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!

Taking Relief Time

December 17, 2008

About a year ago, I was approached by the most interesting person,  Svetlana Konnikova, who had written a book, Mama’s Home Remedies: Discover Time-Tested Secrets of Good Health and the Pleasures of Natural Living. It is based on home-made remedies she had learned from her mother and grandmother while growing up in Russia. Today, I found her blog, which talks about taking relief time, a perfect topic for The Power of Slow.

Around the holidays we tend to overeat or not eat well. Svetlana offers the mamas-home-remediesmost mouth-watering ideas to fill your tummy while you fill your soul. She’s the one who told me about the power of pomegranate juice in the winter time. I’ve been faithfully buying what I call my ‘wellness drink.’ Luckily, my daughter likes it, too!

Relief time means eating mindfully. It is tempting to eat in front of your computer or on the run. Take one day this week to eat a meal in peace, and at pace, with your resting heartbeat!

When Life Screeches to a Halt

December 16, 2008

As I read Gayle Bu’s email, my jaw dropped and stayed there. Once a time-crunched executive assistant for the head of babyGap in San Francisco, she suffered a severe brain aneurysm at the tender age of 27.** Her story of recovery and slowing down is a wake-up call for us all.

“As I lay in the hospital bed drifting in and out of consciousness, trying to make my last will and testament, and deciding on surgical options, I had attempted to give my husband instructions on what to do with my manager’s expense report and travel arrangements!  My job had consumed me that much!”

CLH:  Your story is incredibly inspiring. Can you tell us what happened?

Gayle: I was an Executive Assistant working for the head of babyGap in San Francisco in 2002.  I loved my job.  It paid well with upward mobility and unlimited career paths. There was always so much energy and activity that the days flew by.  But as much as I loved what I did, I began to resent leaving home in the dark and coming home in the dark. It was becoming exhausting.  I toyed with the idea of starting a business where I could do the same type of work from home and re-gain some work/life balance.  But in the hustle and bustle of my crazy life and the stereotype that one could not possibly be a high level secretary from home, the idea was pushed to the backburner.

Then, on May 15, 2002, my life came to a halt.  After a usual day of work, I came home, had dinner with my husband and went to bed.  At around midnight, I awoke to the loudest, most shrill noise I have ever heard that gayle-bucaused me to sit upright in bed.  I looked over to my husband who was watching TV with noise-canceling headphones and realized that there in fact was no noise in the room.  Then all went blank.  The next thing I remember is being carried out my bedroom by a big burly firefighter and feeling like a helpless rag doll.  Shortly thereafter, as I lay in a hospital bed, I found out that I had a brain aneurysm and had experienced a subarachnoid hemorrhage.  I was only 27 years old with no prior medical history.

I would spend the next two weeks in the neurological intensive care unit being monitored 24/7 and being fed by a tube.  Interestingly, it was bought to my attention later that as I lay in the hospital bed drifting in and out of consciousness, trying to make my last will and testament, and deciding on surgical options, I had attempted to give my husband instructions on what to do with my manager’s expense report and travel arrangements!  My job had consumed me that much!

After two life-threatening surgeries and a stroke, I wasn’t sure if my life would ever be the same and knew that I needed to make changes. The chance at a total recovery for someone in my condition was merely 5%.  The subsequent months of fatigue and physical therapy (I had to learn to walk again) left me unable to go back to work in a corporate environment.  I had to seriously re-assess my life and was able to find the clarity I needed to slow down.   I then started working as a Virtual Assistant from home.  Fast forward six years – I have fully recovered and now have two beautiful children – a one year old and a three year old and still love working as a Virtual Assistant.  I not only get to enjoy more balance in my own personal life, but I also get to help others do the same.  One of my favorite clients is a working mom who also has two small children – I have the privilege of helping her with day to day items so at the end of the day, she too can slow down and enjoy her family.

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

Gayle:  It’s so important.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of work and the stress of everyday problems that it’s hard to find time to slow down.  But it’s in those times when we make ourselves slow down that we’re able to figure out what our priorities truly are.  Perhaps we’re being overly consumed by issues that are draining us.  Five years from now, those issues may be insignificant, yet they consume so much of our time right now.  So why not focus on areas of our lives that will significantly impact ourselves and those around us in five years instead?  I always wonder – if I hadn’t suffered something life threatening – would I have slowed down?  Probably not.  It’s unfortunate that for so many of us it has to take something so drastic in order for us to stop, slow down and enjoy the life that we’ve been given!

