By Sophie Jullien
April 2020… I’ve been walking around my house in circles for a month now… Like everyone else I’m trapped in my house because of the pandemic. I’m trying to stay connected to my industry and I’m consuming webinars of all kinds, whether or not they are related to my professional activity. I’m actually filling the void. As the weeks go by, I get organized. I choose readings and online training to be better organized, to be more efficient in managing my week. Even though the whole world is forced to idle, even though my job only exists in dotted line, I still worry about increasing my efficiency, my productivity, my performance. No doubt some of you will find this quite normal and will not see it as a problem. I consider that my greatest accomplishment in 2020 will have been to realize that there is no point in chasing performance if you do it while ignoring your basic needs and if you do it to avoid looking at yourself.
Before COVID, I had my nose to the grindstone as they say… I worked a good fifty hours a week because what was important was to work hard, to be reactive, to be flawless… juggling between different files, always being willing to take care of a new submission, to be available. I had a high opinion of my job as a project manager in a receptive-event agency and that took precedence over my social life and my personal development. Responding to an email or fine-tuning the logistical details of an event took priority over everything else.
So yes, my greatest achievement in 2020 will have been to
- Ask me the following questions : What is really important to me? and what am I doing to take care of these important things?
- Finding that I wasn’t taking care of what was most important to me: my children, my couple, my social life, my personal development, my physical fitness.
- Taking action in these areas to feel good
In concrete terms, this has translated into a daily commitment to take care of my physical and mental health. I try to smile, laugh and play more. I exercise every day, I offered myself the services of a coach to identify how I could work towards a work-life balance and I signed up for Toastmasters to finally feel comfortable speaking in public.
I have been a member of Toastmasters Montreal since May and I see the progress I have made in a few months on a weekly basis and in my everyday life. Most importantly, I have realized that the benefits of Toastmasters are not limited to speaking skills. More broadly, I am improving my communication with my family and friends, I am developing my social life by meeting great, caring people who contribute to my progress as I contribute to theirs. I attend inspiring conferences, I develop my mastery of new tools such as zoom, I finally accept to see myself as a leader and I learn to take my place.
In 2021 my resolution is to be bold, to get out of my comfort zone as often as possible. I see Toastmasters as a fabulous playground to do just that. When someone I admire, a member of my club’s board (Hélène Riol, not to mention her name) asked us to organize the club’s contest, I said yes. When she asked me to sign up again for the sector contest, I said yes. And when I was asked to write an article for the District 61 newspaper, I said yes again. I say yes before giving myself time to think too much about it and find good reasons to say no. Sometimes I wonder why I am doing this to myself! It takes me time, it is often a source of stress, it makes me face some of my insecurities… but deep down I have understood that it is the only way to progress and the progress is there. And most importantly, I know that if I can be bold in Toastmasters, then I’ll be able to be bold in ‘real’ life too.
With this article I want to acknowledge and share how much Toastmasters is changing my life and I want to remind myself that success is not necessarily tied to a title or professional performance. I consider myself successful every time I say yes to discomfort, every time I accept the risk of failure. This makes me proud and more confident and, above all, I feel more alive than ever and full of enthusiasm in spite of the uncertain situation we are all living through.