“Let go of the idea of doing things perfectly”, with Visa Shanmugam

Let go of the idea of doing things perfectly — I am a recovering perfectionist and I used to judge myself so harshly for not keeping a perfect house, having a perfect business, or being the perfect mother. Instead, now I try to do better than yesterday and the last moment. If I make a mistake, […]

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Let go of the idea of doing things perfectly — I am a recovering perfectionist and I used to judge myself so harshly for not keeping a perfect house, having a perfect business, or being the perfect mother. Instead, now I try to do better than yesterday and the last moment. If I make a mistake, I forgive myself easily and move on.

I had the pleasure to interview Visa Shanmugam. Visa is the founder of Becoming You LLC which is a mindset transformation coaching practice focused on helping extra ordinary women that are already accomplished and successful, but have a hard time recognizing that. Visa supports her high performing clients through tangible mindset and spiritual coaching to identify their patterns and beliefs holding them back so they can finally feel fulfilled and reach their greatest potential, without feeling like an impostor or burning out.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

Iconsider myself an Indian, a Brit and an American. I have had the privilege of spending more than a decade in each of these countries, which is amazing, but because of the multi-cultural and global upbringing, I was also extremely conflicted and confused about who I was growing up. I was constantly trying to balance the expectations of the conservative culture I was born into and the culture I was exposed to daily in the West. No matter what I achieved, it never felt like it was enough and there was always more to do.

I did exactly as I was told and created a picture-perfect life for myself with a successful corporate career, an MBA, a healthy family and a beautiful home. But I became tired of climbing the corporate ladder and felt constant guilt for not being a more present mom. I, like millions of working moms, felt unfulfilled, frustrated and wanted more from life, but not sure what “more” was or how to get it.

This led me to throw out a promising career and embark on a 6-year journey of self-discovery, reflection and personal growth through entrepreneurship. Becoming You is my legacy to help other women find happiness, deep fulfillment and experience the richness of life, beyond their careers and family.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

I know that it hasn’t always been this way. I grew up in India in the 1980’s and I remember being thoroughly bored out of my mind while growing up. I don’t remember my parents rushing anywhere. The only rushing I remember, was trying to keep up with my grandfather on his morning walks.

Technology is a huge contributing factor to this feeling of being rushed. The digital and device era that we now live in, I believe puts pressure on people to always be turned on and tuned in to be more efficient. Our screens are constantly on. News flows in 24/7, keeping us informed. Our brains never truly rest.

We also glorify being busy as a society because it’s perceived as being productive. There is a very real fear around being seen as lazy or unproductive, so it pushes a lot of parents to fill up their children’s schedule with a long list of activities, to ensure that we are giving them every opportunity.

Our jobs move at an even faster pace, because of big data that’s now available. We have an immense amount of information available at our fingertips, and the expectation is now for us to be able to process every bit of this information and make sound decisions.

It’s just not possible for our brains to handle so much, without feeling the detrimental effects of it.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

We have become ‘human doings’, instead of ‘human beings’, which creates a feeling of being forever rushed. Though we are doing more than ever, it feels like we are never doing enough.

Because we are so rushed all the time, our brains are constantly in flight or fight mode.

We are fighting traffic. We fight with our kids because they don’t listen and do things at the speed which we expect them to. We are in flight mode with our spouse because we don’t have the time to deal with the real issues that’s causing tension in our relationships. We are in a constant state of panic because of the lack of time.

Though these are minor ever day stresses, the constant build-up of “regular stress” is detrimental to our overall health and immune system.

I speak from personal experience because I woke up to an auto immune disease at the age of 23, without having any prior health problems. I now know, it was because I was under an immense amount of stress because I was newly married, I had moved to a new country, and was doing my MBA. The constant rushing, stressing and worrying took an immense toll mentally and the only way my body knew how to cope with it, was to release it physically — by creating my auto immune disease.

When you are constantly rushed, there is no time to feel connected to your inner soul or to the world around you. We exist in survival mode. We are constantly reacting. Life happens by default, instead of intentional design. A default life is neither happy nor fulfilling.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

The number one benefit from learning to slow down would be less stress — physically, mentally, and spiritually.

When we are rushed, we don’t do things intentionally. We operate on auto-pilot, which creates disconnection and distance from our self and others. When we slow down, we are able to form deeper connections with others, which makes our lives feel more purposeful and meaningful.

If we chose to let go of ‘busy’ activities and filled our time with things that are fun (for you) and creative (writing, dancing, playing music, cooking, building Legos), you are physically connecting with your life source, which is why kids are happiest when they are creating.

Meditating allows you to sit with your feelings as a separate entity, as opposed to your emotions being a part of you. Most of us are lost when it comes to handling our negative emotions. We stuff it down and carry on, which is what leads to dis-ease. But when we slow down and give ourselves a chance to observe our emotions (which is what meditation allows us to do), it helps us process these emotions in a healthy way, without having to find an outlet in alcohol, drugs or food.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

1. Meditating every day is a MUST — this is a non-negotiable in my life. Some days I only have 10 minutes and others I have 30 mins. But the days I meditate, is when I feel my best and operate at my highest level as a parent, wife and business owner.

2. Let go of the idea of doing things perfectly — I am a recovering perfectionist and I used to judge myself so harshly for not keeping a perfect house, having a perfect business, or being the perfect mother. Instead, now I try to do better than yesterday and the last moment. If I make a mistake, I forgive myself easily and move on.

3. Stop saying yes to everything because you worry about what others will say or think of you. We tend to overcommit because we think we ‘should’ be saying to yes to a lot of things when deep down, we don’t want to. My motto is that if it doesn’t bring you joy, then don’t do it!
This can seem harsh and impractical to a lot of over-achievers, but I believe it’s better to have a lot of fun doing just one thing, rather than be stuck doing a lot of things.

