Dream & Do

How do we create balance in the age of the entrepreneur? Is balance even a “thing” anymore?

Tara Shelton2 Comments

A Q&A with coach Shannah Kennedy, author of The Life Plan

This week, Dream & Do sat down with life coach Shannah Kennedy to pick her brain about staying emotionally healthy in the age of the entrepreneur, and the importance of balancing your personal and professional lives equally. Shannah has recently published a practical and beautifully designed book, The Life Plan, which offers tips and tricks for taking care of yourself, celebrating successes and uncovering your true purpose. She says, ‘A lot of people can’t afford a coach, so after 15 years’ experience I just wanted everyone to know these skills, not just CEOs.’

Shannah runs wellness seminars for big businesses like Macquarie Bank, and is passionate about imparting a skillset for self-preservation. Mental illness is topical at the moment, and Shannah stresses the statistic that 1 in 6 Australian workers suffer from anxiety, stress, depression or insomnia, and many don’t have the skillset or the support at work to pause and take time out, in the name of self-preservation. She believes it should be a company’s imperative to invest in their staff’s wellbeing and life skills, through education and leadership. ‘It’s confronting for people to realise they’re whole people, not just defined by their job. We need freedom, choice and confidence.’

One of the key messages in your book is the importance to take time out and create balance. Your story about taking five months off to travel with your family and live without iPhones, at the height of your career, is pretty powerful. What were your biggest fears before jetting off?

It was one of the most courageous things I’ve ever done. Life coaching is a competitive market, but I had to think, ‘What’s the worst that can possibly happen if I lose my clients?’ I would have to start again, but would that be so bad? Not really! The trip was a way of taking a giant breath, before committing to another 10 years of my career… of coaching, speaking, travelling, raising children. I wanted to put my mark in the sand every five years and connect with who I am. Because when I came back, my tank was full. You’re ready to go, lots of new ideas, lots of space. My body felt incredibly full of rest and I was excited to come back. I then roped in more business than ever before, because I think my clients respected the fact that I did it, and were inspired to know that they could do it too.

What are some of the rules for taking time out?

It doesn’t have to be five months, but everyone can take a month off. The rule is to get off technology and go somewhere. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it’s about reconnecting with yourself and your family. Do some great vision work and learn new skills if you can. I studied photography and learned how to breathe, which gave me better coping strategies to bring into my everyday life.

How can we work to combat technology taking over our lives? What are some of your best tips?

The biggest rule is not to have technology in the bedroom. Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock, from the $2 shop. Otherwise your phone plays on your subconscious; it opens the same part of your brain as gambling, and you don’t put a TAB machine next to a gambler when they’re asleep. I know people who’ve taken their phone out of the room and it’s changed their lives and their sleeping and anxiety. Don’t check your emails before breakfast, or the gym, or your morning walk. Get your morning started and then when you’re ready, go through your emails and deal with them quickly. Checking your phone before you start your day breeds low-level anxiety.

You must see a lot of business owners come to you for advice about how to achieve balance in their lives, or enrich their careers or personal life. What are some of the most common challenges you see?

They lack clarity. They’re on the treadmill of life, achieving things, they’re successful. But they’ve forgotten why, what their purpose is… they have no clarity or vision about moving forward. YOU are the asset in life and if you’re not doing activities to protect the asset, it won’t be great. A breath to the body is the same as plugging in your mobile phone to charge it. Breathing is recharging.

There’s talk lately in the age of entrepreneurs that work-life balance doesn’t exist; it’s out the window, because work is life and vice versa. What’s your opinion on that?

Entrepreneurs have the freedom to be bigger and stronger. If they protect the asset (themselves) then they will do really well. The ones who take care of themselves and their health are the ones who don’t fail. People need practical tools and tips to avoid burning out, and that includes balance.

Speaking of burnout, we hear a lot of stories of people hitting rock bottom before they have an epiphany and stop neglecting themselves, and then find happiness and success from an emotional perspective. Your story is also similar, which you share in the book. Do you think it’s necessary to go through the hard times before coming out the other side?

The majority of people have to hit the wall before they wake up; they need to suffer loss in some way. It’s hard to respect our health when we’ve never lost it. We take it for granted. Adrenal burnout is so common; our body can’t keep up with the pace our brain is trying to race at. And people don’t know the questions to ask themselves, so sometimes it does take a breakdown before they take action.

In the book you talk about being healthy, both personally and professionally… what does the ultimate healthy look like to you?

Confident, calm, energetic and stable. Physically, emotionally and mentally.

We hope that all our clients, and entrepreneurs present and future, can find joy in the small things, learn to breathe and take home some of Shannah’s nuggets of wisdom that we’ve shared here. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned lately at Dream & Do is to nourish ourselves, physically and creatively, so that we can make our best work and live our best lives. Personally, since visiting the ashram in Bali a few months ago, I take the time each day to sit on my balcony and meditate, just for a few minutes. We do walking meetings here as well, and I’ve been trying to have ‘phone-free Sundays’ (much to the dismay of my husband … and I admit I’m not very good at it some weeks!) It’s also so important for me to surround myself and invest in a team who share the same values. As the “boss”, if I’m not showcasing work-life balance, then how can I expect my team to be healthy and happy at work and keep producing amazing results for our clients? We would love you to share your own personal tips or mantras for creating balance in your life…