My shoulders stiffen with tension. They move in a herky jerky way, like a hinged scarecrow. I am a fish out of water-a hardcore hustlin’ salesperson in my first Quijong class. For the uninitiated, Quijong is a Chinese exercise designed to reduce stress by slowing your breath and repeating a series of fluid movements. As quirky as it sounds, this class represents an important step for me—a time to step away from being a female breadwinner, mom and salesperson and do something that is just for me.
The teacher and five 60-something students are quite forgiving, though in my head, I’m worked up because I’m late again. The snick snick from removing my shoes seems amplified to me, incongruous with the slow, calming rhythm already at play in the classroom. It will take about half of the session to begin to loosen up and relax, so that I move in sync with the class and stop trying make a competition out of who does the best position 4.(Yes, I'm trying to hit my Quijong quota. Hey, once a salesperson, always a salesperson! ).
Not counting those childhood years when I sold buckeyes door-to-door for candy money, I’ve been in sales or sales management positions for 26 years; a wife and breadwinner for over 20 years; and a mom for the last 18 years to three kids. For years, I’ve struggled with the classic Salesparent t Catch 22: If I work too much, I miss the band performances and the track meets. But if I miss quota, I don’t have the money to pay for those things. When I’ve missed events, I’ve seen the looks of despondency on my little children’s faces shift into the “oh well” shrug and matter-of-fact teenage comments. Both sting. What’s a female breadwinner to do? Even more frightening – what if I don’t make my number? I could be out of a job, and then where would we be?
It’s like a pendulum swinging between work and home, with me in the middle. But the pendulum never quite stopped at the center.
After reflecting on all the let-downs, missed time with my family and constant stress, I was well overdue for some balance. So yeah—Quijong.
I know it’s not exactly the stuff Braveheart is made of, but for me, it did take a lot of courage and going against my classic breadwinner nature to step into that class that first day and carve out some time for myself. Fears crowded my mind: would I be seen as a slacker? Would someone more dedicated win over me? Would I make my number? I overcame my fears by reminding myself that I work in a company that really, truly supports work-life balance. They want me to take care of myself. Like so many female breadwinners, I was my own blocker. So I realized it was time to put the excuses aside, step away from being my own slave to the number and find balance by stabilizing the center.
According to this study from the Center for American Progress, 42% of women have taken on the breadwinner mantle and no doubt, the increased stress that can come along with it. I know I’m not alone in seeking balance by making healthier trade-offs in time. Another question that female breadwinners might ask is, “How do I get started?” My advice is, slowly. Here are a few tips:
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Tips for Better Work Life Integration in Sales
- Find something that works for you and your personality. Instead of doing a trendy Barre or Body Pump class, I signed up for Qigong classes. After a running injury, I had been looking for a physical stress outlet that is gentle on the back. By chance, I was flipping through my local community college’s extension classes and stumbled across Qigong. It sounded interesting and hokey all at the same time, and it was only $26 for 6 classes, so why not? Turns out, it was just what I needed.
- Set realistic goals. Instead of focusing on daily practice, I try to practice Qigong 3 days a week. I hold myself accountable, looking back every few weeks to see how I did.
- Be creative and flexible. I’m giving myself the flexibility to practice in different places – in an empty conference room at work, at home, or even on the bus.
The Payoff of the Disappearing Scarecrow
As hard as it is, setting aside time for Quijong has been well worth it. Remember the scarecrow from the beginning of the story? She’s slowly disappearing. Six classes in and I’m learning to relax and let my tension go. My movements are becoming more fluid. I’m still late to nearly every class because I just can’t manage to turn off work in time, but at least I’m going.
I’ve found additional benefits that I never anticipated. Conversations with my family after class are much easier to tune into, and the quality of conversation goes up when I really listen. I stop multi-tasking and make eye contact with my kids. I realize how awesome they are. I become grateful for these moments, and hungry for more.
I began to wonder, what would happen if I bring this sense of calm into my workplace? Would I be less driven? Will my goal achievement suffer? Or might I find my performance increases because I’m giving my clients the same level of attentiveness as I’m giving my family in those blissful moments after class? Would I be a better teammate at work?
I don’t have the answers to these questions yet. I’m striving to make Qigong a more regular part of my day but I’ll admit it’s been difficult to find 10 minutes each day to practice. It’s a work in progress, but I’m hopeful.
How do you find balance in your day as a salesperson? Any other salesparents out there with good tips?
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