Hi, friends! After spending years as a pretty unhappy attorney, I realized my unhappiness was my fault. I didn’t incorporate or practice any self-care. Instead, I went from a job I didn’t like straight home to lay on the couch, only to wake up the next day and do it all over again. I thought if I just got a different job, or worked at a different firm, everything would magically fall into place and I would find happiness.
I never once thought (or had the time to think) about the importance of all of us in the working world finding happiness outside of our business (whether we run that business or not).
My unhappiness, I thought, was always the fault of some external source: the work, the firm, the industry, my adversaries. Why wasn’t I happy at work? It wasn’t me. How could it be? [insert sarcasm here]
But things never magically fell into place. Happiness never came knocking at my doorstep.
What Can You Do About It?
Looking back, I realize I had zero work life balance, and I needed to practice self-care and develop my inner-happiness outside of work. If you don’t love what you do,or don’t think that you’re doing important work, find what you do love and prioritize it in your life. And I’m not always talking about finding a job/career that you love. Some of us want or need to stay in a job that we’re not head over heels for. But that doesn’t mean we need to throw in the towel and accept mediocrity. We can have amazing, enriched lives outside of those jobs, and find happiness away from work.
Or even if you do love what you do, don’t stop doing the things outside of work which also bring you joy. Work is still work, even if you love it. Plus, who wants to just work all the time, or spend a lot of time where you aren’t at work just thinking about work? Don’t we want to be interesting, dynamic women with multiple layers?
Once I left the law and entered the amazing world of entrepreneurship, my unhappiness didn’t magically disappear. Although I now felt super fulfilled by the new work I was doing, I realized that after years of just working working working without a sense of purpose, I didn’t have much else to rely on. I had been so focused on my professional development that I didn’t have many hobbies, friends outside of work/the law, or any social networks to rely on.
So I realized I had to go out and figure out who I really was. After years of blaming my career for my unhappiness, I took ownership over the fact that I failed to keep growing and developing as a person. I was so focused on developing as “Sam the lawyer” that I didn’t have much to fall back on. Ironically, I had let my unhappy career define me as a person for a long time. Honestly, it was a pretty painful revelation to come to. I really felt like I didn’t know who I was as a person, and I wasn’t quite sure how to find out.
I often joke with my friends that the first year+ of being an entrepreneur and stepping away from a blossoming career as an attorney has been like standing in the middle of a field, naked. Like I was standing there with arms wide open saying, “OK world! Here I am. This is really me. That girl in the itchy black suits, that wasn’t me. I’m not really sure who I am yet, but I’m on my way. Sorry I got off track for a while… but I’ll make it up to you.”
So what can we do as entrepreneurs do to make sure we’re developing our interests outside of our work (even when we love it, like I do!)?
Here are a few ideas…
Create social circles and networks of women in the same or similar fields as you. Yes, you can and should meet to chat about work, collaborate on projects, etc., but over time I think these women will become your friends.
It’s so strange to go from having hundreds of colleagues, to having Spotify as my only work buddy. But it’s made it so much easier now that I’ve built a network of other women-entrepreneurs. Sometimes we work side by side in a coffee shop and sometimes we just meet for dinner. But having other people around you who understand that no, you’re not unemployed and just sitting around in your PJs all day, is super important.
Work Hard, Play Hard
Yes, you’re building a business. And yes, that’s kind of like birthing a little baby. But you still need to get out and play. Carve out time in your schedule each week to set aside for activities and experiences you love: walking, hiking, reading, working out, etc. Make that time, class, or date a non-negotiable. Treat it like you would your highest paying client. I even like to put those dates/activities in my calendar, so I see it each time I look over what I have going on that week. Your business (and clients!) will thank you for it later.
Remember Why You’re Here
I doubt you became an entrepreneur so you could torture yourself and be miserable. You want to be doing positive work, and feeling positive while doing it! If your MacBook is your only friend and you haven’t showered or changed out of your PJs in a while, it’s time to switch it up. Take advantage of why you wanted to become an entrepreneur. Take advantage of the fact that you can work remotely, work odd hours, or work with a friend.
Even if you just get out to work at a coffee shop or library for an afternoon, it can give you that refreshing burst of creativity you need.
So while it’s amazing to build your tribe of women entrepreneurs around you for support, you also need friends and hobbies that have absolutely nothing to do with work. Awhile back, I wanted to join a book club. At first, I thought “oh, I love to read AND it would give me a great chance to network with other women for business!”
NO. Just no. I am so business-minded and in love with my business, that I have to remind myself not to fall back into that cycle of work work work, no play. Go to your book club and enjoy the book club (you can even join one online!) because you love to read and want to chat about great books with other women. Go to your favorite yoga class because you love the instructor and get a lot out of it.
Turning everything into a business/networking/#girlboss moment is a bullet train ticket to entrepreneur burnout land.
I hope these suggestions showed you how important it is for you to prioritize self-care. And hopefully you’re walking away with a few ideas of how you can make this happen in your day-to-day life.