I sat down to write the ‘About Me’ page for my website the other day and was struggling to think of a different way to describe a corporate woman, so naturally I looked to my friend Google for inspiration. I typed into the search bar, “Name for a woman in a corporate job” and couldn’t believe my eyes at what came up…the very first, top ranking result was “Prostitution”. How interesting I thought.
After my initial gasp I began to chuckle, but then I realised how true this has actually come to be. Ok, so we’re not talking about exchanging sex for money but in a way we are indeed exchanging our bodies for it. Remember when I say bodies I mean internal and external, both physically and mentally. So think about it – what are you personally exchanging for your salary? Maybe it’s time with your loved ones or downtime for yourself? Your mental clarity or energy? Your waistline or sleep? Is there any part of your personal self that is being disrupted as a result of your work and busy lifestyle? Has it gotten to the point where rather than simply exchanging your knowledge, skills and expertise you are giving up a part of yourself also?
Now I’m not saying that you should quit your job immediately or resent it for getting this way (that responsibility lays largely on yourself and your model of the world), but I’m saying that if the exchange for money has become unbalanced and is involving your physical and/or mental wellbeing rather than just your services, then it’s time to take a good hard look at bringing that exchange back into balance.
A great place to start is to deconstruct exactly what your model of the world is. From the moment we are born we start to absorb information, which we stitch together to create our version of reality. I say ‘our version’ because it is different for each and every person. You see, every second of our lives we take in 2 million bits of information via our senses, but of those 2 million bits we only consciously process 134 of them. How do we know which 134 bits to ‘let in’ to our consciousness? Well that depends predominantly on our memories, beliefs and values…oh and what we’re thinking about at that time. So based on these pre-disposed notions we will take that raw information and try to fit it into what we already know, and if we can’t do that then we just delete it and act as if it never even existed. So what that means is, with only a small portion of everything we experience actually being registered, there’s absolutely no way that we all register the same information. Therefore, we all see the world in a different way – even if we are present in the exact same moment.
How is this relevant to my original topic of having an unbalanced exchange between you and your work? Well once we have this model of our world and assumptions about how it works, that determines how we react and respond within it. Let me give you a related example: Let’s say you grew up in a household where your Father ran a successful business but worked extremely long hours in the process. It is highly likely that through your experiences of this you will have constructed a belief that in order to be successful you must work a lot. Remember I said that to determine which 134 bits to consciously process you try to fit it into what you already know and what you’re thinking about? Well if you’re thinking you want to be successful and you ‘know’ that this is achieved by working a lot then your brain is going to filter the 134 bits that ‘fit’ with this the best. So, when faced with a situation in this context your brain is likely to pick out the information that confirms working more will get you the success you desire and it will delete or re-shape any information that says otherwise, even though there may indeed be a more resourceful way to achieve the same or better results. A simple example of this is delegation. If you believe that working more equals success then in your mind giving someone else some of your tasks to complete will put that success at risk so more often than not you’ll take on more than you need to. Consequently, this can then lead to you overworking and neglecting other areas of your life, thus throwing the exchange out of balance.
I realised only a short while ago actually that I had been living with a belief that, “In order to be liked I must achieve”. Now there’s a sure fire way to throw that exchange completely out of whack! As a result of this mindset, most of my life has either seen me working like a maniac or closing a lot of doors before they’ve even opened for fear of not being the best and therefore not being liked or worse, not being loved. I’ve now changed that belief to, “I am loved because I’m me”. It’s taken a while for me to solidify that belief in my brain, I’m not saying any of this is an overnight fix, but now that I have it’s amazing how different my world is. I’m much easier on myself by telling myself I’m doing my best and I’m good enough, which means my self sabotaging behaviours are no longer ruling me, I listen to my body and I’m much happier and less stressed. The actual world around me hasn’t changed at all you understand, it’s simply my interpretation of it. That’s pretty powerful don’t you think?
So I urge you to start becoming aware of your thoughts and behaviours in common situations, track them as you go and notice how you feel too, both physically and mentally. I guarantee you will start to see patterns and once you identify those you will gain invaluable insight into your model of the world and the way you interpret it. Then you can figure out which bits are serving you and change the bits that aren’t. The best way to do this is to keep a journal. Now I know that might seem like a bit of a ball-ache as I know you live an extremely busy lifestyle, but remember the saying, “Short term pain for long term gain?” This is an easy first step towards truly understanding yourself. Once you do that and know how to get the most out of you, you’ll be well on your way to creating a model of your world that best serves you and everything you want.