I remember it like it was yesterday.
I had woken up with a headache and a burning sensation in my eyes. It was that time -- another workday, and this was going to be a long one. I had a fashion show that evening, and on the forefront of my mind were the million tasks that needed to be completed before I arrived at the venue. But they would have to wait. First and foremost was my day job. I had to be there, no excuses. After all, that's what paid the bills.
I reluctantly got ready for work. Couldn't I just get a few more winks of sleep? My body ached and the effort required to make the trek to my car was grueling. Nevertheless, I made it to work in one piece but I was late again, which seemed to be my norm as of late. As I walked into the office, I made the conscious decision to smile. I figured that if I smiled my way through the day, it would all be better. I was wrong. Reality was about to set in.
A short time after I had sat at my desk, I heard a familiar sound, signaling that I had received a new message. It was from my supervisor. We needed to have an impromptu meeting. Assuming it would be nothing but a quick pop in, I immediately headed to that familiar office, took a seat and we got right to it. Thirty minutes later, I was in tears. I wanted to crawl under a rock and disappear. If I didn't get my act together, I would be out of a job. I nodded my head in understanding as we wrapped up and returned to my desk, holding back the tears.
I couldn't lose my job. I just couldn't. I wanted to explain why I had been a sub par employee but it would do no good. My actions had already preceded anything I could say. It was time to change my game plan.
Since starting my own business, I had thrown all caution to the wind, unwaveringly pursuing my dream, as all hard-working entrepreneurs should. However, there was a slight problem -- I hardly slept. I prided myself in my 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. days. After all, I was productive. I answered every email, Facebook message, tweet and Instagram comment in a timely fashion plus every task on my to-do list was crossed off. In addition, my company had received some great exposure due to this diligence. How could I complain? Things were looking up -- except in the case of my physical and mental strength. Most days, I just felt tired. On others, my eyes burned but I would endure it until I made it to my bed again at 4 a.m. On my worst days, my body felt as if someone had beaten me repeatedly with a piece of plywood. Mentally, I forgot things -- like what items were called or basic business terms. What I thought was a trademark of success began to slowly poison me.
You see, somewhere somehow, we have convinced ourselves that in order to be successful at anything, we need to stretch ourselves so thin that God does not even recognize us. I'm not sure where this mindset came from but it seems to have become the gospel truth to so many. Ambition and success have become synonymous with words or phrases like "always working," "I'll sleep when I'm dead," and so on. PAUSE. What? I'll sleep when I'm dead? When did that become a badge of honor?
Later that evening, while I was sitting in my room evaluating my actions, I recognized that it was time to take care of me -- all of me. I had to shed this toxic view of success in order to live a healthy life, which meant I had to enforce some boundaries.
First, I set a bedtime. It just had to be done. My body needed enough sleep so I could function at my best capacity. After downloading a sleep app, I learned that I only needed seven hours, and I have trained my mind to understand that that time is nonnegotiable. Secondly, I implemented a weekly tasks list. This wasn't a list of my goals, dreams and desires. This was a practical list of what I needed to accomplish that week in each area of my life so I could continue to move forward toward my dreams and the life I envisioned. Thirdly, I sought an accountability partner -- someone who would hold me to that list and keep me on track.
Having implemented these things, I can proudly say that I am here, alive and well, on my way to success. I'm no longer staying up until 4 a.m. and my body no longer aches in pain from sleep deprivation. I have a steady income and my business is in great shape. I am working smarter, not harder. I am thriving, not just surviving and it feels darn good!
Like I said, I vividly remember that day. It was a hard one but I am thankful for the lesson it taught me. Entrepreneurial success, in fact any success, is not defined by my ability to continuously sabotage myself while the world cheers me on. It is investing in myself because I am the greatest asset I will ever have.