The picturesque drive to the Stella Maris Lighthouse (the star of the sea in Latin) along the Haifa Bay shimmers against the dark Mediterranean water. In mind, body, and soul, an undeniable sense of nostalgia unveils itself. I would suddenly find myself reminiscing on Friday night dinners with my grandparents locally on Moriah Street, visiting my father at work, my studies and work at the Technion and my various other relationships over the years.
Memories & Nostalgia
Have you ever considered our childhood’s role, our past, and the roles that those memories and nostalgia play in our lives? Napoleon once said, “A people without a past have no future.” Similarly, in the words of our forefathers, they preached, “Know where you came from to know where you are going.”
But what is it, in the depths of our souls, that evokes in us the sometimes wonderful, yet complex, feelings of memories and nostalgia that inadvertently shape our daily lives? How important is the self-work of learning how to manage those feelings of love, hold onto those that keep us going, release those that sometimes hurt to process, and not let them control our present? Always remember your North Star, your guiding compass, which in my case is home, and remember what your goals are, the things that drive your decisions and give you a sense of accomplishment.
In cognitive psychology, they discuss the mechanisms behind the roles that recall and recognition play in our memory. The purpose of recall and recognition is to help us process which of our relevant memories should be brought forward in our minds and thoughts. Reminiscing on these positively associated memories is powered by nostalgia—an overwhelming sense of emotions that draw from familiar experiences and the ability to recognize both the good and the bad that may come from them. The ability to process, accept whatever the outcome, and learn from it.
The Anxiety Associated With Our Memories
The Marker & Globes recently wrote about the heightened anxiety and depression young entrepreneurs tend to face. As it turns out, anxiety, unlike depression, is not defined in the DSM (the Bible of Psychiatry) as a mental illness. At its core, anxiety is actually a healthy, natural response the body does to protect us. According to the Israeli Ministry of Health, around 10% of the population experiences anxiety or depression at some point in life.
I have discovered that as we get older and our children mature, our worries tend to increase. These worries may not be over simple parts of our daily routines but rather over more severe concerns, such as protecting ourselves and our loved ones’ livelihoods. This type of anxiety derives from our fear of facing death. It makes sense, as we both biologically and rationally aspire to protect what is most important to us in our lives.
Anxieties are often suppressed and not verbally expressed, but everybody experiences their anxiety differently and to varying degrees. Many of the entrepreneurs I work with deal with crises across their ventures and personal and professional relationships. Sometimes these anxieties are relatively minor, specific, and can often be dealt with independently. However, there are cases where their anxiety is so overwhelming or severe that they require professional assistance and intervention, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychiatric medical treatment.
I remember my dear friend O., a lawyer and psychologist, trying to reassure me on the phone back in 2012. During this call, I was walking down Dizengoff Street while nine months pregnant with my eldest son, where suddenly, all of my excitement and maternal instincts manifested themselves as temporary overwhelming anxiety: “How the hell do I do this? “‘, “How am I supposed to go into labor at any moment?”, “Will I get to the hospital on time?” and “Will things go successfully?”
Having given birth only half a year prior, O. calmly explained to me, “Gali, from the moment you get pregnant, it’s an ongoing anxious cycle.” The stress begins from wondering, “Will we be able to conceive a child?” to every check-up and ultrasound, to finally undergoing the actual birthing process itself. However, the anxiety continues well beyond birth and into the rest of your day-to-day life while raising a child. My husband and I thought that once we gave birth that the anxiety would subside, but it turns out that it was only the beginning, as it continues in every step of raising a child.
Now don’t get me wrong—these small collective anxieties carry quite a significant role in keeping us alert to make mindful decisions. These “reminders” serve to strengthen our internal motivation across the various aspects of our life. It is a never-ending process to learn how to dance with these anxieties, acknowledge them, and not let them control us.
So, why am I writing about this?
As a woman, mother, and mentor to entrepreneurs, I see it as part of my mission to take others’ health into consideration and perspective. With time, we learn to grow and become more well-rounded on the inside as individuals. Being more well-rounded entails knowing when to pick and choose your battles, how to break binary thinking, how to stand your ground to say no, and how to make decisions confidently.
It has become evident that focusing on internal health and growth is a critical part of the work I accomplish with my entrepreneurs. The more my entrepreneurs can learn to make practical, intentional decisions and act in a way that benefits them across all aspects of their lives, the less they tend to be stressed and become more focused, precise, and motivated. Ultimately, the more I consider their overall health, the better they are at running a cost-benefit analysis and making thoughtful decisions. As a result, they can spend even more time with their children. Thus, it is essential to learn how to create a stable work-life balance for yourself, as it will help you truly push the boundaries of your potential and success. It boils down to strong time management skills at the end of the day, knowing where to allocate your energy and resources optimally.
