Having had enough of feeling stressed at work, I surrendered and discovered another way of working. Every day I learn more about how to work in a way that feeds my soul. I’ve finally discovered work-life balance.
Having recently left the corporate landscape for greener pastures and prior to that having worked in not-for-profit organisations, my own business, and in the health sector, I have a wide-ranging experience of what it is to work in a life-draining way.
Like many women, I thought I should be able to do it all. The desire to be successful at work, as a parent, as a partner and maintain a cheerful energetic disposition was a challenge I was certainly inclined to take on. I didn’t realise that, along the way, I had abandoned valuable attributes like intuition, deep creativity, and a basic desire for connection with others that give us as women an important perspective in the workplace.
Although part of the problem was the job, the business and the health service, seeing that we live in a crazy workaholic culture that glorifies untenable working hours, and unattainable goals, there were many ways I was working that were exhausting and unproductive, though it took a while to see them.
The ‘get things done’ woman
My perfectionism, which revealed itself in behaviours such as not finishing things, not starting things, and hypercriticism, really took its toll. I felt that I had to do everything at 110% and that mistakes were simply not to be tolerated. On the outside I appeared to be very successful in many of my undertakings, yet this was sapping my life force internally.
Trying hard was another way of working that nearly killed me. I thought that if I just tried harder I would make happen what I wanted to happen. I held on tightly to the belief that I could and should be able to control the outcomes of my endeavours. When goals or targets were set, I truly thought they must be reached no matter what and, if I couldn’t reach them, it was my fault entirely. Never mind that I had no control over circumstances, changes in the market, or natural disasters, to name but a few things.
I had no concept of being in the flow, allowing the process to unfold. I just pushed forward thinking that my drive was an asset, I was a capable ‘get things done’ woman.
Self-reliance took its toll as I powered through on adrenalin and pure will attempting to achieve and get ahead of the game. I didn’t like to ask for help, and thought that I should be able to do everything myself or my fear of appearing weak or incapable would rear its ugly head.
When the body runs on adrenalin long term, it finally gives in and collapses in a heap. Adrenal fatigue, burnout, chronic fatigue and a myriad of other stress-related conditions may result. We are seeing a rise in these conditions as women.
Time to surrender
Finally having had enough of feeling stressed and fearful about what was expected of me, I surrendered. I gave up. I knew that I couldn’t work the way I was any more and was prepared to lose my job if that’s what it came to.
I stopped working so many hours, learning over time that many things were not urgent as I thought they were. In fact, often problems resolved themselves if they were left alone for a little while instead of everything being crisis managed. Along with working fewer hours I took breaks and rests and generally stopped to smell the roses more.
I started taking more time with clients and having real relationships with them. I was interested and relaxed. They noticed this and really enjoyed the change. I was no longer rushing around and it felt like time expanded the more I did this. Starting my day with the question “How can I be of service?” took the focus off what I needed to get done and put the emphasis onto how I could be of help to others.
Work became enjoyable
Looking at the goals and outcomes that were expected became a thing of the past, and I put my energy into doing the job to the best of my ability. This meant that I became more collaborative and less competitive, more cooperative and less driven. I stopped spending so much time trying to work out ways to make things happen and I relaxed and trusted in the process. My work life became actually enjoyable.
Even though I didn’t talk about this in my corporate job, I relied on my intuition to guide me, which was fun and also very productive. My creativity increased with my energy levels. Options and solutions seemed to be more readily available to me. That connectedness that I felt as a woman was developing into a real strength. I was increasingly working in the flow, one with the universe, the All that is, and it felt so much easier.
In her book Daily Reminders for Living a New Paradigm, Sept 7, Anne Wilson Schaef writes, “Do we have the courage to participate fully when we don’t know where we are going or what it looks like?”
This is the challenge of our time: to let go of our self-seeking, rigid goals and be in life, contributing and learning and being.
The irony was that, far from losing my job, I actually had greater success in terms of productivity and achievement than ever before. I was thrilled with this unexpected result. I felt as though I was living in a different dimension. One where work could be easy and fun, challenging and meaningful. I finally discovered the elusive work-life balance. Learning to work in this way is changing my life and I continue to discover more every day about how to work in a way that feeds my soul.
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