Unfulfilling Success: Looks Good on the Outside, But What About Your Heartache?

Maybe you’ve checked most of the boxes for what you were told Success looks like, but inside is another story. It might be hard to talk about it because you think no one will get it.

I have a window into this experience on a regular basis. When people contact me for coaching, unfulfilling “success” is often the case. Big heartache, often in secret.

unfulfilling success

It’s so common. Worse, a lot of people think that’s just how it is, or how it has to be: that work and fulfillment don’t go together unless you make too little money to sustain it.

I disagree. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I also have the good fortune to know a lot of people who have found another way. I include myself in that. I know it’s possible in my bones to have sustainability and meaningful work.

In my own work experience, the most miserable job of all was the one that looked the most “successful” on the outside! I have never realized that correlation until now. Interesting.

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My Facebook Sabbatical: Nourishing My Mind, Body, and Soul.

Last month, I decided to take a Facebook “sabbatical” for a month or so. (Actually a full social media break.) It’s an experiment to see how it would effect my focus, my energy, and my work in the world, similar to why one would go on a retreat — to rest and reboot. I’m still involved in the real world, available, and working, despite how it might appear to the Facebook world.

For some context, I was an active Facebook user for personal, professional, and cause-related connections, so it felt like a big decision to step away from it.

It’s now been over two weeks on the social media sabbatical, and wow, what a refreshing difference in my brain and my body, even starting from the first day. It feels great.

In this post, I’ll let you know:

  1. What was hard about the decision.
  2. The toll it was taking on me and how I came to taking a break.
  3. How I set things up to step away for a while.
  4. The benefits I’m already experiencing in my body, mind, and soul.
  5. The main thing I miss.
  6. Now what?

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Is It Self-employment Induced ADD?

The most unexpected thing about becoming self-employed was how much trouble I had focusing once I was working alone. I wasn’t great at focus before, I admit, but it became a huge challenge without the structure and community of a workplace to go to.

I started thinking I was going crazy or that I’d suddenly gotten “self-employment induced ADD.” I would do housework when I needed to be working, to avoid facing that scattered mind, only to find that the head-spin would get worse and worse. Sound familiar? (C’mon, raise your hand. It’s so common.)

In our push-push culture, we think the cure for focus problems is to push ourselves harder, get more disciplined, learn better time management, etc. Right? But I believe a more effective cure is to get some co-workers… in a way that works for us. We need camaraderie to keep our minds sharp.

I know, introverts like me who love the peace and quiet of working alone will resist this idea, at first. Hear me out.

[Image: Humans are pack animals too.]

We are pack animals, just like wolves. The lone wolf success story is a myth. (Click image for source and Creative Commons license.)

It’s a big shift to go from working in a company with co-workers all around you, to working on your own. Even when you’re thrilled by the freedom, the shift away from the workplace community is stressful for anyone. I see it all the time with my clients after leaving a job, and I can honestly tell them and you: You are not alone in that stress.

I’ll explain how I have found my balance between people time and alone time, which has mostly cured my self-employment induced ADD. (I mean, I still need some other focusing tricks but the people connection has been the core solution for me.) Continue reading

Oh Those Beautiful Interruptions. Say Yes.

I’ve heard so many people being hard on themselves for not getting further along with their goals by a certain made-up date. Actually, it’s been mostly women who express this worry.

So much to do and not enough progress! Sound familiar?

Yes, I’m one of those people with the “never fast enough” syndrome. There’s all those to-do items staring at me. There sits one more blog draft or workshop draft that hangs in limbo for months and months. My ego thinks I must finish everything in order to be a good person.

So, let’s rethink this.  Continue reading

The Productivity We Crave Starts with Taking Breaks

Often the topic for a new piece of writing like this is something that I’m working on in my own life. Let’s see if this rings a bell for you too.

Lately my personal stretch zone is about the need to take better care of my focus energy for projects that require individual concentration. I’m good at focusing in meetings, but when it comes to individual time on my own projects, I can get so scattered and it feels like those projects never get done. Plus, those days are not fun! Something is off.

This treehouse gives me a soothing reminder of the joy of taking a break.

This treehouse gives me a soothing reminder of the joy of taking a break.

So I’ve been renewing my interest in making conscious choices about my focused creative time. There are a zillion tips out there for being more productive, but for now, let’s just focus in on what’s probably a cornerstone of it all: the importance of rest and taking breaks.

I just heard one study that said the most productive employees in a company took the most breaks. Take that in! (I heard about this study from a new book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management.)

I know that our brains can only take so much and we are pushing it past its limits in this screen-focused culture. Umm, taking a “break” to go check email or Facebook is not a refreshing break.

I’m talking about real breaks for our brains — like breathing, stepping outdoors, or sitting with a cup of tea. Simple things! But we sure do resist.

I gotta admit, I’m resisting break time right this minute! I know I need a break because I keep getting the itch to go check email. OK Val, go eat lunch and come back to finish. Continue reading