way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep”. Specifically, 7.5 to 8 hours a night. This is the key to unlocking your best ideas and reaching your potential, she says.

I know I feel hugely more creative and capable when I’m rested. And I once worked with a woman who prided herself on never sleeping (this must be a common boast; Adriana labels it “sleep deprivation one-upmanship”). Believe me, the results weren’t pretty — metaphorically or cosmetically. So I can get behind this theory.

The problem is that Adriana herself admits she learnt the hard way. She realised the importance of sleep only after fainting from exhaustion at her desk. That was also after she’d built her media empire and become one of the world’s most successful business women. It’s all very well to have a lie in once you’ve made your millions. Maybe it’s not so great to keep hitting the snooze button before you get there.

Is there a ‘best’ way?

I have no idea which way is best. It would be really handy if someone could clear this up. In my own life, I tend to veer wildly between ambition and apathy.

When I finish a long day at work, I’m easily persuaded into the ‘be kind to yourself’ frame of mind. Relax. Take a bath. Have a drink. Remind yourself of all the great things you’ve accomplished and don’t feel guilty about doing nothing. Replenish and rejuvenate.

Fine, but next year when I’m reading TIME magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people and I’m still not on it — who have I got to blame?

I guess the easy answer is to find a happy medium; the hard part is determining that percentage. I suspect 50/50 doesn’t cut it. It probably needs to be more like 70 Arnie/30 Adriana. I think I’m currently closer to the reverse. But every time I convince myself “okay, it’s time to try a bit harder”, a little voice pops up saying “take a break”. For me at least, the conundrum continues …

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.