At the University of Texas, researchers have found stress impacts the human brain’s ability to perceive time. Evidence shows a chemical influence in how we view time passing.

Fascinating!

simi_nwogugu_1So I was watching Oprah’s after show on YouTube, wondering how she maintains her drive to help people live their best lives when I realized inspiring people beget inspiring people. She remains inspired by surrounding herself with amazing individuals who are up to something in life. It’s not their title that makes them important, but the will with which they live.

That’s what this blog is all about, too.

I had the distinct privilege of connecting with Simi S Nwogugu, CEO of HOD Consulting, recently. She used to work in a fast-paced job as senior director of strategy & business development at MTV Networks. She left her job aftermtv having two baby boys back to back. It was time for a change, one she realized she badly needed. Twelve-hour days at the office suddenly paled in comparison to staying home with her two young sons.

“Work-life balance will stop being a struggle once you become clear about the steps you need to take to lead the life you want to live.”

“I hired a coach to help me through my identity crisis (I’d always defined myself by the work I was doing) and fell in love with coaching. At that point, I decided to get a certificate in coaching at NYU. Thereafter, I started a coaching organization to help other executive women deal with work-life balance.”

Through her experience, she realized she prefered the more flexible lifestyle. Raising a family while applying her mind is easier when it’s on your own terms.

“I work from home on Mondays, take meetings only during 10am and 4pm on Tues-Thurs when my boys are in school and try not to do any work on Fridays so I can run household errands and plan activities for the weekend with the family.”

She admits she works more hours than before. However, because she loves what she does and can do it from anywhere (including while at Disneyworld in Florida or from the Nigerian beach in Lagos), it feels a lot less like work.

The challenge is she is only paid when she works, a a trade-off she agrees was worth it.

“Once you are able to connect with who you are,” she told me, “and why you feel you are in this world at this time and what has real meaning for you, attaining work-life balance will stop being a struggle because you will suddenly become clear about the steps you need to take to lead the life you want to live.”

Amen to that, Simi!

work-life-monitor2

Judy Martin over at The Work/Life Monitor recently offered five cool tips on slowing down, which I found interesting. Instead of emailing, call a friend. Instead of eating lunch with your BlackBerry tied to your wrist, leave it at your desk.

Really.

Read on for more cool details on how to heat up your life the slow and graceful way!

Oh, and she lives in New York City. I find it so encouraging that even New Yorkers embrace some part of the Slow Movement.

Slow Toy Idea

December 21, 2008

Bernadette Noll at Slow Family Living offers a great slow toy idea: a stick. Despite all the Pirates of the Caribbean toys my son seems to possess, his trusty stick is the one he covets the most.

stickTip: Take a walk in nature and find a suitable stick. Whether you have kids or not, a stick can be the best companion toy one could ever have. It makes a great fire stoker, not to mention a great pointer when doing a flipchart presentation.

Take a Stick to Work Day. Now there’s an idea!

I wrote the word SlowDown like this on purpose. It is a monumental event, like New Year’s, that deserves to be capitalized. It may be the single most painful, yet purposeful things this world has experienced in centuries.

Because I am not an economist, I don’t really understand the nuances of loraxwhat has happened to elicit the world financial crisis. It is often in crisis, however, that we learn the most. Because human beings tend to be creatures of comfort, we only move when things transition from a comfortable to an uncomfortable state. That is not to say we are always happy. Comfort implies predictability. We know what to expect, even if it isn’t pleasant. We can get used to misery as easily, and oftentimes clamour to that which is familiar, even if it’s frightening.

The world economic situation is not familiar, and it has made a lot of people fearful. A collective panic has swept the globe. We are now moving from a state of discomfort, seeking the warm nest to catch us as we fall.

And I think it is a good thing.

It is not good that people have been left homeless. Nor is it good that businesses, including major banks, are failing.

But it also gives us an opportunity to step back and look at what we’ve been running after all this time. Better, more, bigger, larger, fatter bottom lines. It reminds me of my all-time favorite Dr. Seuss story, The Lorax, who spoke for the trees while industries destroyed the very thing they needed to survive.

