If you answered yes, then you might benefit from asking those closest to you if you seem OK. Because if you are powerful without being powerfilled, you’re at risk of burning out — if you haven’t burnt out already.
Maybe everything looks good on the surface. Maybe everything actually is good on the surface. Maybe you’re used to running on empty without showing any strain, because you know you’ll make up for it on your next holiday. Maybe you don’t know your own needs. Maybe you’re surrounded by people who also thrive in the fast lane. Maybe everything you’ve touched so far has been a success, so why this self examination?
First, let me start by explaining the difference between powerful and powerfilled.
I first awakened to a more conscious and more powerful life when a Balinese woman said she did not have time to give me a massage, even though her calendar showed a lot of free time. In my mind, that meant time that could be allocated to my needs. But when I asked her how she could not have time for me – while pointing to the free slots in her schedule – she looked firmly at me with the words: “No break, no power.”
At the time, I was living in the fast lane and could not understand what she meant. Because then I had a lot of power and strength.
The years passed, and as life threw several unexpected events at me, I learned that my proverbial house was made of straw, just like the three little pigs, who built their houses with straw, sticks, and – wisest of all – bricks.
I realized I was living a life without a buffer – without any surplus in my energy account – to withstand the events life throws at us on a busy day when it’s least welcome.
I realized then that I had to change my habits and move into a house of bricks. A house where lifelong maintenance and a healthy indoor environment were a priority. I came to see how my house of straw was not at all sustainable, and therefore not sufficiently resilient when life’s periodic winds turned into uncompromising hurricanes.
I had been operating outside my comfort zone for years. I was honored as a Talent100 in 2015 in the management category, then I was recognized as part of the Top 100 women segment in business management in both 2017 and 2018.
I had learned to be comfortable with an uncomfortable life, and it became clearer and clearer to me that I didn’t even know how to define my comfort zone, that I was just good at performing and surviving. That’s how my family was. That’s how my parents were. That’s the mentality that I adopted.
Today, I am still getting to know my comfort zone. It is both more and less powerful than I thought, and it depends on finding a balance between my private and professional lives. It’s a response to the people I keep closest to me, how much sleep I get, what food I eat, how much I exercise, my amount of free time, and so on.
All of this helps to ensure that I am powerfilled so that I can be powerful. Because if I am powerful without being powerfilled — if I deplete my surplus without saving anything for myself — then I am running on fumes. It can be an option for a period of time. It may even be a priority. But it must be conscious.
Because when you tap into that surplus, you are running a significant risk by living without a buffer to protect you when life’s challenges come knocking.
I am proud of my accomplishments. I am proud that they came out of periods in which I struggled through all kinds of weather, in my house of straw. But regardless of my resilience and the results I achieved, my inability to prioritize my own sustainability is not something to aspire to.
I had become immune to the speed of my own life. I thought my resources were inexhaustible, all the while climbing extra miles together with all the wonderful people who joined me in success.
Today I understand that “when you stop racing, you win the race.” I have come to realize that living life in the fast lane hinders the self-awareness needed to ensure the continuity that is necessary when one is a leader, influencer, and role model. Because when you’re a leader, other people take your lead.
I have recognized that the most vital component of creating extraordinary results – the chicken and the egg – is to be powerfilled. I have also recognized that this is also a prerequisite for being truly powerful.
So now I ask you: what is your house built of? Straw, sticks, or bricks?
Founder of the Global Voices project. Belongingness officer and an experienced People Executive.