This week has been a bit of a roller-coaster for me: from unexpected issues coming up requiring urgent solutions in my business, to last minute schedule changes to complete emotional vulnerability that I was unable to control. Without noticing, I allowed my energy to shift from lightness to heaviness, from enjoyment and inspiration to burden and overwhelm. By the second half of the week, I reached a point where I could no longer continue to try and resolve the issues that kept coming up because it seemed that the more issues I resolved, the more kept coming back.
I decided to try out a new solution that so far has worked like magic. It’s called surrender. I let go of all control, accepted where I am and surrendered completely. Instead of thinking about my problems and how to resolve them, I decided to focus on what I love about my life right now and what I am grateful for. One thing I realised is that it really does not matter if we are living the life of our dreams on the outside, if we are not able to love and enjoy it on the inside. The quickest way to shift this internal state to allow ourselves to enjoy our life is gratitude.
So here is my gratitude list:
It’s summer – my favourite season – and the weather has been glorious (which is not a given in England)!
I love waking up and seeing sunlight in my flat. I love how easy and effortless waking up in summer is.
I so appreciate that I can sit on my balcony every morning while I have breakfast or journal to the sound of singing birds and soothed by calming fragrance of my lavender plant.
I love flowers. I love the variety we are spoilt with in summer and I love that they are everywhere and they smell so delicious.
I love summer style. It appears that there is a real awakening of visibility and femininity in summer as women put on gorgeous outfits.
I adore summer wear and how easy and quick getting ready in the morning is. And I love that bright colours look very appropriate right now.
I love sitting in cafes outside and do my work or simply watch the world go by.
I am so grateful that I have the freedom to work from wherever I want and be in charge of my schedule.
I appreciate meeting so many inspiring women recently. It is one of the best things my self-employment gives me.
I feel deep gratitude for all the love and support I am receiving from my loved ones, my family and friends. They add magic to my life.
What are you loving about your life right now? It can be anything big or small. I would love to hear from you in the comments area below.
Oh and I forgot to mention, the so-called problems have now resolved themselves…
Recently, I have heard several people say that starting your own business is the best personal development course. Being in the middle of launching my business, I could not agree more. First weeks of working on my own were like nothing I had experienced before: full of excitement, ideas, learning opportunities and overwhelm that didn’t even feel like overwhelm. After a couple of weeks of working morning to night with little time for exercise, lunch and dinner breaks, let alone me time, I realised I was walking down a path that was taking me further away from an inspired lifestyle I committed to creating by leaving my job and setting up on my own. My first big business lesson was that working hard and working overtime does not serve me. I am sure you will agree that overworking makes us tired, less productive, less creative and sends us into stress response state (happened to me all the time in my first couple of weeks of my business launch), which is the opposite of strategic visionary state I would like to be in when I work. I was not able to learn this important lesson during my 10 years of employment in various corporate position. But better late than never, right?
Today, I schedule play dates in my work diary, no matter how much work I have. Today, I feel play time is as important a commitment in my business schedule as, say, doing my accounts.
Listening to the inspiring Arianna Huffington at an event organised by the School of Life a couple of weeks ago, I walked away with a sense of hope and optimism. I must be doing something right if a very successful women, one of the top 100 most influential people in the world, according to Time magazine, lives by the same rules.
Arianna encouraged us to create our own definition of success, which is not measured only by how much money or how much power we have, but also by how much we thrive in life. In conversation with other attendees, I came up with my own definition of success. For me a successful day has nothing to do with how much time I spend working or how many tasks I tick off my list, a successful day for me is measured by how fulfilled and inspired I felt and how much pleasure I experienced. When I look back at the past month I can see that completing a lot of tasks in one day is extremely satisfying, but collapsing tired on my bed with no other memories but those of hard work at my desk is not. It’s the balance of achievements in work and pleasure that creates fulfilment and happiness daily. Plus, I don’t know about you, but for me, my best ideas, creative visions and inspiration come during the time of fun or relaxation, not when I am crunched over my laptop at my desk.
So if you need any more reasons to take play seriously and the fact that it makes you feel great is not enough, think about how much better the quality of your work will be when you are inspired, re-energised and connected to your creativity. Then think about how being in this state can affect your daily life and positively impact relationships, lifestyle.
I hear you… You are asking how can you have more play time if you are so busy all the time! My answer is: one step at a time.
1. Choose one thing (or more) you want to enjoy at the beginning of each day
A woman I met in California recently came up with a beautiful and inspiring way to infuse more pleasure into her daily life. Every day she creates lists of activities, things and experiences she wants to enjoy that day, similar to a classic to-do list only full of fun and beautiful activities, such as slowly enjoying a strawberry or sketching or sitting outside in the grass, and there is no obligation to tick them all off. A beautiful idea, isn’t it?
