Main point: Everyone has a personal definition of words like “productive”, “busy”, “hard work”, but progress is driven by the evolution/expansion of these definitions.
Yes, here comes another obvious “wisdom” of the relativist variety.
I like to use sport for analogy, because sport somehow boils down the basic struggles of life into a concrete measurable game of skill and chance. So let’s talk about the treadmill (here’s me running on a treadmill). I used to think that an 8 minute mile was hard. I mean I have friends that are runners and can keep a 5-6 minute mile pace for several miles, but I never even acknowledged that as reality.
To me an 8 minute mile was something I could do, but would have to put in a lot of “hard work”. Anything faster than that was for physical freaks, who I completely ignored in my analysis. The reality however is that those people struggled with an 8 minute mile as well at some point in their life. But unlike me, they did not settle with this limit. They changed their definition of “hard” first to 7 minutes, then to 6, and finally to bellow 5.
I did the same a couple years back with a 6 minute mile. I just one day decided that I will run at a 6 minute mile pace for as long as I could. I would not quit until my body completely quit. It was torture, but I actually did it.
I think the same is true with everything we undertake in life. I too often settle for my idea of what is “hard work” and don’t try to push the limit. But that’s where growth happens: trying to do the things that seems obviously impossible. It turns out that some of them are actually possible.
Since I don’t run much, and suffer through it every time I do run, I like to use running as an indicator of my mental toughness (or lack thereof). For this reason, I hope to one day be able to run a 5 minute mile. Of course, my real goals are all surrounding research and academia, but those are a lot more difficult to put into words and numbers than the time it takes to run a mile.