Option B

I read Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy because Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant wrote it and I loved both Originals and Lean In. I am still processing some of the thoughts, but in general, even without experiencing any dramatic loss in the recent past, the book still resonated, because it clearly highlighted all the things I was doing right and wrong going about achieving my personal goals.

But first things first J and I wanted to tell you all about my coaching sessions that were supposed to help me normalize my stress levels, eating and sleeping habits. In order to do that, for 6 weeks, I was supposed to keep a journal about what I eat, what I think about before and during meals, what is my stress level, how much I exercise, how much water I drink and how much I sleep. I was not supposed to change anything, just remain my cheerful-judgmental-competitive-self and simply document everything about eating, sleeping and stress. The idea is that when you have a bad habit (or a bunch of them, as I do), it is much more reliable strategy to try and understand which situations trigger unhealthy behaviors and only then try and change things.

Frankly, the experience was very annoying (despite the fact that I like writing and not only because I had to honestly document cheese or foie gras or jamon iberico with wine at 2 a.m.), but because I felt it was always the wrong moment to think about what do I eat in the middle of various conferences and it was impossible to always be my at my best, when I slept for 4-5 hours. It’s like documenting your slippages, which is practically immoral at the age when one’s life is constantly graded as Instagram-worth material. But I decided I’d do it and I did. I got regular feedback and a lot more questions to answer and specify my journal entries from the coaches, and now it’s the time to get all these materials together and reflect . On the positive side, I really did well with exercising (like 5-6 hours weekly)!

Funnily enough, my normal modus operandi is a state where I have a plan for the day, I am aware about the timing, I know if I am on track or behind, I am alert to new developments, I assess how things evolve, but still feel in control. To me, this condition turns out to be very optimal and healthy, because I eat what I planned and when I planed it, I don’t skip exercising and I go to bed in normal hours. This is the best state of mind to function and be productive for me, but obviously not the state of mind, when I can fall asleep. Interestingly, I made a personal discovery about multi-tasking. I’ve actually always felt I am the ultimate Queen of multi-tasking, because I can cook, pack, give instructions on the conference call and do online shopping all at the same time. I’ve been proud of my multi-tasking abilities for years. Turns out – it increases the stress level and makes me more tired by the end of the day, when I really have to do a lot of surprise multi-tasking (like, taking an urgent conference call during waxing appointment or doing a work-related messaging during the weekend from the theater). I can do it, obviously, but after these things happen, I do feel less energetic and deprived of my personal time. Essentially, when a surprise mini-emergency happens (and they happen a lot), I have a tendency to jump right in, usually squeezing my planned tasks and multi-tasking like crazy. This is what I decided to change right away: when people call or write “urgent” and “asap”, if it’s not related to someone going to the hospital or prison right now, it can wait a few hours or days, before I schedule it and address it in a planned fashion.

Another surprise: when I read my journal, it often felt like I was at the same time recovering from a big personal disaster and fiercely competing with someone. I used phrases such as “now is the unique time” or “recent total mess” or “cannot wait” or “I had to finish it right away”. You get the picture – there was always a sense of urgency and a fear of things being late or missed. Like, if something does not happen immediately, the world would stop and I would never know who is behind the Capital Hill bombing in the Designated Survivor.

This is where my thoughts about healthier life choices and the ideas from Option B intersected. Nobody has their dream life delivered to them exactly as they wanted, and there are always setbacks. We are all indeed living some form of our plans B. Like, I never expected to be exactly where I am now – which is building my own consultancy business for the Fintech industry that did not exist 5 years ago. But I’ve always expected to live in a stable country, be financially comfortable (by my demanding standards), enjoy beautiful nature, wear beautiful shoes and be surrounded by smart, successful and sophisticated people, and have some room for creativity and continuous learning. With all the dust now settled, it’s very clear that the main frustration I had with the corporate world was how fast I could grow. I had lots of energy and found it limiting, that no matter what I do or how many projects I take on or how many results I deliver, within the boundaries of corporate policies, my salary could only increase by 5-10% year-on-year, I could expect the promotion once in 2-3 years, if I am lucky, and when I am a real star, my bonus will be 30% instead of 20% (and when all of these wonderful numbers are calculated on after-tax basis, I end up with … just an extra pair of shoes per month). Bummer. 😦

Maybe, building a company is stressful, but it’s nothing in comparison to people recovering from life-threatening deceases or who lost loved ones or who came from wars. It gave me a real perspective.

Well, the next step is to develop a new plan and see how it’s working, right?

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