True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.
– Brianna Wiest
Wiest’s article seemingly went viral amongst my network of amazing women last year. Reading the comments and the subsequent offline conversations, I realised I had to go beyond engaging in conversation. Many of us were stuck in vicious cycles of self-destruction. The resounding lesson: you cannot commit to creating an impact for others or building a sustainable business, if you haven’t put on your own oxygen mask first.The most courageous act was to commit to self-preservation.
When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?
– Omid Safi
To me, self-preservation was a commitment to creating a lifestyle where I could better sustain energy over time. It was no longer enough to be doing a stocktake of my bath bomb stash, unless I was proactive to change the situation. I started saying yes to the things I would normally have said no to. Like staying out past the last train on Saturday nights and being social on weeknights. It doesn’t sound all that radical, however these were the things I sacrificed in the pursuit of what I thought I wanted in life.
I want to stop surviving and start thriving. I am still figuring out how this self-preservation mindset works, it is one big experiment. However, here are seven of biggest mindset shifts I have experienced with the support of my tribe.
What are you willing to sacrifice?
If you haven’t read ‘The subtle art of not giving a F***?’ you should start. I stopped thinking about what I was willing to do and instead focused on what I was willing to sacrifice to achieve my goals. In whatever you do in life, you will constantly have make tough decisions that push your comfort zone. In those moments, knowingly or not, you will make a decision based on what you are willing to sacrifice. Become aware of it, talk to it and you are truly in the driver’s seat.
Energy goes where attention flows.
I remember how composed Jan Owen, CEO of the Foundation of Young Australians was when she said this to me. Whether it was juggling full time study with volunteer work and casual employment, or part time work with my side hustle, I have always been spreading my energy across multiple commitments. Sometimes spreading ourselves too thin means we set unrealistic expectations on ourselves – at least that is what I did. Make time to reassess your values. Are you living in harmony with them? Choose where you spread your energy based on your values and making decisions (like when to say no) becomes a lot easier. Maybe you won’t be clear on them straight away, it could take a few months and your values will change over time. When you define them, let them be your inner compass.
Are you being lazy or are you actually exhausted?
When it comes to needing a change in our professional lives, learning how to differentiate between shifts in your energy is crucial. When complete exhaustion can be simplified to laziness by those external to us, there are important conversations that need to be had. I have been on both sides of this conversation, it can be uncomfortable. However it is important to own how we are feeling and be honest with the teams we work with.
Learn when to let go.
How did I know when to let go of certain things in my life? The answer is it’s own blog post just as much as it is this post. Simply put, I learned to recognise my survival behaviours and identify when I was expelling more emotional energy than was productive. Two colleagues in particular have helped me navigate mindsets in this terrain.
Sandie of the Agile Village (details below) reminded me that any time I have walked away from something it has been because my well being was on a knife’s edge. What if I actually learned to not only recognise these beahvioural patterns earlier, but make decisions to avoid getting back to this point? Sandie helped me to realise that we often know the decision we need to make. We each just have different processes to get to the point where we are comfortable finally letting go.
Dean of Primitive (details also below) helped me to understand that I am the venture capitalist of my own life . My time is money and how I choose to use my time is an investment. Which is why the go/no go thresholds and goals we set are crucial. If I reached a milestone and the designated activity or outcome hadn’t been met, I knew I had to evaluate why and seriously consider pulling the pin on that activity or project.
Think about your life as a blend, not a balance.
I love a well heated choc-mud cake with ice cream as much as the next person. It was always there for me during stressful times. What I just did was call out a crutch – something I leaned on time and again when I started to wobble, rather than changing the situation.
Nikki Fogden-Moore had me re-evaluating my mindset instantly when she reframed balance as instead a need for blend. For me, I needed to stop thinking that everything would even out at the end of the week, month or year. Life is not about balance at all if we are going to thrive. The biggest learning wasn’t just around fueling my body and taking walking meetings for incidental exercise. It was deciding at the start of the week where to allocate my social time and who I would spend it with. This meant that my deadlines weren’t just shaped by client demand. Deadlines were shaped by my desire to see and connect with the people who I choose to have in my life.
Frame everything you do as an experiment.
No really, try it. If we change our mindsets towards employment and various personal situations in our lives to view them as experiments, we can remove the ego and anxiety. Ego and expectations can suffocate us from pursuing what we really want. Often we stop ourselves from making tough decisions because we are concerned about external expectations. Ego probably features more than we would like it to. Once we acknowledge that we all have ego and how it is feeding in to our decision making, we can call it out and make truly fulfilling decisions.
It isn’t failure, it is feedback.
This may sound like an euphemism to some, so let me explain. When you do a maths paper it doesn’t matter if you score less than 50%, higher than 80% or somewhere in between; you get feedback on what areas you need to improve in order to do better next time. There is no failure, only feedback to help you improve with the next thing you move on to; feedback to take in to your next experiment.
Why do we choose to merely survive when we could design a lifestyle that enables us to thrive in the tough times and when things are going well? It is never too late to stop surviving and start thriving.
Ultimately, the decision to move from a survive to thrive mindset came from a fierce network of empowered women and a few good men. They in turn empowered me to take back control of my decisions, own my choices and not just lean in, but take and shape the life I want to lead. I ooze gratitude for everyone along the way.
Need support changing your mindset?
- Dean Williamson, Primitive. Find out how he can help you or your team here.
- Sandie O’Neil, The Agile Village. Find out how she can support your team or individual needs here.
- Nikki Fogden-Moore, Fitpreneur, Read the Review on Huffington Post here.
- Find a mentor.