The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career? is by Lorna Borenstein, founder and CEO of Grokker.
Over the course of my 20-year career as a lawyer and an executive at companies such as Yahoo (yhoo) and eBay (ebay), I was the ultimate career woman: a driven, successful workaholic. I took risks, made sacrifices for success, and they paid off financially, but I never really stopped to think about my own personal happiness. My decision to retire after my tenure as president at Move, Inc. surprised many people. But after two decades of 5:15 A.M. wake up calls and midnight emails, I needed a more simple, and joyful life.
I thought quitting the merry-go-round of high-powered Silicon Valley tech environments would help me embrace joy. During the following three years I traveled all over the world with my family. Then with the help of my loved ones, mindful introspection, and a healthy dose of disconnect, I came to realize that working hard wasn’t preventing me from a joyful and fulfilling life — focusing on success was.
The truth is that amassing success won’t lead to personal fulfillment, so if you don’t shift your focus from success seeking to living joyfully, you’ll end up very successful and very unhappy. The key is to enjoy the journey irrespective of the outcome. However, this is much easier said than done in a society that encourages and rewards outcomes. Here are a few of the most important elements that helped me find a better balance:
Every day, no matter how long or trying, has its small joys — a cup of coffee from a smiling barista, a colleague calling your efforts out in a meeting, a funny meme from your bother — are all tiny beads of joy you can string together. In fact, joy is as essential to a healthy life as exercise and good nutrition; it’s fuel for your soul. This is especially important on days when you are stressed or emotionally low. So place a bright yellow sticky note in your work area that says “What are you grateful for today?” and answer it as often as you can. The daily act of practicing gratitude is crucial to setting your mind on the path to joy.
Find your passion
Completely leaving my career behind wasn’t the solution for me. My working hard wasn’t the issue, my lack of passion and joy were. Instead, I found a way to integrate my passions — yoga, meditation, exercise, and clean eating — into my career. I started Grokker to solve my frustration at the lack of access to quality online yoga classes. I wanted something that I (and others like me) could easily access. I created Grokker to be the one-stop-shop for all things a busy person needs to “be a better you”. I wake up each morning, roll out my yoga mat and get to practice yoga at home; it’s like a gift each day. I’ve never had more fun at work nor felt more personally fulfilled.
Take care of yourself
Part of being an adult in this world is having responsibilities to others, but it’s important to take care of yourself as well. When you’re on an airplane and the flight attendant goes through the safety briefing, she reminds you that you should put on your own oxygen mask before trying to assist anyone else, and this concept translates directly to other areas of life. You simply cannot give your partner, children, team, or clients your best if you are not working to make sure you are at your best.
You need to carve out time to take care of yourself — schedule it like a non-negotiable appointment. I attribute much of my success to learning ways of effectively managing my stress levels by making “me–appointments”. While it’s nice to be able to go to a pilates class or book a massage, taking care of yourself can be as simple as scheduling half an hour during your work day to leave your phone in the office, go for a walk and have lunch in the park. If you start taking small steps here and there, they will build upon themselves over time to help you achieve overall wellness and balance.