When we started DrivenWoman three years ago I thought I had to become this super woman who'd get up at 5 am, go for a run, read my emails and prepare some super food smoothie before my family got up. I was very conscious of not having any 'unproductive' moments in my day. Every second was planned and productivity was maximised. Or so I thought.
When I'd go ride my horse I rushed into the yard, I wouldn't have time to have tea with the other riders or have a chat, I'd just ride and leave. There was no relaxation, no sense of enjoyment in my routine. And driving down there, I'd always have an audio book or podcast in my ears not to loose a productive moment.
Two years ago I suffered a panic attack. Well no wonder, with my super fast attitude. I started questioning my way of life and decided to stop. Not to stop working, or doing stuff. I decided to stop being busy and start enjoying life at every step of the way. What good is 'success' if you are exhausted, don't build happy relationships with people around you, if you don't sleep well and if you feel out of balance all the time?
I decided that success for me would mean something that would encompass happiness and balance with passion whilst making a positive impact. These have become my guiding words and I always evaluate and come back to them if I start to feel even a little bit stressed.
Here's five steps that have helped me to keep being driven and in balance at the same time.
Goals are signposts
At DrivenWoman we talk about goals because they give us direction and and help us focus. Goals are merely there to remind us what is important so that we can pay less attention to things that doesn't really matter or no longer serve us. However, the idea is to enjoy the journey, not just get to the destination.
"Everyone has a purpose in life - a unique gift or special talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, it is the ultimate goal of all goals." Deepak Chopra
I suppose now the idea for me is to know myself so well that I can simply focus on executing 'my purpose' on a daily basis. I'm not quite there yet, but I can see that those days when I'm doing things that bring me joy and where I can use my core talents to a greater benefit of others I feel in harmony and stress free, and I'm my most productive.
Embrace the emptiness
I categorise 'not doing anything' into two: 1) unconscious inactivity = not doing anything because you are lazy or afraid to do something or procrastinate; 2) active inactivity = embracing doing nothing out of a choice, for the benefit of your own relaxation. Active inactivity is good for you!
Now driving to the yard I let my thoughts run wild in the car. It is not time wasted, it's active inactivity and I get my best ideas when I don't fill every single moment of my day with 'doing'. I also started meditating regularly, currently two to four times a week, and I really enjoy it.
Make sure you allow yourself enough silence every day. It can be a walk in the park, meditation, quiet cup of coffee without devices, what ever works for you. There are tons of scientifically proven benefits of meditation that include increased memory and improved attention, so at the end you are actually more focused and productive.
Being and doing
Do you feel you have to do a lot to be worthy? After having my kids I felt I wasn't enough because I wasn't doing much, well from the work and money point of view. In my mind taking care of twin boys wasn't enough. I wish I would have given myself a break back then!
I now realise that my nervous system was under constant alert because I interpreted this lacking as a failure of sorts. I didn't realise I was really stressed out all the time. How could I be stressed because I wasn't working?! Only now I realise that the body interprets this worry as stress and I suffered physical problems because of it.
Brené Brown talks about being enough in this 1 minute video.
"It's about waking up in the morning and no matter how much work gets done and how if gets done knowing that I'm enough." Brené Brown.
Don't put your nervous system through unnecessary stress. I believe we live our lives mixing varying amounts of 'being' and 'doing' and sometimes it's 50/50 sometimes it's 10/90. What ever the level for you now - it is ok. We are human beings, not human doings!
A new definition of success
At DrivenWoman we want to define our own kind of success. I believe this is really important so that you can start living the life that is right for you.
I'm so happy that successful, driven women like Arianna Huffington also talk about this. She realized that we have defined success just in terms of two metrics, of money and power. What is missing is the Third Metric. Seven years before writing her book 'Thrive' she had collapsed from exhaustion, burnout and sleep deprivation.
It’s not a question of not working hard but that we make sure we also enjoy life, embrace well-being, search for purpose and meaning and give back to others.
"Well-being, wonder and wisdom are key to creating the Third Metric." Arianna Huffington
Think about it, and write down three sentences how you want to define success in your life.
Gratitude can be such a cliche, you can't read any 'how to be happier' -list without bumping into it, but it is true. It has been scientifically proven that gratitude increases mental health and reduces stress.
When I feel out of balance, have too much on my plate or am just about to start stressing out about something I pull myself right back into the present moment by simply paying attention to small (or big) things around me. My children - how beautiful they are! Or London skyline - what an exciting city I live in! Or the rain on my face - how wonderful to be alive!
I hope these have been useful tips for you. There's really no productivity that happens in the expense of your health and stress can be a real killer. Life worrying and hurrying is hardly worth living. Girls, let's keep building our drive, but also our happiness.
What are your tips to keep stress at bay without losing your drive? Please comment below.