If you have not yet read Min Unplugged – Part 1 , Unplugged – Part 2, and Unplugged – Part 3, then it is recommended that you read them before reading this, so that you understand what is behind the lessons learnt that are shared within Part 4!
I am very happy that Parts 1 – 3 are now done and I can move on to Part 4. Parts 1 – 3 covered a part of my past that I have put behind me now. To revisit that time was very draining but necessary in order to tell my story. Part 4 is more upbeat. It is me coming out the other side of a bad experience.
In Part 4 we look at ‘what lessons I learnt from the experience’. I was also going to cover ‘what I have discovered about myself’ and ‘how I am now’ in Part 4 but the lessons learned ended up longer than originally thought so I will extend the series to include a Part 5.
NOTE: PART 4 IS QUITE LONG. PLEASE DON’T JUST SKIM THROUGH IT. READ IT ALL. I’M SURE THERE IS SOMETHING IN THIS POST FOR EVERYONE!
It makes me chuckle that I am sharing ‘lessons learnt’ because when working in project management that was part of my job – creating lessons logs and registers. Good project management practice requires the project manager to be aware of and record lessons learned during and after a project. These lessons can then be applied to future projects in order to avoid mistakes – eg impacts on timelines or budget. I was in fact in the middle of putting together a Portfolio Lessons Log – which captured lessons learned across all projects in the portfolio which all project managers would be able to access prior to the commencement of a new project. Hopefully, someone else finished what I started.
I guess you could say that LIFE is one big portfolio made up of many life projects (various stages/phases/life situations).
These are the lessons I learnt from a recent ‘workplace’ project that I will apply to all the life projects in my future.
LESSON 1: Never put your heart, soul and energy in the hands of a person or people that do not appreciate you or have your wellbeing as a priority
I will never again put my heart, soul and energy in the hands of a person or people that do not appreciate me nor have my wellbeing as a priority.
I am an all or nothing kinda girl. In the workplace I give EVERYTHING of myself. I have always been this way. I am a perfectionist and as a result any work that I do is thorough: properly researched and accurate, beautifully presented, always timely and usually more than asked for. I put my heart, soul and all my energy into my work. I do this to not only please myself, but to please others. I like to do things well. I like the satisfaction of a job done well, and I like to see the delight in others from a job I have done well.
My experience has shown me that this quality in me can be taken advantage of and can ultimately be to my own detriment. I will not allow this to happen to me again. My heart, soul and energy will only ever be in my own hands, for my own benefit, and for me only to decide who else may also benefit.
LESSON 2: A love for learning is for you to benefit from and it is your choice only as to who else will benefit from your learning process and what you learn
My love for learning is for me to benefit from and it is my choice only as to who else will benefit from my learning process and what I learn.
I love to learn. In the workplace, this love for learning has meant that I was always the first to put my hand up to take on extra work, to relieve in higher positions, to attend courses for training. This has often meant that I am worked harder than is outlined in my position description and that more often than not, I have worked at a higher level than I am being paid for.
Again, this quality in me has meant I have been taken advantage of. I have been used and abused as a result of this quality. Never again.
LESSON 3: Climbing the corporate ladder and earning big dollars are not measures or representations of success
I was driven to climb the ladder to a higher level / higher pay. I thought it would make me feel more successful. When the kids were little I was mostly a stay at home mum – apart from some casual work from home here and there. When I returned to permanent work, I had to re-enter the workforce at the lowest rung. For a long time I had to be happy at those lower levels, as the kids were small and I didn’t have the time or energy to commit to a higher level job. I found it hard though, because I knew I was capable of so much more. In fact, others knew it too and the ‘being taken advantage of’ (as outlined in lessons 1 & 2) was already taking place.
Once the kids were older, I began working my way up the corporate ladder. I had convinced myself that this is what I wanted and that it would make me feel more successful and let’s face it – the extra money would come in very handy! I was wrong. Yes – the extra money DID help pay those school fees. No, it did not make me feel more successful. Though of course there was some job satisfaction and more opportunity for learning, it made me feel more stretched, torn and exhausted. If I gave 100% of myself at work … what do you think was left for home and my family? Was the workplace worth 100% of me? Did my family deserve to get less than 100% of me? Did I deserve to be torn in so many directions that amongst everything else I forgot about myself?
This whole experience has provided me with a beautiful window of time for reflection. It has shown me that I was not happy. Being unhappy is not being successful. Even if I was happy – the true definition of success is not measured or represented by climbing the corporate ladder and earning big dollars.
LESSON 4: Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it
I have learnt that the key to happiness is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it. These are words quoted by the very inspirational ‘Maya Angelou’. To achieve this – THIS is the true measure and representation of success. The most important thing in life is to be connected to who you are. Understand yourself. What makes you happy? What gives you joy? Is there something that you are passionate about? What do you need to gain and maintain inner peace? How can you put all these things together to create a way of living that nourishes rather than depletes you? This is the journey of discovery that I am on now, and I am so grateful that I am on it.