4. Ask for help — whether it’s at home or at work, don’t hesitate to ask for reinforcements.

I had to hire a housekeeper for 6 hours a week, when first starting out in business, because I didn’t have time to take care of my household duties. I started to resent my husband and children for not helping out more. Instead, we realized that it was worth the investment for us to get outside help.

There is no shame in getting help, nor is there any extra glory in doing it all yourself.

5. Write a celebration list at the end of each day to appreciate all that you have accomplished. We under estimate how much we accomplish in a day, because we fail to notice so many of the things that we do at home and work on a daily basis. We give ourselves very little credit, but we are really quick to criticize ourselves.

Doing this celebration list is the perfect opportunity to give yourself a pat back on the back and feel good about yourself. When you start recognizing your own achievements (big or small), it becomes easier to give yourself permission to slow down.

6. Say “I love you” to yourself every chance you get in the mirror! — yes, I realize this sounds so strange, but I promise you this works miracles.

When I was first asked to do this, it made my stomach churn and I gagged. I had such a strong physical reaction, because it felt like a big lie.
I honestly believe that we rush through our lives, because we are scared about what we might find within, when we slow down.

Taking the time to say “I love you” to yourself will make you face the things you don’t like about yourself. Instead of avoiding it, it’s time to bring it to the surface, so that you can deal with it.

If we can’t learn to love ourselves, then how can we expect others to?

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

I would define mindfulness as all of your senses being completely and utterly absorbed in the activity that you are presently doing — whether that is washing dishes, folding laundry, talking to your child or sipping on your coffee. Your mind is actively involved in observing every detail, instead of wandering off to your to-do list, what you owe your boss or worrying about the state of the world.

I had a girls’ night at a paint night, where everyone at the studio is taught to paint the same picture, using the same colors and canvas. I am not an artist by any means, so I was nervous about how it was going to turn out.

But once the instructions started, I became so engrossed in mixing the paint colors, using the right brush, getting the brush strokes right, and watching the picture unfold in front of me. I didn’t look at what anyone’s work looked like or worry about my own efforts. I was creating with just the intention of creating, without comparing or judging.

The two hours flew by and I felt completely energized and vibrant after it was completed. Not drained or exhausted.

That’s what mindfulness does. It locks you in, in the present moment, with no room to regret the past or worry about the future.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

The easiest way to integrate mindfulness would be to focus on your breath, especially when you find yourself becoming stressed, anxious or overwhelmed. Your breath can instantly ground and calm you, because it’s your source for life.

When you drink your coffee in the morning, instead of taking it on the go, or in your car, savor it in the mornings. Smell the coffee once you brew it. Feel the warmth of the cup in between your hands. Truly taste the coffee as you sip it — what flavors do you taste? How do your lips feel?

When you take a shower, pay gratitude for the hot water (which we all take for granted). As the water flows over your body, take time to appreciate every part of your body for how it serves you faithfully every day without asking for anything in return.

Every simple, daily task can be turned into a mindfulness activity. All it requires is that you employ all five senses during the activity to anchor you in the moment. Gratitude and appreciation are also easy ways to integrate mindfulness, because you cannot be appreciating something or someone without being fully present in the moment.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

As hard as it is, turn off emails and notifications while you are working on a task. This allows you to focus on only thing at a time and prevents your energy and focus from leaking all over the place.

Take meditation breaks every few hours. There are so many mediation apps (my favorite is Insight Timer) where you can do a mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes. This is a quick way to boost your energy, especially if you find yourself exhausted and losing focus. Meditation has been proven to boost productivity and ease stress.

Go for a walk without listening to a podcast or music. Allow yourself to take in the gifts of nature (especially now that spring is around the corner). We forget how energizing the color green is to our well-being. Connecting to nature is one of the easiest ways of practicing mindfulness.

Finally, when someone is talking to you, instead of worrying about your next question or answer to them, truly listen to what they are saying. Mindfulness is about getting out of your head and tuning in to serve others and making them feel heard and seen.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices

Insight Timer is my all-time favorite meditation app. It is my go-to technique for helping me practice mindfulness.

Gabrielle Bernstein’s book, The Universe Has Your Back changed my life, because it turned me on to being mindful of my thoughts and self-talk on a moment to moment basis.

Dr. Joe Dispenza, who has written some amazing books, has also created guided meditations based on his research and findings, which are incredible at helping you slow down your thoughts and connecting to yourself.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You see the world that you have made, but you do not see yourself as the image-maker” ~ The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein.

Up until I read this quote in The Universe Has Your Back, I saw all of my life happening “to me”. I felt powerless to change things and was at the mercy of whatever life threw at me.

But once this quote settled and integrated within me, it was like a flashlight went on, in my dark tunnel of disempowering thoughts.

It dawned on me that I was the actor, director, story writer and movie maker of my life, all at once. I was the only one who had complete access to re-write my story and for the first time, gave myself permission to do it. It was freeing and frightening all at the same time.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would create a movement to inspire men and women to love themselves unconditionally, exactly as they are today, without waiting for anything to change outside of them.
In truth, most of us, can’t stand ourselves. We judge, criticize and belittle ourselves more than our worst enemy. That’s where this constant need to rush comes from, because we are constantly belittling ourselves to do more.

If we learn to ourselves, exactly as we are, we stop living from a perpetual place of fear. We make decisions that are for our highest good, which ultimately is the highest good for our family, our community and our world.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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Photo by: Eric Kayne /AP Images for VISA

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