Ambition = Wellness?
Joan is an ambitious business owner with a competitive edge. Over the years her creativity and passion have landed her lucrative partnerships. But the cost of this high stakes, fast-paced business is beginning to wear her down. Joan is convinced that if she takes time off her business will fall apart, her employees will lose jobs and benefits, and she will not have enough retirement savings. Joan intuits that her imagination has taken a hit from the stress, but she has no clue how to shift back into her former self-assured self.
How has she gotten so far off track, she wonders.
Her ambition – once a prized attribute – has shifted into a source of frequent stress. Unable to shut down her over-active brain, she looks for ways to slow down and soften her thoughts.
A Health Scare
Following a health scare during the holidays, (along with unforeseen medical bills), Joan selects a professional support team to help her move in the right direction. Among the team is a Wellness Coach who helps clients to create sustainable strategies to maximize their health and well-being.
Joan describes her current business values thus:
- Growth results when a business exceeds its current financial goals.
- Productivity entails long hours, strict timelines and major commitment to big projects.
- Communication includes emails, texts and endless sticky notes.
- Learning and remaining current require online courses and hours of mandatory training.
Although Joan has a strong list of values, it’s time to take her definitions and apply to them the fresh context of her newly conscious Physical/Emotional/Mental/Spiritual well-being. Considering that Joan is naturally hard-driving, Coach introduces the concept of pushing edges as a starting point.
More than just an economic metric, growth allows us to look ahead at possibility and infuse it with practicality. Joan chooses spirituality as a target partner for her growth. For many years Joan has missed sunsets, leisure travel and concerts in the park. She overhears employees talk about their fun weekends while she recovers from another intense work week.
To reclaim her spiritual side, Joan wants to push her edges around how she spends time alone and also with others:
- Enjoy 10 minutes of outdoor connection (walking, sitting at the park, getting fresh air).
- Daily reading/viewing of inspirational teachings (upon awakening and before sleeping.)
- Be more in the present and less on auto-pilot when I’m with co-workers, family and friends (checking in with love, attending events, being patient).
- De-clutter office and design an upbeat setting (live plants, artwork, stress reduction tools, such as hand squeeze balls).
Joan has consumed nearly every published book on productivity. The lessons stick for a while, then dissipate into the ether. Coach shares that productivity trains the brain to get things done in a task-oriented way and without emotion. For homework Joan takes on the challenge of emotional productivity.
- Tune into emotions at work through self-check. What thoughts am I thinking? What did I eat/not eat? What is the work-place vibe today and how do I contribute?
- Look for signs of weak emotional boundaries such as emotional overwhelm, social anxiety and constant approval-seeking.
- Breathe one more time in moments when I don’t think a conscious breath is even necessary.
- Make my go-to response a sincere question rather than automatically heading toward a negative conclusion.
“Do your best to practice compassionate listening. Do not listen for the purpose of judging, criticizing or analyzing. Listen only to help the other person express himself and find some relief from suffering.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
If Joan could streamline workplace communication she would jump for joy. Coach encourages her to begin with compassionate listening. This is a new mental edge for Joan who is accustomed to dictating orders and immediately heading to the next project.
- Pay attention to others by being in the moment, grateful for their presence, and asking open-ended questions.
- Understand listening is more important than solving someone’s problems.
- Exercise non-judgment over making assumptions.
- Encourage a safe and open environment where people feel heard and understood.
Joan is forced to acknowledge she has ignored conversations her body increasingly needs to have. She taps into holistic approaches including energy work, yoga, happy travel and massage to discover how to expand her edges.
Joan vows to herself to:
- Determine when I consume or generate energy. I am gradually learning to recognize emotional triggers and mental habits which limit my understanding and keep me stuck.
- Practice yoga to find my edge – explore limits and resistance, stepping out of the comfort zone, and boosting awareness of mind and body. A yoga practice promotes positive healthy change and growth in the whole self.
- Go away twice a year for play and rest. For my travel adventure I’m going to an all-inclusive resort to get pampered from head to toe, attend wellness classes and try new activities like meditation.
- Schedule massage to relax my mind and stretch my body. For too long I’ve taken for granted what my body does for me. I can’t expect automatic compliance if I don’t treat it with tenderness and grace.
Joan’s newly-adjusted value system is paying off for both herself and her business. The updated office space and mind-body exercises promote a less chaotic mind. She experiences happier moments with employees and loved ones while still cherishing time alone.
Her fun trips have had a definite impact on her health recovery. Although Joan places great importance on her work identity, she now recognizes when to take constructive breaks to minimize stress and resentment. Joan’s reemerging creative side is now helping to fuel her business cylinders, and to her joyful surprise more clients are lining up to work with her.