Burning the candle at both ends (and the middle)
Why you can do anything but not everything
My first blog post for the Huffington Post – life is complete!!!
In typical high-achieving, life-loving, endlessly-enthusiastic Type A style, I like to keep myself extraordinarily busy. High school and university included four instruments, five sports, three languages, six exchanges, an honous thesis, volunteering and casual work. I began my professional life as a corporate lawyer squeezing in committees, pro bono, a month of leave volunteering in Rwanda and a secondment to Hong Kong. There’s also been a Himalayan ultra marathon, a Simpson Desert crossing, travel in 35 countries, a food blog, a hectic social calendar and, more recently, a hobby-turned-small-health-food-business co-founded with my partner, Nic, called Matcha Maiden.
Any spare moments are crammed with conferences, seminars and wonderful books like the great Arianna Huffington’s very own Thrive to keep me on a path of continual self-improvement. So you can see the level of crazy at which I like to operate, keeping my plate positively overflowing. The last year has been a particular blur with the rapid growth of the business, which we squeezed in after 15-hour schleps at our day jobs (I even considered adding a third job to the mix when I gained a position as a high court judge’s associate, before realizing it was physically impossible). When it all became so busy that I wasn’t doing either job properly, I hung up the suits and heels to step into the business full time.
While law was a wonderful launching pad, I discovered that my passion lies elsewhere and feel very fortunate to have been able to craft a career change accordingly. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities the law afforded me, but I belong where I can flex my creative muscles, indulge my love for human interaction and work from new places everyday. As Matcha Maiden grew from a side project into a successful business before our eyes, Thrive and the like became my bibles guiding me into a headspace where I felt bold enough to swap the day job for the dream. A year on, I thrive from head to toe every day surrounded by inspiring people, doing amazing work and dreaming up blogs on The Huffington Post.
So now I feel I am “living the dream” on the daily. BUT life can often seem “perfect” on the outside (especially in this social media age) belying rougher patches behind the scenes. Thrive was not only a godsend for me because of the inspiration factor, but also for highlighting that crucial area of life I too easily forget — health and wellbeing. Looking after your body sounds self evident, but even the most successful people (i.e., Arianna Huffington) have crashed and burned at some stage before they revolutionize their relationship with their health and make it a priority. Increasingly, the high-fliers who I meet or hear about not only have their drive and talent in common, but also their reluctance to slow down.
While I’m no Arianna, I think of myself as relatively intelligent and prefer to learn before (rather than from) making mistakes. But frustratingly, my health has been the consistent exception. I danced with the Australian Ballet School as a teen, so have always been well educated on health, nutrition and fitness. I am also an inter country adoptee with little medical information making a healthy lifestyle even more vital. And now that we run a global health food business, we should clearly practice what we preach. And yet, my track record includes three bouts of glandular fever, a spectacular overall crash and burn leading to an almost-hospitalisation and everything else life can throw at you when you’re too run down.
Especially when you love your work, it’s so tempting to push through the fatigue — it comes with the Type A territory. We think slowing down means missing out, but you miss out on more if you burn out altogether. It’s all well and good to eat a super clean diet and exercise like a maniac, but health is more multidimensional — the “glorification of busy” these days has obscured the importance of simple rest and relaxation. I was reassured to hear I share with much more successful people the struggle between living the dream and losing it because you aren’t getting enough sleep to dream at all. As I realized when trying to juggle two full time jobs, I wasn’t being effective at either. So it seems the best life lesson I have ever learnt is that while you can do anything, no one can do everything. Nothing is important enough to warrant you wiping yourself off the grid so you’re unable to do anything, let alone the exciting things you were working so hard for. I’ll finish with a few pointers that have helped me stay on the right track:
- Nothing (with few exceptions) can’t wait 10 minutes.
- Nutrition and fitness are two sides of a triangle that isn’t complete without rest and relaxation — take a holistic approach to your health.
- Mental health is as important as physical health. Over connectedness, lack of sleep and information overload create stress and anxiety!
- Even if you adore your work, give yourself permission to take time off and do things “just for the sake.” Doing nothing is good for you too!
- If you’re feeling run down, listen to your body and put the brakes on early. Better to finish something slowly than not finish at all.
- If you do get sick, take the time to recover properly. Better to take one full day off and get better than spend two weeks battling without kicking it for good!
- Give yourself device-free time, especially in the lead up to bedtime. Switch off all light sources in your room so you can get quality sleep (and enough of it).
- Accept your limitations, we all have them. If you aren’t getting anything done, move on to something else.
- Smile! By reading all the way down to here, you’ve already opened your mind to prioritizing your health so congratulate yourself!
See the article on the Huffington Post blog here.