Happiness is my goal in business | Rachael Flanagan

Happy business woman working together online on a tablet, Best Places to Work for Women

“Never lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal is to be happy” – Steven Bartlett

These words resonate with me more than anything ever has before. As human beings, we are all subject to the unwanted opinions of others, be it at school or beyond, and we can’t help but crave the attention, praise, and validation of others, even when it comes at a cost to our own happiness and wellbeing.

As entrepreneur and business owner, this problem worsens ten-fold. Suddenly, you and your capabilities, your experiences and your skills, your characteristics and traits are put on a pedestal for thousands, perhaps millions, to see. You are defined by ‘success’ and, unfortunately, in society that usually means money.

I began my business journey at the incredibly young age of 18. I came out of school with a failed business A-Level, £20, a mop and a desire to make something for myself, by myself. But, as so many of us will relate to, I didn’t have that many people who believed in me. Teachers told me I’d never be a business owner, friends laughed at the idea of me becoming a CEO – my sense of self-worth plummeted. However, through all of this adversity, a little fire did continue to burn inside me  that was desperate to prove them all wrong, showcase that they weren’t giving me the credit I deserved and that I could do anything I set my mind to.

Fast forward fifteen years, a blur of a decade and a half, filled with extreme highs and terrible lows, and I can sit here and hold my head high, showing all my ‘non-believers’ just how wrong they were.

But my race to ‘success’ came at a cost.

Over the past few years especially, the need and want to keep growing my business and push myself as a business leader to be the best I could possibly be began to take its toll. I was working 16+ hour days, logging on to my computer in the evenings and finding myself being consumed by work even on my days off. I simply didn’t know how to switch off.

And then the burnout hit me like a ton of bricks. I was mentally and physically exhausted, emotional, and the love I had for what I did was dwindling.  I simply wasn’t happy. And what’s the point of doing anything if you’re not happy?

With support from my family and my team, I took the decision to take a step back for a little while, spending a day or two a week doing things for myself, away from work. A passion of mine has always been walking – I find it completely freeing. It’s a chance to get out into nature and calm a busy mind. Within 48 hours of my initial burnout episode, I had signed up for a 4-day trek in Italy. Not only did the challenge give me another focus, but it also allowed me time to undertake a hobby. With a dedicated one day a week off to train, I could let go of any guilt and home in on the task at hand.

And I know the way I approached this time out seems a little rigid, but breaking the habit of working was like quitting smoking. I was nervous, agitated and felt the need to replace one thing with another. But much like anything, over time, my attitude began to shift. No longer was I forcing myself to have time off to walk, catch up with friends or spend quality time with family, I was giving myself permission to relax and prioritise my own wellbeing.

On my return after my trek, I felt invigorated and ready to take on the next challenge at Mrs Buckét. The passion for my career relit and my mindset settled. The value of working hard to achieve work/life balance had never been so clear and, as Steven Bartlett says, I now make it my goal to be happy and that, for me, is success.

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