I am hopeful for the future. We may have needed to take ourselves by the seat of the pants, much like the Lorax did, and leave the remorseful Thneed-weaving greed behind us.

There is a spot of sunshine in slowing down. It is time for us all to breathe and remember we are not here to fatten the bottom line, but to make a difference.

The time is now.

I used to work as a PR consultant for Deborah King, author of Truth Heals: What You Hide Can Hurt You. She recently published an open letter to Oprah Winfrey, addressing Oprah’s weight challenges and Deborah’s beliefs about its underlying causes.

I was moved by Deborah’s courage and also by Oprah’s shame. With her truth-healspermission, I will quote what Deborah says about balance:

“”You speak of balance in O magazine, and external balance between work and the rest of our lives is important, no doubt. But, first and foremost, the balance of our own energy field is vital if we are to be healthy and happy.”

Looking at the underlying causes of our choices is immensely important. Deborah herself has dealt effectively with her own addictions, stemming from childhood trauma, as Oprah’s food addiction does, too.

What does this have to do with The Power of Slow?

Everything.

It is about our choices. Whether we choose to address dark issues or choose to ignore them, everything we do has an impact.

Everyone has issues and challenges. The question is what will you do with them? I find myself dealing with thirty-year-old issues that are resurfacing as I watch my daughter go through similar things. It is amazing how children won’t allow your soul to slumber.

I embrace people who find the courage to face their shadows and who do good for others in the process. Blessings upon you all whose pain lurks just beneath your skin. You are not alone. And never will be.

margaret-headshotMargaret McSweeney, of Barrington Hills, Illinois, always wanted to be a writer. Instead, she became a vice president at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City with a Master’s degree in International Business from University of South Carolina. When her children came along, she recognized Manhattan was no place for kids, and her lifestyle as a harried investment banker was equally unsuitable. In 1993, she and her husband backed their bags and headed West – mid-West to be exact.

Her story of work-life balance rests in her childhood dream of becoming a writer.

People always say that you end up doing what you loved to do in third grade.  For me, that was writing. 

CLH: What caused you to downshift?  
 
Margaret: When my oldest daughter was born in Manhattan, I realized that I couldn’t continue the fast paced life of a New York City banker. My mothers-hearthusband, originally from the Midwest, obtained a transfer back to the Chicago area. We have raised our two daughters in the same town where he grew up and live close to his family. Having a child, quitting a career and moving were all huge events to occur at once. However, I welcomed the opportunity for change and reassessed my professional objectives during that time. Unable to find part-time work in banking, I instead chose to do some free lance consulting work with my former employer on a project by project basis. Everything was done from home. After the banks started merging, this opportunity was no longer available, so once again I reassessed the situation. People always say that you end up doing what you loved to do in third grade. For me, that was writing. A weekly neighborhood column opened up at a local newspaper, and I applied for that position. I decided to attend some local writers’ conferences and submitted my work to visiting editors from publishing houses.  My first book, A Mother’s Heart Knows, was published in 2005, and I continue to follow this new career path.

CLH:  How do you view work-life balance today?


Margaret:  My work-life is balanced. I am able to work from home and attend just a few out of state conferences to continue improving my writing skills and expanding my network. The real challenge is balancing the schedule of my two teenage daughters with their school and social activities.  
 
CLH: What advice can you offer others who are struggling to manage it all?
 
Margaret: First, I would encourage everyone to think about what he or she loved to do in third grade and see if that remains a passion and possibility for today. Regarding the time management struggle, I am a big advocate of “to-do” lists. Technically challenged, I use a spiral notebook and calendar to coordinate my schedules and lists. Writing down the daily goals/activities/scheduled meetings and checking them off one by one helps keep the mind clutter organized and enables me to focus on the most efficient way to complete what needs to be done. Also on that list, include something fun for you to do just for yourself at least once a week and be sure to check that one off, too!

CLH: Thanks so much!

Margaret: Thank you!

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