1. Take good care of yourself
If you are anything like most young professionals I know, you give a lot, you work long hours and take on any project your manager suggests. You’ve got something to prove and you need to keep up with your surroundings, right?
If it looks like everybody is coping better with the pressure than you are: trust me, they’re not.
If you feel engaged with a goal, an organisation or a team, and if you want to be there for your surroundings, then know this: if you do not take very good care of yourself you will not be able to care for others. Your first priority should always be your own health, sleep, mental state and mindset. To do so, you need to establish boundaries and occasionally stand up for yourself.
We often decide to work harder, carry burdens and resolve issues ourselves out of pure devotion. We love to show that people can depend on us and we can get the job done. This strategy works well for periodic peaks in workloads. But watch out, in the long term this way of dealing with a high work load can lead to overfocusing on tasks and underfocusing on your basic needs. If you lose yourself you will lose your ability to ‘be’ there for others.
Work too hard for too long without taking care of yourself and fatigue will set in. And fatigue kills creativity and decreases self management and problem solving skills.
Remind yourself frequently of the things that keep you fresh, well rested, healthy and zen. And promise not to deprive yourself of these. Set boundaries and be vocal about them. Do not say yes to any request at work. Take days off. Spend time with family. Go to your weekly yoga class.
Take care of yourself so you can take care of the people and the goals that you are engaged with.
2. Say fuck it
We care too much. In general, we think about what people think of us, we overanalyze, we are careful not to make mistakes and we choose our words very carefully to suit our goal. Can you relate?
As a result, we spend a lot of energy thinking about what mistakes not to make and being careful. Wouldn’t you like to spend that energy in ways that make you happy or are productive?
The way I see it, we have a limited amout of fucks to give. If you start your day by fussing about finding the perfect outfit for the day, stressing about entering the office early to show how dedicated you are, and obsessing about that colleague that didn’t say good morning, that’s three fucks given even before you start work!
Here’s a challenge: say ‘fuck it’ regularly.
- Fuck it, I’m going to tell that colleague the honest truth about that mistake he made (but with kindness)
- Fuck it, I know I’m good at what I do so I don’t need constant approval
- Fuck it, my manager isn’t great so I am going to explain to him/her how to manage me
- Fuck it, I’m going to wear the same outfit as yesterday
- Fuck that thought I frequently have and fuck insecurity
- Fuck it, I can finish this task at the level of a 7, it doesn’t need to be a 9
- Fuck it, I’m just going to do this without overthinking
- Fuck it, I’m going home for the day.
Here’s another idea: write a ‘fuck it’ list. Sum up anything you can think of that you give a fuck about and then start crossing out the ones that are not giving you much. I bet you will find it empowering!
3. Be authentic
Want to see authenticity? Look at a child! Parents often say you can see a childs personality at a very young age and young children are not yet burdened by what they will later think the world wants them to be. A child is impulsive and curious.
As we go to school we are tought rules and we learn that we want to fit in. There are sociological reasons why we want to fit in. Fitting in is safe. But in this day and age we are not reliant on our pride’s protection.
Accept your qualities, physical attibutes, values, wishes, heritage, and everything else that makes you you. I’m not saying don’t be critical. Absolutely, tweak yourself. But realise that you have an individual set of qualities that nobody else possesses. When you have a ‘take me or leave me’ stance towards the world you will exude strength and confidence. And if you lose your way, go back to your essence, be playful and find your inner child.
Don’t get me wrong, there will always be people who give you a hard time for being different. But that’s just because of their own insecurities. It’s a shame those people feel the shackles of being normal and average. Do not say sorry that you have fought to be your authentic self.
Let go of who you think your surroundings want you to be and just be yourself.
Whatever image you have of what your surroundings want you to be, you’ve probably got that image wrong.
And however long and hard you try to be what you think you should be, you will never fully succeed. Just be you and wear it with pride!
4. Vulnerability is strength
The quickest way to gain respect is to show people that you are honest about your mistakes and flaws. We tend to cover these things up in an attempt to look supersmart and professional. Screw that. People will hold you in high regard if you show vulnerabitity from time to time.
Because admitting vulnerability takes balls. Grande cohones. It’s part of being authentic and saying: this is who I am, take it or leave it.
Take pride in your accomplishments but don’t be too quick to think you’re something special. Stay hungry and keep looking for the next lesson. In our private lives and in our professional lives, we will sometimes think: okay, I’ve made it! Only to realise years later that we still had so much to learn at that stage!
5. Be an idealists
So, we know that generation x, y and z want to have some sort of impact. We want to make a difference and we seek out causes, organisations and products we feel connected to.
You might feel passionate about sustainability, keeping things simple, making a difference and leaving a mark. If so, dare to be the person who speaks out. Too many of us keep quiet or chase ideals that do not fit the 21st century.
Be the person who says it like you see it even if your opinion seems unpopular to start. Lots of companies, organisations and managers are still in a fixed mindset, doing things the way their predecessor did or not re-evaluating. We need people who think out of the box and dare to speak out. Do not settle for a mediocre results focused on short term gains. Shoot for the sky.
Watch out for groupthinking and be aware of the strong effect of patterns. Most people do things the way somebody told them to do things.
Have you ever heard somebody say: we do it this way because that’s how we’ve always done it. Big. Red. Flag.
If we followed that logic we would still be burning ‘witches’, women still couldn’t vote and people of colour would still be seen as inferior.
The world needs people to reevaluate everything. Every thing.
6. Managers are people too
Anybody with a bad manager will know how huge the influence of management is on your results, your confidence, culture and everything else.
So let’s be very grateful to the managers who get a lot right. A good manager can make you feel valued and smart, will encourage and show vulnerability and will be an authentic idealist who makes you and everyone else in the team feel important. Basically all the elements earlier described in this article, see, you could be a good manager too 😉
But here are some things about managers you might not have realised but are good to know:
- They need input. You can help your manager by speaking your mind, letting them know what you need and giving them feedback and appreciation.
- Good managers have bad days. They might be coping with something impactful in their personal life. Be considerate. If your manager was a bit too direct or was uncharacteristically critical, take it on the chin.
- They are often trying to make the best of a difficult situation. Managers are often stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s not easy to manage office politics, customer satisfaction, input from shareholders and external factors which which put pressure on you and your team. Your manager might be protecting you from tensions you didn’t know existed.
- Managers are always learning. About themselves, about the changing world around us, but most importantly about the people they lead. Discovering how to get the best out of people takes time and patience. A manager needs to experiment to discover your buttons, the good and the bad. Be patient, if it’s a good manager he or she will get it right. But maybe not on the first go.