Guest Blog by Hilary Lees of Essence Coaching
‘I’ve just had an epiphany’, one of my fellow mums in business said to me, ‘after doing your whole life exercise I’ve realised that I don’t do anything for me anymore, everything I do is focused on meeting others’ needs. It’s time I changed that’.
I had just delivered a talk about setting goals for personal and business success and how to stay energised and resilient along the way so internally I did a little jump for joy on hearing this.
How often, as working mums, in juggling our daily ‘to do’ lists and aiming to keep everyone happy, do we neglect to consider our own needs in the mix? How often are we so focused on giving to others that we neglect to receive sustenance ourselves? And how long can this state of play continue before we reach the point of overwhelm, or in worst case scenarios, burn out?
Changing our perspective
When we get so busy ‘doing’ we can often lose sight of what’s important in our lives. When I ask clients to take the time to think what their priorities are in life, in order of importance, they will often answer:
- Family and friends
In big picture terms, health comes top, although it’s often taken for granted, as without health our quality of life can be seriously impaired. Yet, in reality when we stop and reflect, so often what we actually find is that what we are doing in practice is the exact opposite of this. In energy terms we spend vast amounts of energy in our work, then looking after family and friends and very little goes into ourselves and looking after our own personal health and wellbeing.
Human Beings NOT Human Doings
Now as a career & confidence coach I am obviously a great advocate of fulfilling our potential and developing satisfying careers alongside looking after our families – but, with my mental health background, I’m also very mindful that all of this DOING needs to be balanced with an awareness of our own needs to be recharged and revitalised.
We are human BEINGS not human DOINGS. How we recharge ourselves, from an energetic point of view, is a very individual thing. There is no one size fits all approach here – the important thing to keep in mind is the awareness of your own need for health and wellbeing and keeping this bigger picture in mind as you focus and plan your activities. This is where the whole life exercise comes in.
The Whole Life Grid
I’ve taken this exercise from Susan Jeffers’ seminal book ‘Feel the fear and do it Anyway’. The best way to illustrate its use is to give a real life client example of its use.
So often clients come to me for assistance when life has lost its balance, some have reached the point of burnout, but all have lost sight of themselves in all their doing and busyness. Common to these clients is a habit of over-identifying with one aspect of their lives, to the detriment of all else.
Take Cathy for example, a mum of two children, Cathy had spent 20 years climbing the corporate ladder and had been used to being headhunted for positions. By her own admission her life had revolved around her career and looked like this:
For twenty years she had happily fitted herself around this. However, when we first met, her world had been turned upside down as she had just been made redundant and instead her life now looked like this: Her life now felt like it reflected this empty box. Contrast this with a ‘whole life’ scenario: – Taking the perspective of this whole life grid losing her career was not such an earth-shattering event as the other aspects of her life could help to sustain her as she looked to change direction. We worked to help her regroup; reconnect to her skills, strengths, values and passions but also, more importantly, to reconnect to her life outside of work.
She spent more time with her family and renewed her bonds with her children and her husband, discovered a passion for cooking and baking, returned to the gym and looked for new ways to develop and grow her skills. As a consequence of this, what had formerly been an ‘empty’ box soon became a full and balanced life so when a new career opportunity came along she applied these lessons and chose to live her life a bit differently, making sure she now met her own needs, as well as looking after others in the mix.
What goes into the 9 boxes is different for different people, for me, I recharge by doing yoga, pilates and meditation, for others it’s running, baking, sewing. The important thing is to find those activities outside of work that replenish and rejuvenate you. Where you can ‘be’ yourself and come to your doing and caring for others refreshed.
Write your own whole life grid and keep it somewhere visible so, alongside checking your daily ‘to do’ list, you make sure you also regularly incorporate some recharging or downtime. The challenge is to make a habit of regularly carving out this time, even it has to be in small chunks at first.