I laid in bed wide awake night after night, feeling anxious and overwhelmed. “Is there all there is to life?” I thought. “With all the success, why do I feel stuck? Can I continue to go through my days “crazy busy” for much longer?
I felt stuck in the grind.
The American Dream is not broken. But we are.
On the outside, it looked like I was living the American dream. A first-generation immigrant to the U.S., I completed my MBA and launched my own agency based on more than 20 years of a successful marketing career.
A hard worker, I immersed myself into the hustle. This earned me a Rolodex of clients that would make most marketers’ jaws drop: Madonna, Steve Nash, UFC Gyms, 1-800-Flowers, Dr. Weil.
Winning at work and losing at life
While I was winning marketing awards, I felt like I was losing at life. The 100-hour workweeks left no time for reflection. Sleep deprivation turned me into a zombie during the day. My friends slowly stopped calling me, after too many:, “Um, I’m crazy busy right now, maybe next weekend” excuses. I suffered from chronic stomach aches. My work was my identity. I felt overwhelmed. Tired. Burnout. Despite the success on the outside, I felt empty on the inside. I was stuck. I thought this was the norm—what society expected. I didn’t think there was another way.
I decided to go to Baja. One day, a friend insisted that we visit his new home in Baja California Sur for a week around Thanksgiving. It was the first vacation I took in four years. With every mile through the big Cordone cactuses on the way from the airport, my stress and anxiousness slowly dissolved. It was as if I had been holding onto a beach ball underwater for months, maybe years. and somebody just pulled the airplug. My senses awakened. My phone turned off, laying somewhere in the bag, no longer demanded my attention. My mind started to clear. For the first time in months, I could think. I began to get in touch with myself again.
Always ready for adventure, I decided to learn to kiteboard. This is when it hit me. In the middle of the ocean, floating behind a green and blue kite, I realized there is more to life than working. I wasn’t living. I was simply existing. What happened to joy, freedom, courage, authenticity, wellness—the values that had been driving me my entire life. What happened to my creativity?
“There has to be a different way,” I thought, deeply connected with my body in a state of flow.
Sometimes we seek change in the environment. Sometimes the change we seek is an internal job.
Back home, I could still taste the salty ocean and the saltier margaritas. I began to dismantle the very company I put my sweat and tears into building. I realized that if I had solid Internet, I could work from anywhere—even the places where people vacation. I just needed a different mindset to do it.
A wellness sabbatical out of burnout
We returned to Baja the following March for a full month and I embarked on my wellness sabbatical. In between working at a coffee shop and kiteboard sessions, I fell in love with Baja. I made real human connections with the smiling locals and expats bursting with positivity and that replaced my phone addiction. The slower pace of life kept my hustle mode in check. Long beach walks in the place where green mountains meet the blue ocean allowed the right environment for deep conversations with my husband. These life-changing commitments can only be born with sand in your toes. The fresh seafood and organic vegetables and long talks with the farmer market vendors put me in touch with healthy living again. The incredible paintings in the sky at sunrise and sunset reached into my soul and unleashed boundless creativity. The birds chirping from dawn to dusk accompanied my dreamscapes and made them reachable. This magical place I called home for a month changed me and my life forever.
Walking barefoot, with no technology to zap my focus, my circadian rhythms returned to normal. I slept soundly to the rhythms of the ocean, getting in sync with my own rhythms. Bonfires and friends sparked boundless joy and energy. Morning yoga and meditation sessions in the sea air, kitesurfing, and mountain bike rides helped my emotional health and body get back in shape. The fresh local food eased my stomach aches. My newly met friends, all like-minded souls became my new tribe. Working on my Spanish quickly turned into a new hobby. I felt energized, alive, awake. I welcomed the freedom, boundless creativity and healthy living I had been missing for years without realizing it.
Slowly I became more present. My mind, content. My body, alive. I was fully living again. Work became joyful again.
Can you find the courage to make the change you crave?
When you get yourself out of your usual environment, it’s easier to overcome limiting beliefs. It’s easier to see the big picture.
Now, I return to Baja every winter to escape the winters in Lake Tahoe. During these three-four month sabbaticals, I continue to heal myself and pursue my deeper purpose. On one of these trips, I made a major life decision—to pivot my career and help other people live healthier, happier and more fulfilled lives. I started Unhustle—a revolutionary approach to the way we live and work by, putting humanity before hustle. The colors of my logo draw inspiration from the Baja sunrises. Because let’s face it, we can’t go traveling right now and we need to find simplicity and joy as we work from home. We need to set better boundaries. We can connect with our purpose and find more meaning. We can learn how to deal with daily stress and fear of what the future holds. It took me years and thousands of hours practicing to figure out how to translate my experience into a roadmap everyone can take without moving to the beach.
If you are feeling stuck, overwhelmed, tired, or burnt out, you may need a perspective shift. Sometimes that shift is found in changing your environment. Sometimes, it’s changing your mindset or starting a new health habit or stopping a habit or a microsteps like Thrive Global refers to it. Sometimes, it may be asking yourself some tough questions or having someone else ask you. The good news is that now is the time to reflect, realign and connect with what’s important so you go from “crazy busy” to “crazy happy”.
Because if not now, then when?