The Old Way
My life was a constant challenge. Turning everything into a challenge was my way to cope with life. Do I need to study for a boring exam? Let me challenge myself into loving it. Am I assigned to a project I hate? Great chance to challenge myself and be the best. And so on and so forth.
Until the day I realized an important life lesson. It's May 2020. I am sitting on my armchair, looking at my freshly made wound, a circular deep cut in the skin of my thumb made with a drill. I feel so stupid about how I cut myself. My partner and I are still recovering from the huge stress accumulated during the renovation works in our studio. We still have things to do, but I can’t do much with only one hand and the level of tension is rising fast, too fast to be healthy. I am also working with a business coach, trying to make my own coaching business take off.
Some months before, I swore to myself that I would change my career path. I challenged myself - I can make it, I have to do it, no matter what! At that moment, I signed up for burning out again.
Now, looking at my wound, pitying and blaming myself, struggling to deal with the perception that I failed miserably, I feel overwhelmed. I have a clear overview of the last eight months. A constant fight against life. I have been at war with life for as long as I can remember. Head bowed, tears in my eyes burning with frustration, anger and sadness, I am looking at my wound and I realize how tired I am to fight.
I can’t win against life. I can just go along with it, accepting my lack of control over it. I decide to take two and a half months off. I log out from LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter, the only social media I use.
As soon as I make the decision to devote time to myself, putting the pieces of my shredded life together, I feel relieved. I don’t feel sorry about my business. I don’t feel like a failure any more. The realization that I can’t win against life puts a heavy weight off my shoulders.
The epiphany makes me truly and intimately realize what surrendering means. If I want to represent surrendering with a metaphor I would say that it’s like being on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean. The only thing I can do is to attend my boat. I can’t control when or where the wind will blow. I want to be ready for when it happens, making the most out of my life.
Surrendering is the capability to devote attention to whatever I can control and to let go of whatever I can’t control
If you were on an airplane, my life would look boring, lazy and meaningless. But from my point of view, my life is full of activities, both internal and external.
If I want to rationalize my epiphany, I would say that surrendering is the capability to devote attention to whatever I can control and to let go of whatever I can’t control.
The New Way
I want to share my life lesson with the whole community of remote workers because one of the biggest struggles remote workers face is to unplug and set clear boundaries between work and life.
The point is that if you are taught, like me, to challenge yourself to achieve more, then chances are that you are introducing a lot of conflict in your life. If you look at work and life as something to be balanced, you run the risk of considering life as something interfering with work and work as something interfering with life.
There is a much more useful way of looking at things. Instead of talking about challenges, let’s talk about being curious and open to life. Let’s talk about surrendering to life.
Surrendering doesn’t mean giving up. I am still attending to my sailboat. I am not sleeping the whole time, waiting for the wind to blow. I am keeping myself fit, emotionally, physically and mentally to sail as best I could when the wind blows.
When it comes to unplugging and integrating work into life, an efficient and healthy approach is to understand that unplugging is a needed part of your job. By unplugging I mean being at peace with resting. If you are constantly ruminating about a past or future online meeting or deadline, then you aren’t unplugged, even if your phone and pc are switched off. When you are able to truly unplug, you will sleep more and better, dramatically improving the relationship with the remote team, productivity and creativity.
Work-life integration means deeply understanding that you have to allow an overlap between work and private life. Granted, you can play with the size of the overlap, but fighting in order to control every variable to be able to work at home as if you were at the office is simply useless and draining. When you learn to integrate work into life, you will experience a synergy and a peace of mind that will turn your remote life into what you can now only dream about.
I truly believe that remote work can reshape our whole society for the better as I explain in this video. I am so passionate about helping fellow remote workers overcome their struggles that I devoted a whole playlist on my YouTube channel to talk about unplugging, work-life integration, remote team player, burnout and visibility in detail.
My dream is that every remote worker will be able to start working with her dream company with the right foot. That’s why I recommend to all remote workers who are looking for opportunities to not only turn their attention to The Remote Recruiters, but to also dig deeper into the “flexible mentality” that more and more job openings require.
During your interview, ask what exactly it means because if the company doesn’t have a healthy remote culture, chances are that you are expected to work even during weekends, undermining your capability to unplug, severing any healthy overlap between remote work and private life.
In the end, I wish you to attend to your sailboat with a peace of mind, heart and soul that only comes from truly surrendering to life.