Just recently I was giving a speech in front of a big group of businesswomen. I talked about my book ‘Be a Woman and Act like One. Succeeding in business and life’. What mostly amazed me about that particular group of women was how open-minded, professional and happy they seemed to be. Being a guest speaker at that event was a treat because I felt they were not only listening, they were also emotionally involved in what I had to say. They helped me to deliver a good speech which made me reflect on what is it that we can do best and what are the circumstances that allow us to do our best?
Women often struggle in a work environment when the competition especially from male coworkers is strong or when simply the company culture makes it difficult for women to thrive. Just like plants in a garden need a good environment with nourishing soil and water to thrive, women in business need a good environment to succeed. So what can we women do to avoid getting stuck and frustrated in our careers? How can women do their best and realize their full potential?
Here are strategies that can help you thrive:
1. Find a company/environment that supports women
Women wear many hats and are often responsible for their families, husband and kids, while perhaps also taking care of elderly parents while at the same time earning income for the family. Women need support in juggling so many responsibilities, so find a company that supports women. Look for a company that understands that you may have to leave earlier occasionally to take care of your kid or other family issues and trusts you to make up for lost time by working from home or doing overtime on another day. If the company you are working for does not trust you and does not allow you to make your own choices, it is probably not the right place for you. Move on to another company where there is more understanding and where the overall climate is more supportive towards women.
2. Take time for reflection
If you are a busy bee and the days pass without any time for reflection, you are not only trapped, you will also never find out what you really like to do and what you do best. You need ‘me-time’ to reflect on what you are doing. You may well find that there are actually other things you would be interested in doing. If you are running in the hamster wheel all day without stopping, you will never find out what is going on around you. You miss out on life and opportunities.
3. Be flexible, be open and allow change to happen
One of women’s biggest fears is leaving the comfort zone. You know I’m right! It feels good to feel safe. Even when we are doing a job we don’t like, we would often rather keep it because we think we know what we are doing. After all we enjoy a routine and a regular income. This is like being buried alive! Sorry, for being so harsh, but if you lose your flexibility and prefer to stick to something you are used to while being in constant fear of change, you stagnate. You are at the end of your personal development. Instead, take a leap of faith in yourself. It might be scary at the beginning, but taking a few lumps on the way is OK as long as you can keep moving forward.
4. Kill the inner critic
Women in particular have a very strong inner critic – the little voice inside of us that tells us we are not good enough, that we can do better etc. Don’t allow this voice to take over. Especially when you decide to do something new, you don’t want to discourage yourself before you have even started. Therefore, keep your body and mind in balance by doing activities that give you confidence and joy. Allow this sensation in your body to grow and spread. Whenever you hear the nasty doubting voice again, recall what it felt like to be happy and in balance. Defeat the inner critic.
5. Test the waters
Imagine you are very talented in various areas of your life. You might be a good marketing woman, very creative, loving animals, good at sewing and doing crafts etc. How can you find out what you can do best and what brings you the most happiness? The only way is to test the waters. If you want to find out if the bath water is too hot, too cold or just right you, stick your hand into the water. This is exactly how it works with finding what you can do best and what makes you happy. Whatever you think you would like to do, give it a real try, and do so for some time. You will know what is right for you, and nobody else can give you the answer. What feels right to you, what you enjoy doing, is not necessarily right for someone else. Some like it hot, some like it cold – What about you?
There are times in our lives when we have to make choices. We can go the safe path or walk along the ridgeline. We can stand on the edge of the precipice or take the plunge. We can stay dry and safe or get wet. Find your courage and take the route that makes your heart beat faster. Of course, this does not mean that you should jump blindly. Give careful thought to important decisions and stay real. After all, a non-swimmer who jumps in the ocean is not courageous, just a fool. That’s why you must first “test the water”. But when you feel confident that you can swim and are just scared of water, take the plunge.
Jumping into something new means living your life to the fullest. It might not be the safest choice, but you will not drown as long as you know how to swim. Instead it will bring you immense sense of accomplishment and a sense of purpose.
My own experience has been that when I showed courage and openness for change, I felt some initial trepidation, of course, but that soon gave way to happiness and pride, especially in a fertile new environment. I felt embraced and was able to show my best.
You are the creator of your life and you can pick where and what you do. Once you have an environment that embraces you, you will thrive and find out what is best for you. Situations in which we experience animosity and a sense of not being welcomed are not unusual. Remember then you cannot change others, but you can make your own choices and change your environment. If you want to do what you do best, first find fertile ground and then begin your journey of self-discovery.
My heart is with you and every woman who makes the effort to find true meaning and happiness.
Be a woman and act like one.