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How to stop being a workaholic and prioritise your own life

A journey from professional leadership to self leadership

Photo by Alejandro Alvarez on Unsplash
Photo by Alejandro Alvarez on Unsplash

Experiences as diverse as tango dancing in Argentina, whale spotting in Antarctica, kayaking at midnight in the Pacific Ocean and eating street food in China; transformed me from being boring, unfulfilled and on the verge of burnout, to adventurous, happy and in the driving seat of my personal life.

I spent my 20s studying for my masters and various professional qualifications, while steadily climbing the career ladder. I landed what I thought was my dream job – seniority, great salary, large team, multi-million pound budget; all signs of career success and at a young age. What seemed great at first quickly became stressful. I was working long hours in an environment where some of the values conflicted with my own and I had no life outside of work. A good day at work meant a good day overall and a bad day at work affected me long after my working day was over. I was proud that I cared so much about my work but the reality was that it was dangerously attached to my sense of self worth and I had no real identity outside of my job title. I knew something had to change.

I embarked on a journey of self leadership; creating a vision of what I wanted to achieve and who I wanted to be and then making it happen. A journey of self-discovery, empowerment and honesty. If you want to take ownership and become the leader in your own life, I recommend the following steps.

Believe in yourself

If you want things to change in your life, there is only one person that can make it happen – you! Always remember, you are not a victim of your circumstances; you are a leader (regardless of your job or role) with choices and control over what happens in your life. Everything starts in the mind so decide what you want to achieve and truly believe it is possible. When you believe you can do, be or have something; you are so much more likely to put in the work to make it a reality.

Start small

I went from not being inside an airport for four years, to travelling to all seven continents in 12-months, mostly solo; but it might not have happened. My first experience of solo travel was for just five days to a country I’d been to several times before, and I almost didn’t book it out of fear. However, I had a fantastic time and getting over this hurdle gave me the confidence to travel extensively on my own. Identify a goal and one small step you can take towards achieving it. Small steps add up to make big results.

Have fun and be creative

I absolutely love to study but I temporarily banned myself from doing anything extracurricular that wasn’t fun and / or creative. After ditching my French lessons (too much hard work!), I tried lots of different activities from kick boxing to piano lessons; before falling in love with Samba dancing. Trying different activities gave me much needed fun. It felt good to invest in my own happiness and it awakened my creativity, which had been dormant for some time. What fun or creative activities have you always wanted to try?

Help others

Leadership is all about making a difference. Helping others feels so good and you can learn a lot about yourself in the process. Through volunteering, I was surprised to discover how much I loved working with young people and this led to new work opportunities and using my leadership experience to become a school governor. Think about the causes that touch you, the issues you care about and the struggles you have had to overcome. What can you do to make a difference in these areas?

Practice gratitude

As you transition to your new life, be grateful for all that you currently have. The more you can appreciate what you have now, the more you will appreciate it when you have what you really want. When you wake up in the morning, set yourself the intention to see the positive in everything and take some time each evening to reflect on three things you are grateful for.

Fast forward a few years and I have created a life that is about so much more than just work. I have travelled the world; achieved balance; I work for myself helping others to make their own personal dreams a reality and I experience joy every single day. Self leadership can mean making sacrifices and it isn’t always easy, however; my journey has been, and continues to be, so worth it.

Being the leader of your own life is exciting, empowering and can lead to happiness and fulfilment. You are so much more than your job or any other role you have. Wishing you every success on your personal leadership journey.

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