Life & Business: On Work-Life Balance As a Creative Entrepreneur

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Lauren Ash is the Founder and Creative Director of Black Girl In Om, a lifestyle brand that cultivates holistic wellness and inner beauty for women of color. Since its launch in 2014, Black Girl In Om has already engaged more than 250 women through yoga, meditation, and other holistic wellness gatherings in Chicago, New York City, and Washington D.C. As Editor-In-Chief, Lauren brings her readers a unique, affirming, and — in many cases — life-changing experience, encouraging women of color to explore wellness, self-care, and self-love. A yoga teacher, wellness curator, and “sister-friend” to many, Lauren is a deeply passionate and dedicated visionary, but even she needs to take a timeout every once in a while.

With even greater and more ambitious plans for Black Girl In Om than ever before, Lauren knows all too well that you can’t give to others if your own well is dry. Practicing what she preaches, Lauren is joining us to share some tips and advice on something we could all benefit from: the peace to be had, due to making an intentional effort to achieve stability in your work and life.

As Lauren knows, striking this balance is not only hard, but something you have to work at — it’s not always as simple as taking a day off. Today, she’s taking us through a few pointers to consider in order to achieve this, especially during what is a stressful season for many, while still checking items off your to-do list. –Sabrina

Portrait photo by Tamon George

 

I perpetually find myself in a catch-22. The reason? I’m a creative entrepreneur in the wellness industry.

I wear multiple hats: I am a yoga instructor, wellness curator, Editor-In-Chief, CEO, freelance writer, Creative Director, and more. Each of these hats comes with a dizzyingly long list of responsibilities. I like to refer to the old saying, “With great [influence] comes great responsibility,” so, I find myself stuck between a rock and a hard place, often because I cannot justify running on empty for someone else’s notion of “success,” and yet that is what I often feel compelled to do. Why can’t I justify this? Because doing so would be detrimental to my own spirit, as well as my integrity to the “work” that is self-care, self-love, and holistic wellness found in the tricky, yet worthwhile, balance of work and life.

Would I be more productive in my work if I got 4 hours of sleep instead of 8? If I opted out of time spent with my close friends and worked 10 more hours every week? If I skipped yoga and meditation and instead decided to respond to a few more pressing e-mails? Maybe. Would I be able to be as giving of my spirit, energy, and love to others in doing so? Absolutely not.

I’ve had to find this out the hard way. Social media often presents a squeaky clean image, or at least an image of ourselves we find comfort in presenting to the world. Most people wouldn’t guess that while I was first building Black Girl In Om, I was still working at a 9-t0-5 nonprofit job, and I was unhappy: taking mental health days to feel sane again; feeling alive only when I was discussing Black Girl In Om, and spending my free time scheming how to manifest it into a reality.

All in all, I’ve discovered one thing to be true: that stability must be worked at. That to thrive, rather than merely survive, as a creative entrepreneur in the wellness industry, you must take care of self. It means recognizing my spiritual and emotional needs and granting them the same weight that I grant my financial and basic needs. Especially as a woman of color, I experience particular challenges and burdens as a creative entrepreneur, which makes it all the more important for me to cultivate self-care to ensure that my self-esteem and image of self is healthy and sound.

I argue, that this attention to our spiritual and emotional needs should be the case for all of us. We must choose to practice intentional stability. The definition of stability I am embracing here is “reasonable and rational behavior.” We know that the path we have chosen is a challenging one. Some of us fight the urge to forge our own path until the Universe laughs and we finally acquiesce, kicking and screaming, to the path less chosen. The thing is: there is a beauty — a magic — in the path we are on as creative entrepreneurs. In order to be better for ourselves and for others along the ride, and to commit to a sustainable path toward achieving what it is we’re so passionate about, we must practice reasonable and rational behavior. I’ve identified what this means for me. I hope that these practical steps to cultivating intentional stability help you.

Identify What Brings You Joy

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Photo by Sterling Miller

We are socialized to pay attention to what others are doing. What our “competition” has achieved, who others are rubbing shoulders with, what income others are bringing home. Throw that out the window. Do some thinking. Reflect. And come to a realization about what brings you joy. Allow that to motivate what you work on, how you work, and when you work. Enjoy Sundays all to yourself? Stop scheduling meetings and phone calls then. Love spending time with your significant other for dinner each evening? Prioritize it in your schedule just as you would a meeting with a client or an interview for good press. Like to do your work late at night? Then quit agreeing to early morning meetings, dang it! Need a weeklong vacation to recharge every quarter? Start a savings account for travel, block out four weeks across the year in advance, and don’t touch either!

What is one thing that I have identified that brings me joy? I’m a fundamentally social person. Even when I’m at my busiest peak of the year, I still maintain a social life. My friends uplift me, encourage me, and keep me grounded. Why would I sacrifice them for a few more hours of work? Doesn’t make sense to me.

 

Don’t Sacrifice Your Daily “Thing”

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We all have at least one “thing.” It’s what makes you feel happier, if even just a little bit. It’s what allows you to feel grounded. Different from what brings you joy, this is something more habitual and routine and simple. Perhaps it’s starting your morning with a five-minute meditation. Perhaps it’s eating breakfast before checking e-mail. Maybe it’s listening to your guilty pleasure album (Justin Bieber, anyone?) while you take a long shower. Do. That. Thing.

 

Don’t Take Shortcuts

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Not all of us are good at everything. Personally, I’m awful at finances and business-plan things. I have learned that I actually don’t have to be great at it. But I need to prioritize either learning it myself or getting someone in my corner who can help me out. See, in order to be reasonable and rational, this means looking at the big picture. It means thinking longterm. By looking at both, I choose to make decisions that are smart. I can’t cut corners and pretend like certain things don’t matter. If I do, I’ll get hurt in the long run.

And while not all of us are good at everything, that’s okay because we should surround ourselves with people who can make up for what we may lack. So get comfortable letting others know what you need. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at who will show up to assist.

Let’s lessen the amount of time we spend in the catch-22, yeah? The facts are this: there is always work to be done, always something greater to strive for, but none of it matters if we aren’t feeling well and aren’t able to thrive from our deepest, most authentic place. So on the verge of the new year, make a choice to be stable — intentionally.

 

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