So, where do we see the value behind work-life balance take shape in our lives? We see it across our health, rest, and diet. It’s critical to take a minute to stop and listen to our bodies, fully focus on their needs, and address them to avoid escalated situations. Equally as important, it is also vital to know when to stop, take a breath, and appreciate the good moments that come along the way. When was the last time you stopped to be grateful for your health? Our health is one of the things we take most for granted, yet we shouldn’t. Health requires ongoing maintenance, attention, and action when necessary.
Bearing all of this in mind, I implore you to “stop the race” for a moment, carefully listen to your body, its needs, check that everything is in order, and address whatever may require your undivided attention. Do this now, when you are healthy and can do something about it proactively.
Applying these values and practices into my own life, I found myself turning my lemons into “pink lemonade,” unwinding to the new selection of books inside Haifa’s lovely Café Brussels. At that moment, I found myself content in sheer bliss, soaking in the small yet good things in life. This instance was true serendipity—the beautiful power of coincidence. However, this moment of bliss was, in fact, not much of a coincidence, as it takes meticulous planning, strong self-management, and assertiveness to achieve work-life balance and good health.
Despite my various work-related conversations, creative brainstorming sessions, and attempts to close deals, I often find myself wrapping up my day by taking some time to sit down and write. I feel the time and space around me fade as I release and entrench myself in an undisturbed flow of thoughts.
Embracing a Growth Mindset & The Freedom Of Choice
How do we embrace this mindset for ourselves? How do we find a way to effectively optimize ourselves in relation to our goals, objectives, personality, and business? How do we make sure we have the right energy, drive, and creativity to enable our workflow both in a project and at home?
In a world where everyone invents fancy job titles on the one hand (yet has a bit of contempt for definitions), and where roles, markets, and needs are constantly changing on the other, I have invented a new title, VP of Growth. The growth I’m talking about is integrated growth—the growth of entrepreneurs, people, and employees, where the sky’s the limit. This growth is also in recruitment, scalability, and how to root an organizational culture.
I believe that everything is based first and foremost on the growth of each individual. Only when an entrepreneur is in a “good” place will they lead their company to the right place. And only when the employee is good will they be dedicated, creative, productive, effective, and contribute to the growth of their company. For this growth to occur, our well-being must go well beyond the terms of our employment, managers, and amount of cereal available in our kitchen.
The most powerful feeling that accompanies me as an independent businesswoman is my freedom of choice. Don’t get me wrong––I invest a lot of time and resources into my work. However, I do not consider myself to be working hard because I’m actually having fun. The word “hard’ is somewhat facetious in this case. I have fun because of my freedom to choose what I put on my calendar and when, my freedom to be flexible, my freedom to be a mother when I need to, and my freedom to seek medical attention when necessary. The freedom to choose what is right for me to develop and grow at any point in time. The freedom to choose which new strategic directions to follow. The freedom to learn more about which entrepreneurs I want to work with—the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them.
Even on a political level, freedom of choice, especially for local governing, is incredibly lucrative and active since it allows for more independence in their predefined frameworks. Israel’s education system will also look vastly different the day that the Ministry of Education can manage to run itself under this model to allow for more freedom in a school’s curriculum, particularly beyond the standard subjects in Hebrew language, arithmetic & English.
Freedom is priceless because we all need it, regardless of our employment status. Considering this, the task for either a startup or corporate entity becomes seeing how they can create a sense of freedom and independence, even within a tighter framework.
Having freedom also entails a lot of responsibility, necessary proactivity, and initiative. These elements are the sacred muscles we must all work to strengthen in today’s workforce, where nothing is known, and anything is possible. In other words, we must become more resourceful.
Within the companies that I serve as a Startup Coach, I see myself as their VP of Growth since I help them instill this mindset in themselves, their company, and employees. This position should not be viewed as a lack of control because it fulfills the needs of a specific type of trouble that organizations and startups face at the beginning of their journey. I find this to be particularly the case with entrepreneurs at the forefront of their venture that lack managerial experience and a clear strategy for others to follow.
Entrepreneurs can learn and grow as creatures with mental flexibility and inner balance when working for a value and vision-based organization that knows its North Star. These elements strengthen both mental and professional muscles, where a company’s employees can thus enjoy freedom, empowerment, self-management, and proactivity. Accomplishing this requires someone who knows how to win over the crowd and help everyone embrace a state of mind that shapes sustainable entrepreneurs and satisfied employees.
With that said, 2021 has just begun. So, recruit your new VP of Growth and have them tend to the productivity, satisfaction, and growth of your venture and its people. Growth will be the most critical theme of the years to come and will become the engine of both yourself and your startup.
I also encourage you to journey out to sea and visit the Stella Maris yourself.