Being a business mum has to be the most fulfilling lifestyle in the world! We’re doing what we love to do and looking after the precious people we’ve brought into this world. Or so the story goes…
While images of wiping floors and cleaning baby bums before donning on a business suit and flying out to launch a creative product might seem like the ideal balance that satisfies the “business” and the “mum” in us, we know that for the most part reality plays out differently. We are plagued by guilt when away and by a sense of missing out when at home. Sadly, this emotional tug of war is at the expense of our own sanity and wellbeing.
What we forget is that the common factor between both these aspects of our lives is our own selves. No wonder, when we are together, life flows smoothly. And when we’re not, we allow little things to get to us and crumble under the self-perception of never measuring up.
For us to engage with everything that we hold dear and let our natural curiosity, creativity and compassion to shine through, we have to listen to our lives and learn to lead from within. Luckily, the science of positive psychology provides us with the pathways to do so!
1) Know Your Sources of Meaning
As meaning seeking creatures, we humans are constantly trying to make sense of our lives. In order to do so, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt says that we look for coherence between our emotions, actions and the larger culture to which we belong. And yet, we women are subjected to societal pressures that create a divide between what truly lights us up and what we end up doing. It becomes the source of anxiety, overwhelm and discontent.
If you feel any of these negative emotions, take out time to reflect on your life. Think of what delights and dominates you at the same time, of the moments that have brought you alive and the dreams that pull you ahead. What patterns do you notice? How can you simplify your life and live by what truly matters? In the noise and speed of our times, this is an essential step to gaining clarity and living on purpose.
2) Nurture the Fuel for Achievement
Studies show that achievement is at least as much a result of confidence as it is of competence. And yet, if you’re like most women, you live with a constant companion of self-doubt. Again, we can thank society for that! Its unreasonable ideal of perfection limits us to a life of self-doubt and self-blame, rather than letting us embrace our wholeness, so we can take all that is bright and beautiful in us to light up our faults and failings. Psychologist Kristen Neff says that practicing self-compassion is a great way of building real confidence so that we can be our own best friends when we need it the most.
Doing so will remind us that we cannot be there for every bruise and fall, but we can heal heartaches when we are. We cannot grab every business opportunity that comes our way, but we can show our passion in the ones that we do. It will free ourselves of our self-limiting beliefs, so that we stop playing so small and open up to our creativity and wonder.
3) Feed Your Positive Emotions
As women, we balance multiple roles, which can be physically draining. As business mums, we also are principal decision-makers at home and at work. Research shows that the process for making decisions takes up precious mental energy that is a depleting resource. This means that unless we manage our energy flows throughout the day, we will be subject to emotional ups and downs and find little pleasure in what we do.
Thankfully, there are ample empirically studied ways of replenishing our energy resources. Exercise, a walk in the woods, listening to music, mindfulness breaks, spontaneous play and laughter are all ways of letting go of stresses and feeling revived. Although they may seem like indulges, remember that unless you are energized, you will not be able to bring your full self to life. Think of your favorite ways to relax and incorporate them multiple times into your day!
4) Be Engaged in What You Do
Engagement is about being in “flow”, a term coined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It means being one with the music, when time seems to stop and problems simply melt away. Won’t it be wonderful if we could be in that state of mind all the time! For we know that when we are, we are fuelled by an inner source of energy that truly lights us up.
Studies show that when we use our strengths in what we do, at work or at home, we feel happier and closer to that state of flow, letting each aspect of our lives fuel the other. If you begrudge every moment spent doing puzzles with your toddler, you will feel drained way before you’re quite finished. Instead, if you were to use your strengths of curiosity or compassion, you will find joy in noticing the amazing workings of their little minds, and leave feeling energized and able to work on your power point. It’s the best way of making any job or chore a calling!
5) Harness the Power of Relationships
As the most social animal on the planet, we humans are deeply connected to each other. As women, we are even more so. We gain strength from being around others and find joy in showing empathy and care. And yet, we can often let this relational quality of ours become confined to seeking approval and feeling inadequate.
Instead, we need to harness its power so that we can create a circle of support that calms our fears, helps us understand ourselves and imbues our lives with meaning and purpose. Spend some time thinking of others who help you do so – who pull the weeds and remove the rubble around you so that you can be liberated to truly express yourself!
Leading from within is not simply a shift of strategy. It is a different way of being. One that begins with embracing who you really are, and then opening up to the wonders around you, so that you cherish the gifts that live within you and willingly give them back to the world.
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