I would like to share a personal story about the exact moment I realized I needed to take better care of myself. For some people, a health scare provides a wake-up call. For others, it may be a financial crisis or the dissolution of a marriage. In my case the messenger was far friendlier, but equally effective.
It was 2009. My children were grown and out of the house. I could dedicate myself completely to creating and launching Selling In A Skirt. I was eager to pour my experience and passion into my business of helping women succeed in sales, with no one and nothing else vying for my attention. I was on fire, moving full steam ahead.
Then it happened. One of my best friends came for a visit. Alisa and I had been friends as well as professional colleagues for decades. Although we had been trying to coordinate a visit for some time, we could not seem to get our schedules to cooperate as I lived in Dallas and she in Tennessee. Finally, on this particular weekend, the sun, moon, and planets were aligned.
We were all set for a fun weekend of wine, food, and chocolate… and more wine. We were going to solve all the problems of the world, or if we couldn’t accomplish that, at least we would talk about relationships and business. Alisa has a wonderful marriage and was building a new business, and she wanted to brainstorm with me. I knew I could help with her budding business, and I was excited to share my latest business progress with her.
As I welcomed her to my new home and gave her the grand tour, she complimented me on nearly everything about it. After touring my closet and deciding which outfits we would share going forward, we settled into the living room, filled our wine glasses, and began talking about business. She told me how proud she was of all I had accomplished. I reciprocated. Then she said something utterly unexpected.
In her deep, deliberate Southern drawl, she said, “Girl… you have everything… but you have nothing.”
Her words were like a knife to my stomach. Even though I knew she was not being malicious—she does not have a mean bone in her body—that one sentence cut to the chase of a void I had not even realized I had been filling with my incessant work. Somewhere along the way, I had lost sight of myself and any semblance of a personal life. Where did I fit into my vision of success? Where did I fit into my own life? Where was I, period?
In that very moment, I knew I had to make significant changes. I needed to find time for myself, my children, a personal life, and the things I cared about outside of work. Yet, while rediscovering these aspects of my life, I also wanted to continue to build and grow my business successfully.
The changes started with taking control of my calendar, and I was as strict as I could be. Did I ever fall off the wagon? Of course. I love my work, so it is to be expected. But ever since that fateful day in my living room, I always make a concerted effort to find time for what is important to me as a woman as well as a businesswoman.
Sometimes we need someone objective to point out the obvious. Without Alisa’s savvy observation, I don’t how my life would look now. What I do know is that Alisa’s comment came at just the right time to jolt me out of a long pattern of overwork and remind me that life is fundamentally about creating memories and moments with the people you love by doing what you love and by loving yourself enough to say yes to you.
When I learned this lesson—and every situation, good or bad, has a lesson—I opened myself up for new opportunities. As I began to allow other people to enter my very private world, wonderful things started happening. Both my personal and professional lives began to change.
It was as if I was looking through a different lens. I could still work when and how I wanted, and I also had a reason to stop. I began dating again and fell in love with the man I would marry. He not only changed my personal outlook, he also helped me become more strategic in my business.
Of course, taking control of my calendar was just the first step. I also revisited my sleeping, eating, and exercise routines. I looked at my life holistically and concluded, “Everything I do is dependent on everything I do.” Does that make sense? It did to me.
After I entered everything I did into my calendar, I could see where I was out of balance. This helped me create my own self-imposed boundaries with respect to when I wouldn’t work and when I would. For example, after deciding to start each day with something that is one hundred percent for me, I now do not even look at my computer until I finish on my treadmill. That was just one of the things I needed to change.
If work is taking over your life and you want to rebalance, where might you begin?
Here are a few suggestions:
- What are you eating? If you do not fuel your body properly, nothing else matters. I make sure to eat well, and while that may take a little more time out of my schedule, I know that it’s worth it. When I feel good, I work better. Skipping meals takes me to Code Red. Not fun. When that occurs, not only do I suffer, but so does my business. Be careful about drinking too much alcohol because that leads to poor habits. You and your business will pay the price.
- Are you sleeping enough? I was surviving on four to five hours of sleep a night. According to the National Institutes of Health, “After several nights of losing sleep, even a loss of just one to two hours per night, your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two.” I figured I lost a few years at the rate I was going.
On one hand, I was thrilled by how much I thought I was accomplishing when I slept less, but I suffered by burning the candle at both ends. I may not be the life of the party these days since I am generally in bed by 9:12 p.m., but I do feel and work better.
One more sleep tip. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. It helps get your body back into a healthy rhythm.
- Do something just for you each morning. Many of my friends read or meditate in the morning. They begin each day uncovering their intention for the day or reflecting on what was, what is, and what could be. I love my morning routine on the treadmill. While I may not be fully concentrating on my innermost thoughts, at least I am away from my computer for forty-five minutes in the morning while also getting exercise.
- If your “just for you” morning activity does not involve exercise, make sure to schedule regular exercise into your week. This is probably the most common carryover item on everyone’s to-do lists. Find something you enjoy (perhaps walking, a dance class, weightlifting, or yoga) and maybe even an exercise buddy who can be your physical fitness accountability partner.
As a result of incorporating regular exercise into your routine: improved concentration, sharper memory, faster learning, prolonged mental stamina, enhanced creativity, and lower stress are some results. Exercise has also been shown to elevate mood, which has serious implications for workplace performance.”
When you take care of yourself first, you will accomplish and enjoy more professionally and personally. By eliminating negativity in your life, you will have more time and energy to complete the projects that can help propel you and your business to the next level.
Taking care of yourself is the best selfish thing you can do. —Author Unknown
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