Uncovering the secrets to achieve true success when a tireless work ethic isn’t enough.
* This post was originally published on Thrive Global.
Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are completely underrated.
When the barrage of personal and professional to-do tasks receive their final checkmarks,
When the kids are quietly tucked away in bed,
When the night shift of post-sleeping kid to-do’s are complete,
When you lay in bed, and your iPhone resurfaces in your hand, for a “quick look” at emails, social media, and news stories,
When your phone desperately falls out of our hand to punch you right in the face for staying up too long…
that’s our signal to rest.
When it comes to attaining proper sleep habits and performing with an optimal energy level, society seems predisposed to choose indifference to these areas due to a higher priority level placed on professional ambition, managing the house/everyday chores, and/or even our addiction to social media… but I’d rather point the finger of fault at myself entirely.
Sleep was always considered a “luxury” in my eyes, not a necessity — not ever. I always had too much to do, too much to accomplish, and sleep simply felt like a “waste” of time. Just like Arianna Huffington, founder of Thrive Global, The Huffington Post, and author of the highly acclaimed book, THE SLEEP REVOLUTION, so consummately reveals, “So that cycle of burnout and perpetual tiredness came to be my new normal — until my wake-up call.”
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
I have always been a stubborn overachiever. However, it wasn’t until later on in life that I came to the undeniable understanding that although I categorically attained each of my goals, I was failing myself. Please allow me to elaborate with my top three examples:
One summer, I was determined to buy myself a car, so I worked as a waitress for 13-hour day shifts for eight weeks. Days were long, and when I did manage sleep, my shift continued in my dreams as a repetitive extension of the day.
While attending University, I was determined to pay for school/housing alone (no loans or credit cards), graduate in 4 years, and fine-tune my professional prowess. I succeeded by securing 2 professional internships, working 2 jobs (one as a bar tender from 10pm-3am), fulfilling 16 credits per semester, and graduating with Honors.
As a parent with a toddler and newborn, I will never forget how I worked from home for 40-hours per week as a contract editor/writer of an international trade publication. I began my work day after the kids went to bed because that was the only way. Sleep was merely a luxury that I could not afford at the time. For an entire year, I slept 2–3 hours per night, nursing my tiny tot and endlessly clicking the keys of the keyboard to complete my projects. I was determined to succeed in my professional role and as a stay at home mom, at any cost.
My work ethic has always been embedded deep within my character, and when it came to achieving a personal or professional goal, I was relentless. I almost succeeded — if I would have taken better care of well-being. I was healthy — but I was also tired of running on empty.
Too Tireless to Feel Tired
“I can handle it! I’m a machine!”, I would say to counter any concern. This was my motto. No matter what life threw back at me, I responded with double the drive.
Truthfully, the sheer mental and physical exhaustion took such a toll that my body begged for rest in the form of a hypothermia-like sensation, with uncontrollable shivering until I laid down for the night… but it didn’t phase me. I stubbornly listened to my body when I needed to.
Ms. Huffington perfectly captured my sentiment in THE SLEEP REVOLUTION, with her statement:
“Clearly I’m indispensable, so I must work all night, responding to a hundred emails and then writing a long blog post, while being the perfect mother during the day. This way of working and living seemed to serve me well — until it didn’t.”
“Sleep is an option,” was another saying that I replayed for decades. I could handle anything and everything, even if I was cross-eyed and bumping into things by the time 3pm rolled around. “Naps were for the weak!” I was unstoppable — until life woke me up in the form of:
- Blurred vision
- Memory loss
- Lack of focus
- Cold spells
These symptoms aren’t just textbook talk — these were my personal ramifications in the erroneous prioritizing of myself. I don’t think that anyone realized that I really wasn’t a machine who could do it all, nor an invincible Supermom — not even me. I am human, and I needed to learn. It was time to make a plan, even as a Type A do-it-all character.
Just like Ms. Huffington revealed, “We have to be our own Prince Charming — to wake ourselves up by turning our gaze from the projects and distractions of the outside world to the many miracles within ourselves.” (THE SLEEP REVOLUTION)
“Hindsight is 20/20”
The journey that I have experienced throughout countless relocation assignments as an expat, a professional, and most importantly as a mother of 4 young children, has enabled me to learn, grow, and propel forward with a clear vision of who I am, how I choose to live, my core values, and where I am headed.
This testimonial isn’t just that, however, there’s more. I am not the only one who has learned some of the most vital life lessons through trial and error — these are the waves of managing/balancing work and family life. In consulting with working mothers, fathers, and collective families around the world, I have gained unique perspective in that we all experience similar struggles… but the bigger question is, How do we Thrive?
Survive and Thrive
Now that all of the kids are in school and I no longer have a toddler in tow, I can redefine my identity, reassess my past, present, and future, and realign my priorities.
Perhaps the most valuable question is, how? At the same time, this is such a personal question as well as a common conundrum. Here are some practical top questions I asked myself to first identify life goals:
- At the end of your journey in life, when you look back at your personal story, what would you like to see?
- How would you like for people to remember you?
- If all of your material possessions were to disappear — computer and iPhone included — what would remain of value to you?
- What quality of relationships have you built throughout your life? Are you proud?
- If you could choose any career that could make you truly happy, what would it be?
These were the questions that lingered in my mind until I made another staunch resolution — but this time to focus on myself for once and redefine my true meaning of success.
Put-up or Shut-up
I was on a one-track mission to succeed in every facet in my life. The first step was to identify my objectives and tactically check them off, one at a time, while never losing sight of my true priorities. Here was my plan:
- I developed a mind map of my redefined ambition, goals, and focus.
- I included a few bullet points under each objective with basic steps to achieve that goal.
- I tasked myself with only a few simple, manageable targets for the day — along with my personal ambition in relationship-building and self-care.
- I was no longer stressed nor a “machine.” I felt human again and accomplished — once I could love and respect myself again, I was happier, better at loving others, and more capable of attaining my qualitative and quantitative objectives.
This was success — and the quality of work, ability to achieve more than I thought possible, and inner peace was proof that I was moving in the right direction.
Thrive Global’s mission is to “to end the stress and burnout epidemic by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance both well-being and performance.” In order to truly achieve “success,” we need to refocus on our self and the inherent meaning of that word alone.
Moving forward, I have dedicated my professional ambition toward encouraging and engaging global audiences of various ages, cultures, and backgrounds toward a powerful journey of self-empowerment with a large dose of relatability, humor, and sincere emotion through my blogs, website, speaking engagements, and consulting services.
Today, I feel empowered to propel forward by first loving myself and having the respect and clarity to know when it’s time to sleep, rest, and find personal balance… true happiness. By finding our center and true inner peace, we can then propel forward with true success.
“Loving yourself has nothing to do with being selfish, self-centered or self-engrossed. It means that you accept yourself for what you are. Loving yourself means that you accept responsibility for your own development, growth and happiness. When you love yourself, you pave the way for all you want and need to come to you at the right time in the perfect way.” — Iyanla Vanzant