I often ask other women what career advice they would give their younger selves. I love hearing about other people’s journeys of self-reflection and the wisdom that comes with experience. Of course, I’ve also spent a lot of time reflecting on my own journey, professional and personal, and I’m never shy about sharing my own thoughts with others.

But recently I’ve come around to a new sound bite that just hadn’t occurred to me before.

Stop taking everything in business so seriously.

Work hard? Yes. Educate yourself? Yes. Find your genius zone and stay on top of your game? Heck yes. But if I could give my younger self only one piece of advice it would be this – chill out a little.

Conducting business is important. Building your career and perfecting your craft is important. Earning an income to fit your lifestyle is essential; but none of that means that you need to take your career so seriously all the time.

How many people are actually having fun when they go to work every day? I don’t mean the fun that comes from a happy hour after work or a structured team building day. I mean that spontaneous type of exhilaration that comes from doing work that you love, despite its challenges. Not many people.

Younger self, my best advice to you is this:

Be serious about your commitment to your growth and your craft, be serious about your commitment to the businesses and people you serve; but cut yourself some slack. It’s ok to be unsure about what you want to do from time to time. In fact, I applaud you for being honest enough with yourself to recognize when something you wanted at one time in your life is no longer serving your interests and needs. It’s ok to “fall down,” because you will always get back up and when you do, you will be an even better version of yourself than before.

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Every time.

Never hide the parts of yourself that are unique. A flower shrouded in darkness only withers, it does not bloom.

You will be told to stay quiet. You will be told not to challenge the norm. You will be expected to be a templated version of someone else, because to be anything else will be seen as a threat to those who went before you. You are right to fight against those expectations that do not feel true to who you are.

But none of that even matters. Because my single piece of advice to you is now this – relax a little. You can build a serious career without taking everything quite so seriously.

I think this is important advice because the greatest gift you can give yourself in your career is to take more risks, accept more challenges and ignore any self-doubt. You need to allow yourself the confidence and freedom to explore every opportunity in your professional growth. It is difficult to do this when the stakes feel too high.

So – enjoy the process and lighten up – just a little.

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