You want to build a career that supports your life. And build a life that supports your career. And hope that both ultimately support your happiness.
That’s what I’m after, anyway. I think that’s what most of us want.
Building something takes a while. So I like to think of careers as buildings that are under construction. Maybe you’re at the blueprint stage, or maybe you’re sweating it out laying brick, or maybe you’re already strong and steady and working on the finishes. Or maybe you’re doing a reno, or maybe you want to knock that sucker down so you can build something better.
If your career is under construction, think of the daily habits and practices in your life as the scaffolding around it — the steady, supportive platform that allows you to build what you want to build (or tear down what you want to tear down).
So let’s talk about self-care. Because it’s the scaffolding around all areas of your life, including your career. Here are 4 questions to keep self-care front of mind so you can build what you want to build without going insane:
What do you give a shit about?
I’m all about freedom. It’s the driving mission behind my work. I want people to realize how free they are. I spent a lot of my life being totally unaware of how much freedom I have and when I woke up all I wanted to do was help other people wake up too.
If you can get a sense of what you give a shit about on a deep and meaningful level it will help you decide what things you should say yes to and what things you should say no to. For example, I’m constantly asking myself, Does this make me feel free? Will it help others to feel free? If you can get clear on the driving force that motivates you (maybe you have more than one), where you should spend your time and energy will become obvious. Everything will be either a hell yes or a hell no.
What is your relationship with striving?
I have a love/hate relationship with ambition. I think many of us are striving too much. (Um, or maybe I’m just projecting?) Regardless, I think we’d be happier if we did a little less, and focused on fewer things in a more aligned and focused way.
I started doing this in a serious, intentional way about six months ago and my life is better for it. I’m doing fewer things, with fiercer focus, and creating and protecting lots of time for rest and play. I haven’t lost my edge (this is the secret fear, right?), I’m still productive, and more importantly, my life feels good. So the question is, are there things you’re striving for that you can let go of so you can focus more fiercely on the things you care about most?
Where are you on your list?
There’s an analogy that drives me nuts — the one about putting on your oxygen mask first so you can help other people better. This analogy is sold almost exclusively to women. On the one hand it’s a nice sentiment, on the other hand it still frames women taking care of themselves as a means to the (apparently more important) end of helping others. I hate that. Put yourself first. Full stop. Not so you can better serve others. This goes for women and men. (But ladies, seriously, your self-care needn’t be in the service of others.)
What are you not so great at yet but working on?
Beating yourself up because you’re not levitating through your life like a radically enlightened spiritual badass? Raking yourself over the coals because you haven’t set healthy boundaries with your work yet? Yeah. Don’t do that. It’s going to make your attempts to embrace self-care feel crappy (which is kind of the opposite of what we’re going for).
Give yourself credit for identifying an area you can work on and for trying. Even if you suck at it at first. Which you probably will. Especially if self-care is something you’ve struggled with for a long time. You know why? You’re human. And these things take time.
Ask yourself these questions (and give honest answers, and then do something about it) and you’ll find yourself upping your self-care game in no time. Which undoubtedly means upping your career game too. And your happiness.
Published at Entrepreneur