It’s hard to forget the look of disappointment in a child’s eyes.
Especially if that child is your own son.
And especially… if you’re the one who let him down.
On this particular Saturday morning I had woken up with a crippling migraine and a strong desire to be in a very dark and quiet room. There was no way that I was going to be able to follow through on the plans we made to spend time together as a family that day.
And so I gently told my son and husband, “no, not today” and got back into bed. I wrapped myself up in blankets and guilt and hoped that I would feel better soon.
Two or three years ago, this was nothing new for me.
As the founder and principal consultant of a private practice, and my family’s sole breadwinner, I was used to squeezing everything I could out of all the time I could charge for.
I was convinced that making more money would give my family the life we wanted. Because when you have more money, you can do more, buy more, and experience… more, right?
And so I worked.
Because I believed that hard work (and maybe some blood, sweat and tears along the way) was the only way I could buy a life of freedom, fulfillment and flexibility.
- I told myself that when I made enough money, then I could spend time with my family.
- I told myself that when I had enough clients, then I could afford to go out to dinner.
- I told myself that if I hadn’t finished Friday feeling like a wrung-out towel, then I didn’t deserve to relax because I hadn’t worked hard enough.
And I told my family that I didn’t have time to have fun with them because, well, having fun doesn’t make you any money, does it?
The most ironic thing about all of this is that despite how flippin’ hard I told myself I was working, and the money I was making in the short term, I was poor in so many other ways.
- My energy? Rock bottom.
- My health? Worst it’s ever been.
- My relationships? Let’s not even go there.
So… the stuff that actually matters when we look back on our lives at the end of it all? Total poverty.
Money is not the only currency in your life.
And you have more capital in you than just selling your time for that money.
Because every time you push harder, say yes when you’re dying to just say no, take on one more client, one more referral, one more project just in case you run out of money this month, you’re trading another commodity: your energy.
And your energy is the most valuable (and finite) resource you have.
Energy is a funny thing.
Most of us go through life not worrying about it until we have none left – until our exhaustion screams out and demands our attention, and suddenly, you’re breathing into a paper bag and wondering why the floor is spinning like that. Or you’ve had to take a week off work because you can’t get out of bed.
If you’re lucky (and paying close enough attention) you’ll recognise this pattern and do something to interrupt it.
For me, knowing that all of my hard work (and the money I made for us) wasn’t really what my family wanted from me most – or the life I wanted for myself – was the breaking point.
I decided that I didn’t want to give my family leftovers anymore.
I didn’t want to be the person who could barely keep her eyes open through dinner only to fall asleep on the lounge twenty minutes later after a sixteen-hour work day.
So I started paying attention to the other currencies in my life.
The reality-check I needed to give myself? Getting real about my time, and yes, admitting to myself that I am in fact NOT superwoman and no I can’t see five clients today, travel for four hours, write that report and submit that proposal and also do the filing today and expect to function like a human when I get home tonight.
It’s a small step, but I encourage you to get real with your time, too.
Start by turning your to-do list into a calendar for the week. The goal isn’t to get it all done, but to show yourself the cold, hard facts of the contrast between your expectations of yourself and the reality of what you can get done with the time you’ve got.
Do you really only need an hour to write that report when you know it normally takes 4? Do you really think you’ll be able to do the bookkeeping at 4pm on a Friday?
And hey, maybe you can get everything done this week. It just means you’ll leave work at 11pm every night and maybe go a little bit insane in the process. Sanity is for people who don’t make money anyway, right?
The funny thing about getting real about your time and setting boundaries around it, is that suddenly you’re forced to make some real decisions about the best spend of your time and energy.
When you have all the time in the world (and crappy boundaries around your work), you never need to make tough decisions or say no. Because you’ve deluded yourself into thinking that you can do it all.
You really can’t. I think you’re wonderful and amazing and I would love to take you out on a coffee date, but you really can’t do it all.
But – if you knew that you needed to leave work at 5:30 today – you’re forced to make the choice. What needs to get done? Like, really needs to get done?
The answer to these questions lies in knowing yourself, knowing your goals and knowing what matters to you. This is the first thing I address with all of my Accelerate Your Practice mentees because without fail, every burnt out and run down clinician has been living a life that is incongruent with what really matters to them.
So you need to nail that.
And if you’re like me, you won’t be perfect at it, even when you do know yourself really well.
I am the QUEEN of over-committing my time and my energy. It’s just what I do when I’m worried that cash flow is a little lower than usual this month and maybe THIS is the month that everything collapses and, hey look, I really am a failure after all.
You’re going to slip, even with the best of intentions.
So maybe that means you need to build some accountabilities into your life. Who is the person who can recognise when your energy (and sanity) tank needs a top up, and will call you on it, and will support you in adjusting as needed?
Maybe it’s a friend or family member. Or a colleague or even a mentor. No matter who it is, don’t fall into the trap of asking yourself to do it all and then pick up the pieces on your own when it all falls apart.
Or when you’re crawling into bed on another Saturday morning wishing that it didn’t have to be this way.
Because it doesn’t.
It starts with you, but you don’t have to do this alone.
And you are so much more than the money you can charge.
Let me know in the comments below –
Which currencies in your life really matter to you? How are you looking after them?
P.S. – it all comes down to figuring out how you can get out of your own way. Because I’m guessing that beating yourself up and promising to be better hasn’t been working for you, has it?
So, Fabulous health professional… I want you to join me in San Francisco in October.
We’ll be smashing glass ceilings left right and center, helping you define success on your terms and creating a plan to see yourself through the bumpy periods in your practice.
Everything you need to know about the San Francisco masterclass is here.