“I don’t want to do a lot of work right now” is a statement I thought I’d never say, especially not when I left Corporate America to start my coaching business. This is the early stage of my new career. I should put my foot to the pedal to build it up. But as the world came to a halt due to the pandemic, causing us all to slow down in ways we never would have dreamed of, I realized something.
I like what I’m feeling during this period of uncertainty.
I’m enjoying the “big pause” because I feel better emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I’m rested in a way I probably haven’t been in the last twenty-five years, and it’s something I want to keep feeling through the summer.
In a world that prioritizes productivity, is this something you’d ever admit to? I would have never either until now.
A Forced Reset
I’ve led an exciting and demanding career as an executive. There was always more to learn, more to achieve, and new challenges to tackle. The work never stopped. When I shifted to start my coaching business, I learned that the work still doesn’t stop. Between getting new certifications, learning the ins and outs of running a company, and finding the best ways to serve my clients, I often pushed rest down on the priority list. Notably, all of this pressure doesn’t include other high-priority things, like being a present parent or taking care of my health.
In the world we live in (or at least lived), taking a break isn’t realistically sustainable. It’s a luxury we could never truly have.
Even with self-care being talked about more, there’s a certain work ethic that’s ingrained in many of us. It’s a battle between telling us we need to be reaching for more and yet, we should be doing less. As creatures of habit, we typically take the path of less resistance, which often means leaning into the productivity mindset rather than listening to the quiet voice inside of us begging for a breather.
Like me, you may have tried taking breaks. Perhaps you took a vacation and left your laptop at home. Maybe you made a rule that you wouldn’t answer emails after a certain time of night. You could have set a standard for one work-free day during the weekend. These “wellness hacks” gave us the illusion that we’re taking care of ourselves, but an illusion was all it ever was.
Although it’s a good start, the truth is those brief spurts of self-care are not enough to rest fully. Your brain doesn’t get a long enough break to stop the cycle of to-do’s floating through your head so you could really listen to your deep desires and wants.
At the time of writing this, most of us have been ordered to stay-at-home for more than two months. We’ve seen a lot of terrible effects caused by COVID-19. The changes in our everyday lives and schedule were jarring, we may have lost job security or someone we loved, and we face a lot of uncertainty.
But the lockdown gave us something else: the solitude to hear ourselves think for once.
No longer rushing around to the office after hustling your kids off to school, or attending a networking meeting into the late evening hours, or scheduling time with friends in between your dog’s grooming appointment and your workout class, your mind is free to reset and recharge.
You can finally tune into that voice inside that reminds you you’ve felt off-kilter or uninspired or demotivated recently. And, if you listen really closely, it might even tell you why.
Why Doing Less Doesn’t Mean You’re Missing Out
How often have you been told to use this time to do more? Finally expand your education, network with others, tackle those home projects you’ve put off, learn how to cook healthily so you can lose those last few pounds. Even in a period of slowdown, the culture of “doing more” is still alive and well. We’re subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) shamed into feeling bad if we don’t use this time to check off those items on our to-do list. We’re made to feel lazy or like we’ll fall behind our peers if we don’t.
When I finally vocalized that I wanted to take the summer to fully rest up, there was a shift inside me. I realized how depleted I was from years of being an executive while raising two kids. Although I’m still taking clients and building my business, I decided I wouldn’t panic because of this unexpected “sabbatical.” I wouldn’t go into overdrive trying to fight for the attention of prospective clients. I would just let my business grow naturally.
I finally understood the term “the joy of missing out.” By doing less, I gained so much more.
I had a start of my spiritual awakening on the career front when I became a coach, but this phase is making me focus on the human-side of things. I suddenly feel like I have a whole second half of my life to live and that I can do it on my terms and in the way I want to. It’s such a freeing thought.
It’s something I never would have discovered if I had continued to work at the pace I had been my entire career.
Lasting Change Comes from Within
Once I admitted that I’m enjoying this restful detoxification period, my perspective changed. I knew it was something I wanted to protect at all costs so I didn’t backslide into the demanding productivity mode. If this is something you want to embrace too, it’s worth mentioning that sustaining it will be hard, but it’s worth it.
I won’t pretend I’m a completely changed woman, and there will be plenty of things that will challenge this personal awakening. I’m grateful for this extended period of time because it allowed me to work at building this skill. I’m sure it will be put to the test when the world is restored to its natural hectic pace and the pressure to be more and do more start closing in on me.
However, I made sure I considered why I’m doing this, why this matters to me, and I’ve identified what I’ve attained from challenging my old ways and allowing myself to grow in new ones. Remembering this will be the driving force to ensure I don’t fall into old habits.
Through this process, I’ve gained so much. I’m more connected and present. My intuition is more in tune and my understanding of others has deepened, allowing me to be a better coach for my clients. I’m more spiritually grounded and emotionally in touch. I’m more physically fit. I’m a better mom, wife, and friend.
I’d never want to lose these things. I’m enjoying it at a visceral level. I’ll keep these things at the forefront of my mind when life challenges me to go against what feels right to me.
Give Yourself Permission to Embrace What You Want
When you take away the pressure, guilt, and expectations of what you “should be” doing, what are you left with? Now that you’ve had a moment to detox from the busyness and noisiness of life, I challenge you to an exercise of self-reflection.
Grab a notebook and start writing from the heart. Don’t let logic or the “shoulds” influence your answers. Come from a judgment-free place and allow yourself to find the courage to truly consider what you want.
Here’s what to do:
Think about what you really want versus what you should be doing.
See how big the “shoulds” column is compared to the “wants” column.
Note if it was easier to write one column versus the other.
After you’ve written this down, say it to yourself, especially your wants. Let go of the idea that you’re being selfish or worrying about what others think. Which of these felt honest and right when you said it? Which had the most natural conviction?
When you land on the one(s) that feel right, share it with others. Engage in it. This makes it feel real and gives you the courage to consider the possibilities for the taking.
Write down your “why” for embracing these things. Put it somewhere you won’t forget when old habits try to challenge your new way of life.
Keep writing until you land on something that suddenly makes you feel at peace. Something that just clicks. Once you find that feeling, you’ll know you’re on the right path.
In my quest to help others find their calling in work and uncover more purpose and fulfillment in their lives, I’m excited for this change. It’s offered me insight and balance to help those in a more meaningful way and I couldn’t be happier.
Do you want to find joy in your life and career? Pivotal Moments can help! Contact me here for information on coaching packages.