I am writing this in the height of the English summer, which in reality means that I am cosied up in several layers of clothes, watching the rain pelting against the windows. Even with the ceaseless rain, I am extremely happy
And that is huge. Around this time last year, I was running my last company, and to all appearances had a successful, fulfilled life. In reality, I was absolutely, 110% miserable.
I founded that particular company as a means of supporting my 2 children as a single mum. It fulfilled that aim admirably and did extremely well, but just as the children grew and left home, so my motivation diminished in tandem. Much as I tried to keep the passion alive, my heart was just not in that business anymore.
As a result, for the last six or seven long and wretched years, I reaped all the downside of running your own business, the appallingly long hours, the worry, the stress, the staff issues, the red tape, with absolutely zero upsides in balance.
I was doing it all because I felt I should, and “should” is never a good enough reason to do anything in life. Should is not a motivation. We can only ever succeed when we do things with genuine love and passion.
I was a typical baby boomer, believing utterly that the harder I worked the greater would be the success. As a generation, we were brought up to see hard work including overwork was one of life’s great virtues.
Countless scientific studies have now proved this thinking to be faulty. Overwork results in a decline of productivity and morale, higher sickness, less sustainability and a lack of self-care. And that is without mentioning the sheer misery of doing a job you really don’t enjoy anymore.
Despite the truth of this, I had still stubbornly limped on for years before finally I realised that I had the sense to decide “should” is not enough.
The biggest shock was how instantly, ecstatically happy I was. I had expected to feel a “quitter” and a “failure”. Instead I felt released. While others might have perceived me as successful before, I felt instantly that I was living a far more successful life having called time. It can be very dangerous to live life to other people’s definition of success. Real success is to do what makes you personally happy and fulfilled.
Walking away, from an award winning business I had created, felt absolutely the right thing for me to do from day one. I slept huge amounts to catch up on a decade’s deprivation. I was able to look after myself, meditate again, take long walks. I rediscovered the joy of tiny, everyday things, from neglected friends to walks on the beach.
I re-discovered the simple fact that creating the life we want is entirely within each of our powers. I still work hard, both at writing and coaching but because I love doing it. But I have down time at evenings or weekends when I do not check my emails. If someone asks for something on an unreasonable timescale, I will only offer what I can do and not sweat about it. I have learned that the world does not cave in if I say I can’t do something.
I take time for me, every day and every week. I have a great routine every morning, with a bit of meditating, saying some positive affirmations and having a bit of a boogie to get my somewhat ancient body going. I smile a lot – it lets off positive endorphins that actually make you happier.
I absolutely love my work, helping people get more out of their lives, as I have learned to do. I love my writing and I love to travel around sharing my experiences with people. It is just absolutely awesome.
The millennials generation are so much better at self-care than us boomers ever were. Studies are showing that they spend twice as much on diet, therapy, workout classes and the whole self-care thing. Millennials are reminding the rest of us what used to be accepted wisdom. The ancient Greeks were huge on self-care, believing that while meaningful work is an essential component to life, overwork is damaging in every single way. They believed that self-care makes for a more honest and more democratic society.
It is a total change of mind-set. I used to believe that spending time on myself was selfish. Now I believe it is essential, in order to be less selfish. We can only give our best to those who employ us, to our families and friends and to our societies if we take care of our own mental and physical health and find that calm, happy place within ourselves that we operate best from.
The best companies are now backing the necessity of ensuring their employees have the best possible work life balances and that in turn is the best possible news for all of us. We owe it to ourselves and the people we care about to make sure we do the same.
Read more The Importance of Passion