Ianna Raim on career, confidence, and self-care

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Creating a meaningful career requires lots of motivation, resilience, and determination. In the midst of the hustle, it’s so important to take care of yourself and prioritize your mental health — it’s easy to feel burnt out. We spoke with executive and business coach Ianna Raim about creating a career you love while still focusing on your own personal needs. Here are some of Ianna’s tools for boosting confidence, prioritizing self-care, and finding and nurturing your passion: 

What are some of your top tools for confidence?

IR: I define confidence as the courage to turn thoughts into actions. In my practice, I’ve seen that a primary confidence killer is the need to be perfect. Many of us see striving for perfection as a virtue. And we believe that by working harder, we can achieve that state of nirvana where everything is nearly perfect. The problem is that striving for something as unattainable as perfection is a waste of time. It can drain our energy and zap our confidence. We can obsess about our performance in everything from work to yoga. And when we hold out until things are perfect we miss opportunities.

When we engage in the pursuit of perfection instead of being more productive, we are less productive and less fulfilled. Being done is the engine for doing more. And doing more is the stuff confidence is made of.  The more we do, the more we learn, the faster we fail and the quicker we can begin again.

A tool that is so helpful in reminding us of our worth and building our confidence is what I call a “Brag File.” Keep a folder on your desktop where you file or log anything (big and small) that builds you up. An email from a friend thanking you for your help or a positive comment your boss/partner/parent. All kinds of wins can be celebrated in your file: when you said “no” authentically and powerfully; when you spoke up even though when you were nervous or embarrassed.  

Get into the habit of adding to the file on a regular basis…and then the best and most important part is to read it and relish it whenever you are feeling down.  It’s a great confidence booster because it’s you and it’s real. 

What is one of the biggest lessons you’ve learned through creating your own business?

IR: I’ve always been an entrepreneur and I’ve enjoyed what many entrepreneurs do: the thrill of creating something new, the autonomy, and the challenge. Over my career, I’ve started companies involved in distance learning, healthcare, finance and now executive coaching. If I’m really honest with myself when I look back, I realize that my successes and my failures (and there were plenty of both), had less to do with what I was doing and more to do with who I was when I was doing it. In other words, the competition, the health of the industry, the economy and even my product or service was less important than how I was showing up every day. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that your attitude and mind-set in the face of challenges makes a huge difference. My attitude about myself and my world determined whether I took risks in my businesses or whether I played it small. It also made a difference in the way I treated the people who worked with me. Did I inspire and motivate them or did I complain about them? It even affected whether I worked 60 hours a week or found time for myself.

Honesty about how our feelings and emotions affect us and others is an important pre-requisite to being successful. I have seen it with my clients. Those who better manage themselves, their beliefs and their emotions not only do better in business, they feel better too. Starting your own business is not for the faint of heart. It can be frustrating, exhausting and scary.  A range of emotions is to be expected. Being self-aware about when those emotions serve you and when they just get in the way is critical. 

What advice would you share with people who don’t know what career they want to pursue?

IR: These are a few things I might tell someone who was searching:

  • Pay attention to what your gut tells you. Even the person who complains "I have no idea what I like" does know in her gut; she's just not noticing. In feeling overwhelmed or dissatisfied or bored, the fewer moments when you feel good may be overlooked. Ask yourself: "What are you doing when you lose all track of time?" What do you do early in the morning or late at night when it’s quiet and you’re alone? What stories do you find yourself always reading online? The ones about rescues, making money, crime? What magazines do you pick up when you're waiting in the grocery line to checkout? What are the last two books you read and why did you choose them?

  • Think about which strengths boost your energy. Just because we're good at something doesn't mean that doing it makes us feel energized and eager to do more of the same. I'm good at doing laundry, but that doesn't mean I like it. Be as specific as possible. "I feel energized when I close a sale” or " I feel energized when I stand up in front of people and give a clear and interesting presentation."

  • List careers or jobs that you would love to have if you didn't have to worry about money or qualifications. Go to imagination land and stay there for a while, uninhibited. Examine the list and see what the jobs have in common. The list can be the basis for further research and informational interviews with people in similar real-world jobs.

  • Ignore people who say you can’t. It's not uncommon for friends and family to challenge or belittle your dreams of opening your own company or changing careers. They may label you as foolish, selfish or wonder why you just can't be satisfied with the status quo. While it would be nice to get everyone's approval, it's just not possible.  Remember that many times when people tell you that you can't do something, they're not actually talking about you, but rather about themselves.

How do you prioritize self-care while still being motivated to create an incredible career?

IR: Someone once asked me how do busy women find time to take care of themselves? The answer was simple. They don’t “find” the time; they make it.

Ask yourself: “Am I more patient, more productive and more creative when I have nourished my body and my soul?”

Creating an incredible career depends on taking care of you. Self-care and career success are not mutually exclusive. Over the long term, they are intimately linked. That’s not to say that there won’t be times where work will take priority and you’ll have to put your exercise regimen on hold. Work-life “balance” is a myth; I don’t know anyone who ever feels that all things are exactly equal or in balance. What’s important is to realize that work-life “fit” (as I like to call it) is constantly changing depending on the circumstances. It’s important to be ok with “good enough”. When we strive for perfection either at work or at our work-out, we are bound to be disappointed.

Celebrate small wins. Even if you can’t work out but you can take the stairs at the office, consider that a win and move on.

Get creative. I had a client who loved art; she decided to take the long way home from work so she could appreciate the architecture of a certain neighborhood.

What are simple things that we can do every day to move us forward in creating the lives we want? 

IR: What we do is affected by what we think, so I’m a huge believer that if you can think and feel better, you will most definitely do more toward reaching whatever goals you set.

These are a few thinking/feeling hacks:

  •  Feel Gratitude. Develop a habit of finding three small things to be grateful for every day. Even better if they are simple things like “I enjoyed a hot shower,” “I parallel parked in that tight spot on my first try,” and “There was no line at the bank.” These small things add up and improve our antenna for finding things to be grateful for.

  • Be honest when you’re afraid. We can easily find excuses for not living the life we want…not enough time, not enough money, not enough experience. Fight fear with small acts of bravery and then give yourself credit for acting bravely. I love Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote “Do one thing every day that scares you.”  I try to live by that.

  • Accept your own approval as enough. Being a people pleaser is hard work. Being an approval addict can be harmful to your health. Know your own values and live by them. Don't worry about what others think because you'll never make everyone happy, so don't bother trying. Instead, set your own high standards and work towards those.

To learn more about Ianna, visit her website at iannaraimcoaching.com