Decide what it is that you want to enjoy at the beginning of your day before getting into your ‘work’ mode (instead of reaching for your phone). When you know what you want to enjoy you are much more likely to do it.
2. Have an play date with yourself once a week
If you want to go one step further, consider having a play date in your diary weekly, or, as creativity guru Julia Cameron calls them, Artist Dates. Her only rules are that you have to be by yourself and that it has to be fun. Surely, everyone has an hour per week in their diary for some fun.
3. Keep a play journal
As grown ups we are so far removed from the state of play for the sake of fun that at first it may be difficult to come up with ideas for your play dates and you may be tempted to reach for TV remote instead. Try keeping a play journal. You can make your first play date out of it: go to a stationary shop and choose a stylish notebook that will inspire you to be creative and playful, buy some coloured pens or whatever inspires you and sit in a beautiful space brainstorming ideas for your future play dates. This way if you are stuck for ideas, you can always consult your play journal. You can cut out inspiring pictures from magazines and include these in your journal too.
4. Have a “me day”
This sounds like an ultimate luxury, doesn’t it? I know women, very successful business owners, who dedicate one day every week to fun activities. This may be difficult for play beginners. I am not fully there yet myself, but it is my aspiration to structure my work in a way that allows me to have a “me day” most weeks for fun, play and pampering. This for me is an essential part of success and inspired lifestyle. Of course not everyone has the opportunity to take an entire day off just for themselves every week. Before you tell me that this is absolutely impossible, given all the commitments in your life, I will quote Arianna Huffington: “We have to let go of something every day”. What are you willing to let go of today to have more time for fun and pleasure in your life?
Just over two weeks ago I was packing my bag for a short weekend break in Lviv, Ukraine. It was late, I was tired and the weather forecast wasn’t inspiring, so I just picked some random pieces, making sure they are warm enough for cold nights I was going to spend outdoors at international jazz festival Alfa Jazz Fest, and zipped my suitcase. I didn’t think more of it. I was going to a music festival, not some glamorous party. Only I forgot that in Eastern Europe any social occasion is a glamorous party. Feeling somewhat unglamorous in my smart casual outfits, I was ready to go into my judgement mode, which happens very often when I travel to my home country. And by that I mean make comments about how tasteless the society is with their love of extreme glamour and desire to show off everything they have in one outfit. Only this time, something was different: I didn’t feel like judging. I simply wanted to observe with an open mind. Women of all shapes and sizes chose very different outfits – from dresses to jeans with blouses and stilettos – and wore them confidently. It would be very difficult to stand out in that crowd – almost everybody stood out in their own way. I quickly realised that, with some exceptions, I was among a tastefully stylish crowd. Still, it would have been easy to find women dressed in a stereotypical over the top manner – you always find what you are tuned in to see. This time, instead of focussing on the few women that stood out for wrong reasons, I decided to learn from being among all these beautiful and very visible women, all judgements against the way the society operates and chauvinism aside.
What I took away from my weekend in Lviv is something I would like to invite women across many countries to consider.
1. Eastern European women are not afraid to be visible
They wear brighter colours, trendy outfits, fitted clothes. They are not afraid of being feminine and being noticed by others. They accept their beauty and show it off instead of hiding it. But looking your best is not so much about attention seeking (contrary to what some may think), it is a mindset.
When we change our mindset, we are able to see that there is nothing wrong with allowing ourselves to be noticed for the right reasons.
2. Looking stylish and feminine does not mean you are not intelligent
At the jazz festival, I met female bankers, economists and high profile advisers, all of whom wore gorgeous feminine outfits. They didn’t seem to worry people would not take them seriously or perceive them as less intelligent if they show off their femininity and beauty in a stylish way.
How often are we muting ourselves or dimming our beauty just because we are afraid we won’t be taken seriously? It is possible to be both – beautiful and intelligent.
3. They receive compliments gracefully
These women attract many compliments because they own their beauty and don’t shy away when someone notices it. They accept compliments with ease and grace, projecting natural confidence. This confidence and relaxed attitude helps conversations flow more easily and deepens connections.
4. Looking after yourself is a non-negotiable
Having lived for the past 14 years in Western Europe, I forgot that making a lot (by European standards) of effort is seen as entirely normal in Eastern Europe. A woman there would’t think twice about booking her weekly beauty appointment, nor would she show up anywhere with unmanicured nails or messy hair. My mother books my manicure and pedicure appointments even before I arrive in the country.
When we as women make self-care a non-negotiable, we show to ourselves (and to others) that we value ourselves.
