I had dinner with some friends last week and they kept telling me how busy I was. I insisted that I wasn’t and said I actually felt less busy than normal. In fact, I told them I felt quite relaxed and calm. To which they replied yes, but your normal is busy – you may feel calm, but you are always in the middle of a storm of activity.
It made me stop and think. If that’s true then why do I feel so much less busy than before? And am I too busy? Doing too much? Too many balls in the air and plates spinning wildly. I’ve always been busy and likely in some form always will be. But there is an important distinction for me right now in just precisely how I am dealing with being busy. First and foremost, it seems less stressful for some reason. Having said that, I still have moments of being totally overwhelmed and feeling completely ill-prepared for what is on my plate. But these moments are increasingly rare and I am able to recover from them much more quickly these days.
So what has changed? If my level of activity is about the same, why do I feel less challenged and more in control? I think it has to do with a profound shift in focus. I can honestly say over the last few years I had a lot of busy activity going on that wasn’t really getting me to my goals. My calendar was full – full of stuff that I felt obligated to do, but which didn’t add any value to what I was striving for. My time was filled with making other people’s agendas complete while ignoring my own. I saw it all as the price to pay for achieving more. I was wrong.
Doing a lot of things doesn’t necessarily equate to being productive, especially in relation to what is most meaningful to you. Just like in business, measuring activity isn’t a key to success. You need to measure the right activity and ensure that what you are doing is lining up with where you are aiming. Purposeful and clearly defined tactics always trump random activity and busywork.
So, again for me, life and work have mirrored themselves. I needed to take stock of myself as I did this past year and think hard about what I was doing and why. I needed to create a strategy for my life the same as I did for my business. Not a carved in stone plan but a goal that helped me to frame my activities in the context of what I wanted to achieve both personally and professionally.
When we take the time to do this in business it makes our days much more productive and meaningful. We know that all the effort and energy we are putting in to work is driving towards our vision. When we do this in life we realize that we can discard the things that don’t truly matter to us, but yet can seem highly important because others expect them of us.
Doing what matters to you personally and professionally is the key to success, in life and in business. Spending time and energy keeping everyone else happy and saying yes to every opportunity is not fulfilling, it’s draining. And it condemns you to a life that is unfulfilled.
I have learned that it’s important to hang out with people who support you in life and business. People who want you to achieve your own goals and be happy being just who you are; cultivating these relationships naturally leads to a calming influence in our lives and work. Think about it. If we all just wished that for each other, wouldn’t we all be in a better place? It’s about helping one another instead of making demands on one another. Such a shift in attitude would help us find the time and energy to make ourselves fulfilled instead of expecting someone else to make us happy.
Life and business mirror each other every day. Finding calm and peace amid the maelstrom of business and life comes, ultimately, from within. Achieving serenity is about being able to shed the stress of the moment, realizing that ultimately you put yourself there and you can solve the problem. In other words, failure isn’t final.
I am likely as busy as always. But I have never been calmer and less busy. That’s the beauty of a plan that springs from a self-awareness of doing what fulfills you versus what others expect of you.
About Arlene Dickinson
You may know her best as the smart and witty venture capitalist on CBC’s Dragons’ Den and The Big Decision, but she is also a successful and savvy business professional, a generous philanthropist, and supporter of many important causes, a mother of four and grandmother of three, and much more. With impressive and innovative marketing talent, Arlene became CEO of Venture Communications in 1998 after being a partner in the company for 10 years. She has received multiple honours and awards including Canada’s Most Powerful Women Top 100, the Pinnacle Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence, as well as PROFIT and Chatelaine Magazine’s TOP 100 Women Business Owners. Most recently, Arlene launched Arlene Dickinson Enterprises and YouInc.com, companies that serve and speak to entrepreneurs, and she authored the number one bestselling book, Persuasion. Arlene is the national spokesperson for The Breakfast Clubs of Canada and an Honorary Captain of the Royal Canadian Navy. She sits on the Leadership Council of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, is the recipient of honorary degrees from Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Mount Saint Vincent University and Saint Mary’s University and is the proud recipient of the The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. With a beautiful and passionate outlook on life and business, Arlene is an inspiring Canadian that has lived a fascinating life.
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