LESSON 5: The path most travelled is not always the right path for everyone
My working life has followed the path that was the norm upon leaving school during the time period of the early 1980’s. In my day, girls were usually either – a teacher, a nurse or a secretary. There were a few girls who went on to other things. I remember one girl did science! We thought that unusual but she was such a ‘brain’ we were not surprised. I did not want to be a nurse or a teacher, so my career commenced as a ‘secretary’.
I went down the administrative path. It did eventually lead to bigger things. The thing is I never questioned it. I never thought of doing anything else. I was very good at typing and shorthand so OBVIOUSLY I should be a secretary … right? I was in fact a very good Secretary, Personal Assistant, Executive Assistant and later … Project Officer, Policy Officer, Senior Project Officer etc. I was very good at multi-tasking. I was extremely organised. I paid a great deal of attention to detail. I was efficient.
BUT there are other things I am good at too. I have always had a creative, reflective side that I never investigated. I never thought outside the box. I never tapped in to ME and questioned whether what I was doing was making me happy. I never thought I could be capable of other things. I did it because I had to earn a living and I was brought up during times where we were not trained to investigate limitless options.
I was always trying to convince myself that I was happy. Perhaps if I climb another rung, I’ll be happier, more successful. In actual fact, year after year, I was depleting myself – not nurturing myself (refer to lesson 3). I was not doing what I loved. I was not following a passion. Rather than having passion and joy driving me, earning money and pleasing others is what drove me. The older I got, the more unhappy I became, though it is only now that I realise this.
“I can observe how others do things, but ultimately I decide for myself what is best for me!”
“Do what you love. Love what you do.”
LESSON 6: Self care should be a priority
My life had become so busy and chaotic that self care rarely happened. I gave all of myself to work. I gave all of myself to my family. I gave none of myself to myself. This was a big mistake. Self care could be things like:
- Scheduling ‘Me Time’ – e.g. a soak in the bath (relaxing music and candlelight a must), go for a pedicure or a manicure
- Quiet Time – meditation or writing in a journal
- Relax before bed – instead of going a million miles an hour right up until you flop into bed, take some time (at least ½ hour) to unwind and relax (no tv!)
- Disconnect – take some time out from the computer and phone. These things are great but they can be really draining!!
- Regular breaks throughout the day – stop for a cuppa, slow down the thoughts in your mind, really take notice of the NOW. What can you see and hear? Notice the little things – a leaf blowing in the breeze or a bird chirping. These are things we miss all the time!
- Friend time – a lovely get together with a friend can work wonders. Meet for coffee, breakfast or lunch. Maybe see a movie!
- Exercise – regular exercise is good for the brain and is good ‘me time’. It doesn’t need to be strenuous – a nice long walk does the trick!
LESSON 7: No-one is perfect
I expected too much of myself. I had to do a perfect job at work, have a perfectly organised and clean house, be a perfect mother, be a good wife, be a good friend, eat healthy, exercise, be slim etc etc. I set such high expectations on myself. It was too much to expect and created too much negative self talk – when I wasn’t living up to my expectations.
No-one is perfect … only those who pretend to be! Accept this and forgive yourself your imperfections.
LESSON 8: Make time for fun
I forgot to make time for fun. There was no time. I worked all week. I washed, cleaned and collapsed with exhaustion at the weekends.
Make a wish list of things you would like to do that you consider fun. Tick them off as you do them. Schedule them in or just be spontaneous!
Don’t forget to have some fun. Laughter is so important for our wellbeing!
LESSON 9: The worst of times can turn into life’s biggest blessings
The experience I went through has been very difficult and unpleasant, but if it did not happen, where would I be now? Would I still be commuting two hours a day, spending day after day in the office slaving away unaware of the chronic stress I was suffering? Would more and more and more work have been loaded upon me? Would there have been more dysfunction happening around me? Would I still be getting taken advantage of? Would I be a time bomb waiting to implode? Would the same ‘incident’ have happened…only later?
Because of ‘the incident’ I am not there in the office. I am here. It is one year down the track. It has been a rocky and bumpy journey that still continues. I have had 12 months of reflection and deep thought. I have had the opportunity to re-connect with myself. I am realising what I need to feel nurtured rather than depleted. I am discovering who I am and what I like to do. I am rediscovering joy and happiness. I created a blog. I started a photography course. I am working on becoming more ‘present’. I am hopeful for a much happier future.
I would rather be where I am now than where I might possibly be had ‘the incident’ not happened.
LESSON 10: Forget the past but do not forget what it taught you
Don’t dwell on the past. Release it! Forget it! Take stock of the lessons learned. Don’t forget them. Apply the lessons to future projects in your life portfolio and move forward.
Here is a condensed version of my 10 lessons learnt (PDF) which you are welcome to download.
Read more in Unplugged – Part 5 to discover what I have learned about myself and how I am now.
The photo’s used for this post’s banner image are not my own and photo credits are below.
Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT
Categories: General Mish Mash