When you say YES to someone else, you say NO to you
I'm a happy human, a woman, an entrepreneur, a CEO, a career consultant, a yogini, a traveller, a friend, a girlfriend, a daughter, a…. I'm sure we both could continue this list forever, right?
We wear so many hats, we have to juggle between too many things that we often forget about the most important thing here: ME / YOU. Yes my friend, reread the first sentence… without ME/YOU, nothing else can happen.
I learned this the hard way at the beginning of 2018 when I went to Penang with my dear friend Viviane. On Saturday morning, as we were discussing life while sharing a chocolate smoothie, she said: "I don't know how you can always be so energetic and smiley". I broke into tears… I couldn't keep it all together any longer. Behind that big smiley, there was a little girl exhausted, afraid, sad, and overwhelmed. It took her by surprise. "From the outside, it all seemed perfect," she said. "You have a successful business and financial freedom, you're pursuing your calling and making other people happy and successful. What's the issue?"
Between the sobs, I share the complexity and loneliness of being a solopreneur, the crazy hours, the million hats I had to wear every day, the constant worry about the future... And the fact that most days I was missing out on the yoga class, as well as some of the catch-ups with my BFFs…
Every time you say yes to someone else, you are saying no to yourself
She then looked at me in the eyes and said: "Every time you say yes to someone else, you are saying no to yourself". And then the penny dropped. I was saying yes to too many commitments at the expense of ME.
Viviane was on fire, she asked me to list down my priorities, and of course, without thinking about it twice, I said that the growth of THMC was my main priority. But as I was saying it, I thought, is it really? Or is this what I'm meant to say because I'm an entrepreneur? Am I allowed to have any other priorities besides my "baby"? And if so, would I be striving for success if work isn't my only priority?
I needed a new chocolate smoothy to sugar coat the feeling of guilt that was coming up. Am I a lousy professional for not being willing to work on weekends and aiming to finish work by 7 pm? Should I be willing to compromise on revenue levels so that I have time to catch up with friends or do yoga?
After a few sips, I realised that even though I love my job very much, the main reason why I created THMC in the first place was to spread Happy Mondays. But how could I help others have this if I wasn't in my Happy Mondays myself?
As on the analogy of the stones, pebbles and sand; I was stuffing my jar first with work, which was letting no space for yoga and friends, which are the two things that make me feel balanced and invigorated.
As I stared at her silently trying to digest what I had just discovered, Viviane who is a planner by profession, did what she does best :) She asked me to take out my phone, open my calendar and block my weekly yoga classes and the bi-weekly friends catch up. “These are your new stones,” she said.
Practice standing up for yourself, every day
When I went back to Singapore, I felt a bit embarrassed to say no to a client meeting because of yoga. Initially, I just said I was busy, but soon I embraced the fact that alongside being an entrepreneur and a career strategist, I'm also a yogini. To my ‘surprise’ I always found the time to meet my existing clients and, because I was feeling great, the business improved too! And funny enough, I discovered that many of my clients are also into yoga!
I learned that I don't need to be working crazy hours to strive for success. That it’s OK to acknowledge that career isn't my only purpose in life. That we are complex human beings, with multiple interests, we always need to juggle.
I also re-learned that we all deserve to have Happy Mondays, including me. But they won't just happen for us. We need to put in some effort, take steps and "risks" to make it happen.
But the most important learning for me was (and this is still ongoing) not to be ashamed or afraid to stand for myself. I am who I am, with the glitter and shadows. I am not the kind of person who always knows what to do next, I'm vulnerable, I'm often lost and scared, sometimes crazy and often too enthusiastic. This is who I am, is not a bad thing, it's a gift :)