Despite aspirations to the contrary, no one is perfect. And when we come together in a community and show the messy middle, that’s when true connection can take place. This week, digital marketing expert, author and host of the Goal Digger podcast Jenna Kutcher sat down with In the Details host Karen Allen to share key lessons about redefining success and work-life integration by embracing imperfection.
A pandemic of burnout
When you’re unsure of what you want to do next or what the end goal is, start with what you don’t want or where you don’t want to go. Burnout often arises when you’re pursuing other people’s ideas of success, and true passion often develops by getting really clear on who you don’t want to be.
Kutcher’s story is a prime example. After quitting her corporate job and becoming a wedding photographer, she thought hitting her goal of earning six figures while in her third year of business would make her feel a certain way. But she didn’t feel successful, she simply felt exhausted. Through that, she realized that she hadn’t been staying in touch with her true feelings while journeying to the ideal of success.
Therefore, she determined that she wanted success to feel good, not just sound good, and during that season of her life she planned to value time more than money. When she made another switch to find such a role, she finally had the bandwidth to be creative and curious again, and a whole other world opened up. Kutcher was ultimately more successful—both financially and personally—because she flowed with what she truly wanted versus trying to force something to work.
What we want, need and prioritize aren’t static—these things will continue to evolve based on the season of life we’re enjoying. It’s important to pay attention to what you’re feeling, let your intrinsic motivation be your guide and give yourself space. It is only then that you can align with your next steps.
Work/Life integration, aka the blend
Kutcher believes that while you can have it all, it’s up to you to decide what “it all” is. There will always be some sort of sacrifice, and the balance will never be completely equal. For example, perhaps you’re working from home and begin cooking dinner for your family at 4 p.m.—while also listening to a virtual meeting.
The pandemic helped illustrate that it’s not possible to shape-shift our way through the day, during the period of time when so many of us were working from home and playing all of our roles—parent, spouse, human, teacher—from home as well. And while you can’t turn off every part of yourself, perhaps in certain instances you’re leading with a particular role—business keynote speaker versus mother, for example.
Let your younger self be your guide
An oft-quoted question is “what advice would you want to give your younger self?” Kutcher believes it’s the child in her that might be able to give present-day Kutcher better advice. She’s most successful in life when she channels the little unashamed girl who had confidence and believed in herself. Think back to your younger self, and realize that that version of you knew a lot more than you give them credit for.
What we’ve created is always there
Women are conditioned to think that our big break is always around the corner, which turns us into ‘yes’ people. We don’t want to disappoint someone or miss out on an opportunity, and we fear that once we have momentum, we can’t take a step back or else we’ll lose it. But even if you press the brake, you still remember where the gas pedal is. And once you have momentum, it remains, because what has gotten you this far will carry you forward. It’s inside of you, and we don’t need anyone else to give us our big break.
Meditation helps to unlearn/undo problematic conditioning
It takes energy and intentionality to know and trust yourself enough to shift your power away from this type of negative thinking regarding momentum. But we’re able to shift quicker when we practice self-love.
Kutcher knew that you can’t pour from an empty cup, but now she really embodies it by setting herself up for the day energetically. She begins by practicing yoga or meditating before diving into her tasks, and the energy/alignment she then feels changes how she shows up in every area of her life. It creates both sustainable energy and sustainable joy.
During meditation, Kutcher notices and honors her thoughts, then releases them. She also practices being more aware and in sync during various moments throughout her day, like how her feet feel on the earth.