“How do you do it?”
It’s a question I’m asked all the time. With all I have on my plate —- kids, family, running a big company, business travel….. How do I stay positive? How do I look so put together?
My answer is simple. I do it naturally.
Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t always had the balance, alignment, or sense of self that enables me to navigate my life not only with much more ease, but also with much more happiness. It’s been a journey.
Born and raised in France, my parents, who were Italian, were poor and illiterate. Just feeding and keeping a roof over the heads of me and my three siblings was a daily struggle. I hated seeing my parents working so hard for so little.
But even at a young age I learned one of the most important lessons of my life. While I wished I could help my family and those around me, I realized I couldn’t. There was honestly nothing I could do at that point in my life to change our situation. I realized then and there that I needed to do whatever was necessary for me to succeed.
Lesson #1: Be Selfish
When I say “be selfish,” I mean it in the most positive, productive, beneficial way possible. I knew that to succeed I had to work first on myself —- study, finish school, get a good job. Given my impoverished childhood, I equated success with money — to buy a car, a house, save for retirement. I was motivated and determined to create my own fortune. And I was gifted. I excelled at school, especially in math and science, and with the aid of government scholarships, I completed both a bachelor’s degree in business and a master’s in management engineering. I began working as a consultant implementing SAP products. I bought a car. Rapidly rising in the business software industry, I worked with companies worldwide, and eventually moved to the US in 2001 to manage SAP implementation projects. I launched my own company, Gravity Pro Consulting, in 2007. I had made it. I succeeded.
But that success didn’t come without a cost. I used all my energy to just go … go ….go. I worked at what seemed like a non-stop pace because like many women, I felt as though I had to do it all. I took care of everyone — my husband, my kids, my family in France, my employees — I grew my business, I was involved in the community. When I went to the gym, I scheduled it on my calendar is if it was a meeting.
About six years ago my life started to change. The turbulent economy was impacting the technology software industry ….. My husband and I were going through a divorce …. I found myself exhausted both physically and mentally. What a wake up call! The financial success I had achieved just didn’t seem that important anymore. In fact, I realized that my only achievement that was not an experience but that was truly a part of me — driven by my inner fire versus my image of success — was my children.
Around this same time I was also incurred a head trauma — the second serious head trauma I suffered in a decade. My whole life I was defined by my intellect — I was smart. I had a photographic memory. I learned new things quickly and with little effort. But this last head injury actually changed the way my brain worked.
And believe it or not —- that was a gift. I had to switch from thinking with my brain to feeling with me heart. Instead of doing things I felt like I HAD to do, for the first time in my life I began doing things because I WANTED to.
Lesson #2: Live life consciously
We all have a certain amount of time and energy and we have to use them wisely. The key is to live life consciously. Throw away the need to be in control of everyone and everything. Instead, focus on your own happiness, and trust that you will achieve great things by doing what makes you happy. Believe it or not, having this type of faith in yourself actually puts you more in control of your destiny.
Now, when I meet with a prospective client, if the relationship just doesn’t feel right I don’t sign the deal. When I travel for work, it’s not because I have to go to that meeting or that conference — it’s because I want to. And I’m traveling more for a different kind of work. What I call work on myself. I’ve started taking leisure trips that help me connect more spiritually to who I am and what I want to accomplish for myself and for others.
Being more introspective has certainly impacted the kind of work I do. Today, half of my work time is dedicated to mentoring and teaching other women and entrepreneurs by speaking at events, serving on boards, and writing articles such as this. And, then there’s Le Caillou Blanc — a true project of my heart. Le Caillou Blanc is a place where world leaders, visionaries and heads of industries can come together to create and manifest their vision of the future. Set in the majestic tranquility of Mont Blanc at the base of the French Alps, this world class retreat allows for brilliant minds to meet to create new ideas that can benefit the world and think of a new way of leading politically, economically and humanely for this generation and the next generation of leaders.
The way I look at things — or perhaps simply taking the time to look at things —- has also changed. In fact, I’m not just looking. I’m peeling back the layers and really observing. Why am I here? Why am I meeting this person? People and things are put before us for a reason, but if we’re too busy running and don’t take the time to stop and observe, we won’t figure out why.
Slowing down physically is temporary. But slowing down mentally is life-altering. I’ve been able to connect with myself, to be conscious of what I want to do to be happy, and to align my goals and actions with my values. I make the choices that I believe in my heart and in my gut are right for me —- versus making choices based on what my brain is telling me I should do given society’s belief system. Adopting this mindset keeps me centered because my actions are aligned with my needs and wants. And I can’t begin to tell you how energizing this is. There’s no prioritizing tasks. There’s no juggling act trying to get it all done. There’s no pressure. There’s just fulfillment.
So, when people ask me how I do it, I tell them I make choices for me. I tell them that I’ve learned to be conscious of what makes me happy, and I align my actions with what feels right to me. I tell that that belief in self will make you richer than any amount of money can.
Sylvana Coche is the Founder and CEO of Gravity Pro Consulting. As the #1 VAR and only woman-owned reseller of SAP enterprise softrware in North America, Gravity Pro delivers leading-edge technology and business process redesign tailored to meet the unique needs of each organization. From design through implementation, GraVity Pro helps organizations realize competitive advantages and organizational effciences through the power of SAL solutions. To learn more, please visit www.GravityProConsulting.com