Everyone has a dream job they think about in the wee moments before they nod off.
It could be living in a quaint little cottage in the French countryside, waking up only to milk the cows and churn out some artisanal cheeses. Maybe it’s making movies as a high-flying director. Perhaps it’s running a profitable meme Instagram that’s funded by sponsored posts about novelty socks.
All of these dream careers look completely different, but they’ve all one thing in common: someone, somewhere, wants them.
Whatever your fantasy, you might imagine yourself as unflappably happy in it.
You’re carefree; you’re living your dream. Humdrum worries about the washing and that wrinkle in your forehead and whether or not the sugar in that 3pm Kit Kat is really that bad for you would no longer exist. Right?
Wrong. The reality (of course) isn’t so romantic.
When you actually speak to people who have achieved incredible things in their respective fields, you’ll realise nothing really changes, even when you’re doing what you love. Problems and roadblocks still abound. You still have days that drag on, periods of low mood and little motivation.
All that said, there are certain habits highly successful people adopt to ensure they can keep firing despite what the everyday throws at them.
We asked five high-powered (anonymous) individuals how they keep their equilibrium while killing it in their respective fields.
FOUNDER OF A MEDIA BUSINESS
A DOCTOR WORKING IN EMERGENCY RECOVERY
So, how I unwind really depends on the kind of day I’ve had.
A standard day is easy enough – come home, play with my son and do his bedtime book/cuddle/bottle etc, chat with my husband, dinner/wine, bath, Netflix etc.
The good thing about working in Emergency is that your work generally stays at work as you hand over all your patients, every day is a brand new bunch of cases, so there’s often not a lot of thinking about work at home unless you’ve had a particularly challenging or upsetting case.
In terms of mentally switching off, I think a lot of it is just experience and growing confidence, I’m much less prone to excessively ruminate or berate myself about mistakes now after several years of training than I was at the start. And trying to do 20 mins of reading after a shift about something that I felt unsure about during the day makes me feel better equipped to deal with it the next time I encounter it, and then I can stop worrying about it.
For more difficult days i.e. verbally or physically aggressive patients, paediatric resuscitations, breaking the news a family that their loved one has died etc. I try to utilise my bosses for proper debriefing about the case. My bosses are generally wonderful and always avail themselves for a chat if needed.
We also have a formal mentorship program where trainees are paired with senior emergency physicians and we meet up regularly to chat about how things are going in general. My mentor is wonderful and very easy to chat to. Working part time and having a toddler helps too, work doesn’t consume my whole week and Cash keeps me pretty busy. Other more general anxiety busters I find helpful are deep breathing exercises, listening to white noise etc. I wish I used exercise more but I’m so out of the habit!
A TELEVISION PRESENTER
A CHIEF ACTUARY AT A BIG FOUR BANK
Let off steam. Have a good rant to someone (empathetic) about what’s stressing you out. That can be very cathartic and helps turn it from an aggravation into merely a problem. It also manages to surface solutions surprisingly often.
Exude confidence, especially when you aren’t confident. It gets a lot of monkeys off your back and allows you to get on with fixing the snafu. I (or my staff) ran all or parts of the annual planning process for maybe eight years or more. Often, the CEO would come down hassling for results. My response was to tell him “I’ll tell you when to start panicking… and it is not yet!”.
Have interests outside of work so you can genuinely switch off. It doesn’t always work, but have clear boundaries between work and home. Maybe much more of an issue now with on-demand emails and phone messages. Learn how to resist them. When you are “at work” [which might have to be at home sometimes] work hard.
When you are home or on holiday, don’t do work stuff.
You might be a fair way off heading up a multinational, but if you glean anything from this article, it’s this: never feel guilty about relaxing. Your body needs it, and you’ll be better for it.
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