Upon my return I decided to apply these lessons in my every day life. Last weekend, I had a lot of fun dressing up more than I would normally and felt amazing. Getting ready for a women’s networking meeting I felt inspired to wear some old pieces in an entirely new way and wore my “dressy” shoes instead of trying to blend in. I met incredible women who wanted to talk to me simply because they liked my outfit. This week instead of wearing a casual outfit, I wore my vintage dress to have dinner with girlfriends, inviting compliments comparing me to Audrey Hepburn. I accepted with grace. For my bank meeting this week I dressed on brand (stay tuned for my new brand and website reveal soon!) in a stylish dress and blazer and made a real effort with my hair and make up. The meeting went really well, I felt confident and in the flow at all times even when a bank manager asked me difficult (very masculine) questions about my new business.
At Winning Women networking event
Dressed up for theatre night in East London
The “Audrey Hepburn” dress
After a bank meeting
These experiences helped me to realise that making an effort and looking stylish on whatever occasion I feel called to is not shallow or self-indulgent. It gives me energy, creates new exciting opportunities, enables me to feel confident in a relaxed way and shows that I am worthy, worthy of making an effort for, worthy of being seen and being listened to.
Working from home has many advantages. Not having to get ready and leave the house in the morning, jumping out of bed and picking up your laptop without the commute are only a couple of them, right? Not for me… Don’t get me wrong, I love working from home. I enjoy being in a beautiful quiet environment, being in charge of my schedule, being able to burn my favourite scented candle or have fresh flowers on my desk. But for me, ditching style and hanging out in my pyjamas all day just because nobody sees me does not work.
This week, for example, I had to change my outfit before I could focus on work because it wasn’t right for me. It did not matter that nobody would see me, I didn’t feel good in my sweater dress and pink cardigan, something about that outfit wasn’t stylish, so I swapped the cardigan for a beautiful scarf, which made me feel more elegant. The following day, I felt called to put some jewellery and make up on before a call, audio, not video because I wanted to feel confident and beautiful. I know it made my call go better.
So why bother choosing an outfit and possibly even wearing make up or jewellery when you work from home?
1. It makes you feel good
Looking good helps us to feel good on the inside (yes, it goes both ways), and feeling good makes us more confident. Plus, feeling like you’ve made the effort to do your work puts you in the work mode right away.
2. It increases your self-worth
When a woman makes a conscious effort to look good, she shows to herself that she matters, that she values herself, that she is worth the effort. You are amazing and therefore deserve to be wearing your nice clothes and jewellery just for yourself. And we all know what happens when we value ourselves – others value us, and this translates into financial value too.
3. It awakens creativity
For me, putting together an outfit is a creative process and this always awakens my creativity for other activities. If I need a creativity boost, I wear bright clashing colours or bold accessories. In fact, I started writing this post in my pyjamas (I am the first one to admit I am not perfect), but it didn’t go anywhere until I changed into something more stylish.*
4. It shows integrity
If you are an entrepreneur or a freelancer working from home, helping others to create a stylish business or increase their visibility, confidence and value, walking your talk even when nobody sees you makes you and your brand more authentic and therefore more powerful.
5. You never know what opportunities might come up
Your ideal client may want to skype with you, you might feel inspired to go for a walk in your neighbourhood or have a spontaneous coffee break withy our friend. Be ready to be visible.
I realise I have not fully answered the question about what exactly to wear when working from home. There isn’t one formula fits all solution. For example, I love cashmere (as you may know by now) or silk dresses when it’s warm, colourful wraps or scarves, peg trousers, simple t-shirts with a chunky necklace because these clothes make me feel comfortable, stylish, elegant and ready to do my work. Without knowing you I cannot tell you what exactly to wear because style is a personal matter. What I can tell you is make sure your outfit makes you feel good, gorgeous, high value, confident and unique. If you need further guidance, think what outfit you wouldn’t mind being accidentally seen in by your ideal client.
*Apologies for a lack of photographs in this post, my personal photographer is away this and next week.
Interested in discovering how to increase your confidence, visibility and value to attract stylish opportunities into your life? Book a discovery session here
As I am writing this from 35 000 ft in the air on my way to Lisbon for a mini break, I am feeling relaxed and inspired. Catching up with a former colleague from my full-time corporate job days earlier today made me realise how used I have become to feeling relaxed, connected to my body and desires, inspired and simply happy. Last year, feeling this way on a daily basis was only a fantasy that I chose to believe was possible. Instead, I was feeling stressed, scattered, disconnected from inspiration and always busy. Yes, “busy” was my favourite word for a while. I almost took pride in being busy, as if it were an honorable way to live my life, always busy. Too busy to prioritise my self-care needs and sleep, too busy to reply to my friends’ messages on time, too busy to stop and think about what I actually feel or desire. Being always busy meant I was tired, overwhelmed and frequently experiencing burn outs. Sounds familiar?
