One of the reasons why I’ve grown to like jogging is that I seem to have the most interesting epiphanies while doing so. Ideas and solutions pop into my head out of nowhere often on issues that I hadn’t thought about in days. I guess they were just lurking in my subconscious, and my brain needed a real rest and some clear air to provide me crisp new ideas. A few weeks ago I had just such an epiphany. As a small business owner, I partner with many other individuals, businesses, and groups and typically there’s a contract associated with any business transaction – certainly any involving money. Obviously contracts are in place to ensure that everyone understands the terms and conditions of the transaction and to ensure that boundaries are clearly outlined and understood by all. About a mile into my jog it suddenly hit me like a bolt of lightning that I needed to draw up a new contract…this time with myself!
Like many others, I’m a busy mom juggling many different roles simultaneously – wife, mother, entrepreneur, friend, sister, keynote speaker, consultant, corporate trainer, etc. and trying to fit all those tasks and responsibilities into a 24 hour day (with sleep) would be laughable if it weren’t so frustrating on a day to day basis. While I jogged, I literally felt a gust of wind slap me in the face (the universe wringing my neck I’m sure) as if to say – “STOP and make a contract with yourself! Decide what you will do and what you won’t do and let everything else go.”
1. I get to have my own identity.
Women (in particular) have long struggled with the choice between having a career or not. I had a career for about 15 years prior to having children and it was a large part of my identity (and my sense of independence – see #3). Fortunately, I started a training business nearly a decade ago which provides me tremendous flexibility but also allows me to continue to define an identity completely separate from my role as wife or mother. This career identity means that I won’t always look to my family for a sense of worth or validation.
2. Family trumps work.Having clearly agreed that “I get to have my own identity”, I also needed to clearly decide that I’m not pursuing career success at the expense of family. As an entrepreneur who regularly makes decisions impacting my business model, travel schedule, scope of services, etc., it’s important that I have this value front of mind every day. One mistake that I’ve seen so many successful women (and men) make is falling into the trap of continuing to pursue more and more in their career without consciously thinking about what the additional compensation, responsibility, clients, business is really costing them.
3. I can take care of myself always.For better or worse, independence is extremely important to me. Although I’m completely committed to the partnership of marriage and the inherent interdependence that comes with that, I am invigorated by the reality that I can take care of myself so I choose to embrace that value.
4. I keep promises to myself.Sometimes, I think that we feel a bit guilty when we’re doing things for ourselves like jogging, going to the hair salon, getting a massage, even having lunch with a friend. And certainly society seems to judge certain activities as “important," and others as “not important.” Yet, we all know that some of these “personal investment” activities help us maintain a sense of balance, happiness, and peace.
5. I don’t sweat the small stuff.
I decided a while ago that we each have a limited amount of energy, and we must be very judicious about how we spend it. I use the “don’t sweat the small stuff” principle to help me decide where to put my energy and secondly, it helps me really let go from feeling pangs of guilt about anything that I’m not doing.
The beauty of a Mommy Contract is that it’s yours. It’s very personal. No one can tell you what to include in it, and it really should be a reflection of your values, priorities, and lifestyle.
Dana Brownlee is an acclaimed keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and team development consultant. She is President of Professionalism Matters, Inc. a boutique professional development corporate training firm based in Atlanta, GA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.