Are you a calm leader? Or stressed out all the time?

Many people who are considered to be “successful” by business standards are often over booked, running on adrenalin, and dissatisfied with how much they are working.  For those people with kids, they are often conflicted by the amount of time they spend at work and the psychological and time spill over after a hard day.  They find themselves checking their blackberry at their kid’s soccer game, or at a social event, even though they don’t particularly want to.  It is just the only way to get everything done, so they can continue their level of “success.” Corporate life is so hectic that it is easy to forget that it is possible to be successful and relaxed.  There is no need to be fuelled by adrenalin and to always be racing.  What would you have to say “no” to if you vowed to live in a relaxed manner AND be successful in your career?

First, you would need to stop overbooking yourself.  Although this sounds obvious, it is the building block for everything else.  You need to recognize your personal limits.  There is only so much you can do.  Every time you take on too much, you are putting yourself into overdrive.  This has physical, mental, and emotional implications.  The end result is often disease in the body - something that we all want to avoid - but which takes its toll from cumulative stress.

Second, you need to be mindful of environments that give you “strokes” for taking on too much.  If you are the “hero” for doing a lot, it will be much harder for you to slow down.  This is because there is a larger system that is reinforcing behaviour which is actually not good for you.  When you try to break free from it, you will come up against internal and external resistance.  On the external side, you may lose some recognition, and on the internal side, you will doubt whether you can really be successful and relaxed.  This tension is uncomfortable and usually means that you have to change your work environment if you are really committed to making this change in your life.

Third, you will have to say no to certain opportunities.  We are living in a time where opportunity and information is abundant.  If you want to be relaxed and successful, you have to be very strategic and contemplative about what you say “yes” to.  You cannot do everything, you will miss out on something, and that is okay.  There will be days when you fear that you are losing your edge, or that saying “no” to this one particular event will be the end of your career as you know it, but eventually you will find that your thinking is much clearer and that there is an equally big and meaningful opportunity by living your life in a relaxed way.

Fourth, you need to say “no” to the part of you that is always pushing yourself beyond what is reasonable.  This is usually the hardest part.  This part of you has been rewarded by corporate life and led to many of your achievements so far.  The business world loves this part of you: you get things done, you make money, and you get accolades.  When you try to live a different away and uphold different values, this part of you will RESIST.  It will keep trying to tell you that being relaxed and successful cannot be done.  The self-talk is usually something like: “If you make this change, you will lose your edge.  You will be broke.  People will reject you.”  In reality, you will be different.  Healthier.  Not as overbooked.  Life will be manageable.  You will be more present, more discerning.

Fifth, you will need to spend some time getting to know your work preferences and say “no” to opportunities that don’t fit with them.  For example, if you are introverted and don’t like to be around people all the time, find work that doesn’t require you to be “on” and surrounded by people day in and day out.  If you love to lead a more scheduled life, say “no” to jobs which put your schedule at the whim of others.  This is not to say that you can’t get out of your comfort zone once in awhile, but on the whole your work day needs to feel comfortable to you.  If you are constantly adapting to a job or environment that makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed, there will be physical and emotional implications.  Take a stand for what you like and honour it.

Sixth, you need to say “no” to always wanting more.  Just liking eating “more” chocolate cake or having “more” wine is not good for you - the same is true for work.  Having “more” money, work, clients etc, is not always good.  It is equally successful (if not more so) to have “enough.”  You need to trust that you will have enough and that striving for “more, more, more” is a trick.  Instead of saying, “How much can I fit in today?” Ask yourself: “What is comfortable, doable, and manageable given my values and needs?” These two questions lead to very different life and career choices.  The part of you that always takes on too much does not know how to answer the second question, but your authentic and best self has a lot to say on the subject.