Today, I know that there is no happiness in being busy. In fact, the minute I start using the word “busy” to describe my day to someone or to choose not to have the experience I desire or require – be it do Pilates, spend time with a dear friend or take my daily walk – I know I am off track and my schedule and how I prioritise things need to be reviewed.
Of course we all have responsibilities and activities that require our attention, families to look after, households to manage, jobs to do. We are not always going to have hours of free time to sit and do nothing, and perhaps life would be less exciting if we did. The kind of busyness I am describing is the one that gets in a way of enjoying on a daily basis, the one that prevents us from living an inspired stylish lifestyle (your own version of it) or is used an an excuse to not prioritise self-care or the experiences we desire.
Since eliminating a lot of busyness from my daily life, I am happier, more inspired and experience life in colour on a daily basis, I am finally loving my lifestyle. It is, however, a constant work in progress – I caught myself using “busy” easier this week, but thankfully didn’t go down that road.
These are the ways I found effective to transform my life from busy to inspired.
1. Declutter your space and wardrobe
Ruthless decluttering of your home and your wardrobe is not only incredibly satisfying because it creates a new sense of freedom and space, but also it helps to simplify your daily life, therefore eliminating some of the busyness.
I love this quote by William Morris:
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
The same works for your wardrobe. I have recently got rid of 40% of what used to be in my wardrobe by applying this rule: if it doesn’t make you feel beautiful, for whatever reason (it could be a wrong shape for you an unflattering colour or simply not the right style for your personality), it should go. It doesn’t matter how much money you paid for it or how bad you feel about giving away something that is practically new. If you don’t feel beautiful when you put it on, it has no place in your wardrobe. If you feel bad about throwing it away, you could sell it online to donate to charity.
2. Declutter your schedule and make space for what you require
This one is key to eliminating needless busyness in your life, but not so easy to do. One way of approaching this task, which I found to be very useful, is to not try to eliminate busyness to create free time, as this often failed, but to replace it with activities that serve me. Start by identifying your essential requirements, these include self-care, food, sleep, time with loved ones, alone time, activities that bring you pleasure and therefore significantly increase the quality of your daily life. These are typically different for each of us. My list, for example, includes morning meditation, drinking hot water with lemon while grounding myself for the day, making and enjoying healthy breakfast, slow lunch, preferably in a stylish surrounding, daily walk in a park or tree-lined streets, 8 hours of sleep, 10 minute of stretching, smelling flowers, time to connect on the phone or in person with loved ones. Once you have identified these for yourself, make sure these are prioritised in your daily schedule. Do keep in mind this is not about perfection. There will be days, where you are not able to do everything, but the important thing is to know what you require to be grounded and happy on a daily basis and give it to yourself. Neither it is about ticking boxes. How you do these and being fully present is the important part here.
If you are still saying you have no time in your schedule (I was the queen of excuses when it came to busyness) for a 30 minute lunch away from your desk, a walk or 8 hour sleep, see where you can create more time: perhaps reduce time you spend browsing the Internet without a specific purpose, on social media channels or watching TV.
3. Remember, stylish inspired way of living is a choice
When I was always busy, I often found myself in a victim mode feeling there was nothing I could do about the way I lived my life. “Life is busy, that’s a given and there is nothing I can do about it,” I used to say. Let me tell you, this wasn’t a happy or an inspiring place to be in. Once I realised that I am in control of my life and stylish lifestyle is a matter of making certain choices and aligning my daily schedule with my requirements and desires, things started to shift. Whenever you find yourself giving yet another “I am too busy” excuse to yourself, remember that you are in control and you can life your life in a way that is inspiring to you. This small shift in perception will empower you.
4. Ask for help
This one is my favourite and required most effort from me for some reason: you don’t have to do it all by yourself, you have nothing to prove to anyone, so do ask for, hire or simply accept help. Too exhausted by your household chores? Hire a cleaner or ask your current cleaner to help with extra activities. Too much admin? Hire a virtual assistant either for a specific project or to help you on a weekly basis. Too busy at work? Learn too delegate to your team. Overwhelmed by the state of your wardrobe or shopping? Find a stylist, it will save you time and money. Feeling confused and lacking clarity on what you require or desire? Hire a coach.
Remember, help is always available if you are willing to accept it.
Feeling too busy to show up in a stylish and confident way in your daily life? Book a discovery session with me here to gain clarity on how to prioritise you and create the image that will attract the opportunities you desire in your life and career.