CLH: What advice can you offer others who are struggling to manage it all?

Gayle:  Set aside some quiet time alone in your favorite place to journal about what is truly important to you in your life.  What do you really want to do with your life?  Where do you want to be 5 or 10 years from now and what do you need to do to get there?  What is draining you?  Do you need support from others and in what areas?  What do you need to do to create a nurturing and supportive environment for yourself?  Then you can establish goals for yourself and figure out your own personal roadmap.  If you take the time to care for yourself, you’ll be in a better position to manage the other relationships in your life and you’ll be on your way to creating a more enjoyable life for yourself.

CLH: Thank you so much for sharing your incredible story.

Gayle: Thank you!

**Gayle Bu is now a Virtual Assistant (www.buvirtualoffice.com) who provide administrative and personal assistance to executives and small business owners so that (in her words) “they can recapture precious time in order to focus on the important things.”

Her Life Is Time Off

December 15, 2008

elizabethAs a former branding executive at Proctor & Gamble, Elizabeth Jarosz is perhaps best known as the former contestant on Donald Trump’s reality series, The Apprentice. In 2004-2005 she trumped over 1 million candidates to appear on the show (pun totally intended!). Achievement is something with which Elizabeth is very familiar. As the first child of Italian immigrants to attend college, Elizabeth had worked on branding and market research projects for more than 30 Fortune 500 companies and over 40 multi-million dollar brands by age 30. Some of the campaigns on which she has worked include: Tide, Pantene, Olay, Glad, Gallo of Sonoma, and AT&T Wireless, to name a few.

With such an impressive portfolio, it is even more amazing that she left her high-powered P&G position to start her own company, Pulse40. Before she did, she took a leave of absence from P&G so she could write, produce and direct an award-winning short film.

Using her experience and brand wisdom, Elizabeth now focuses on making a difference in people’s lives. Take Humanity Unites Brilliance, an organization she co-founded that works towards sustainable abundance for all. Work-life balance and women in business happen to be two of her favorite topics. We connected via VoIP for a chat about life, gender issues, and making a difference.

Balance is as much about “getting what you want” as it is about “wanting what you have.”

CLH: What caused you to make a change in your life from a high-powered brand manager for a major US corporate to an entrepreneuer?

Elizabeth: I believe strongly that we all have a purpose in life.  I downshifted so that I could make time to live my potential and do all the things I dream of, most of which involve making a positive and powerful impact in the world. I wanted to dedicate more time to my ‘passion projects’, things that I really felt had a lasting impact. Even though Procter & Gamble is a great company to work for, I realized if I stayed where I was with P&G, I’d not be fulfilling that true purpose.

CLH: How do you view work-life balance?

Elizabeth: To me, work/life balance is fulfillment on all four levels of existence: physical world (what we create/do), mental (our mind), emotional (our feelings) and spiritual (honoring our authentic self – not to be confused with religion).  When all of these are fulfilled, we have the feeling of balance.  If any one is out of alignment, we feel out of balance.

Balance is as much about “getting what you want” as it is about “wanting what you have.”

CLH: You seem to have a lot going on! Do you ever take time off?

Elizabeth: My whole life is time off. I pick and choose a project, which usually is within two weeks of agreeing to it, and it takes three days.
I have designed my life in that way. It’s been like that for over eight years.

When I was young, I wanted to work in the media to positively influence society. But I did what any second generation child of immigrants would do. I attended business school instead. After accomplishing so much all my life, I finally decided I wanted to work five days a month and do whatever I want the rest of the time. When I first started Pulse40, I worked full-time and thought! Hey, this wasn’t the idea! It took a while to find the right balance. Now I work with the people I want, when I want while still making the money I did at my corporate job.  I developed a women’s workshop entitled Beyond the Boardroom. It is a one- or two-day workshop for working women to help them define success in ways they might not normally think. We talk a lot about work-life balance. It is so gratifying to watch people light up after realizing their true potential.

CLH: Good luck on your passion projects. Thanks so much for your time, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth: Thank you!

For more, visit Elizabeth Jarosz’s Web site.

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