Monthly Archives: June 2014

What does fun have to do with success?

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.

The stylish and inspiring Arianna Huffington
The stylish and inspiring Arianna Huffington

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.

I wanted to enjoy being surrounded by beauty so I took myself out to lunch to a stylish place
I wanted to enjoy being surrounded by beauty so I took myself out to lunch to a stylish place yesterday

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?

Recommended reading: “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington

Here are examples of my recent play dates and fun activities.

Please share your ideas on how to infuse pleasure into our lives and make it a non-negotiable part of the schedule.

Ready to re-define success on your terms and add more pleasure and style to your life? Book a discovery session with me here.

 

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How to stand out elegantly and confidently

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.

At the after party
At the after party

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.

A beautiful friend of family in Ulyana Sergeyenko dress
Beautiful Lyudmila (a bank manager) in Ulyana Sergeyenko dress

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.

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.

 

Ready to embody confidence, be seen and be heard as a woman in business? I invite you to book a complimentary discovery session with me here.