Yes. I used to say that to everything. “Load me up, I’ll work for nothing, just shower me with experience and I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I’d take on way too much in my quest to achieve, achieve, achieve – and “keep it simple” was the one piece of advice I never wanted to hear. Simple always seemed so boring, so safe, so unambitious.
Now, keeping things simple is my daily goal. I’m more focused on my happiness than I am on my success and, oddly, that seems to have made me the most successful I’ve ever been. That’s because, for me, success no longer centres around how much I have going on, how much I earn, how many things I have or how many people know my name – it’s more about how I feel during my downtime. Being able to stop working and analysing, and to switch off, is crucial for our happiness.
Lately, after dropping some projects that were taking over my life, I’ve realised that when I get home after a long day and put on the TV, I think about nothing but what I am watching. I know that might not sound like a massive deal, but for me it is. I have been stressed for most of my adult life. I’ve overloaded myself to the point of mania, and for what? With the hope of being rich, yes. Because I wanted to be known, yup. Because I’ve lived most of my life with a fear of running out of time, absolutely. (I lost a parent when I was a kid – FOMO is a big side effect of that.) I guess I’ve always felt like I have something to prove – that I wasn’t held back by growing up on a small island (Guernsey, FYI); that my mother’s death didn’t break me; that as a woman I can say and get and do whatever I want.
The one thing I actually want to prove to myself is that I know how to switch off, and chill the hell out
But now the one thing I actually want to prove to myself is that I know how to switch off, and chill the hell out. Five years ago, I didn’t think my brain had that function. But now I’m getting good at it, and gently shaving off work, social engagements – even friends – to have a simpler life has helped. I always get asked what advice I’d give my younger self, and I don’t like telling young women how they should behave because my mistakes have made me worldly and strong. But I think I have it now: assess yourself in the downtime.
So yes, take on the world, shower yourself with challenges and experience. Be stressed, feel the shoulder-crushing anxiety of the need to succeed. But when you get home after that long day, throw your keys down, take off your coat, spread yourself across the sofa – and ask yourself if you feel happy then? Because that’s the bit that matters. It’s taken me to the age of 38 to realise that if something in life is getting in the way of that, maybe it’s time to change it. It’s pretty simple, really.
Dawn's Dos & Don'ts...
- Don’t: Leave food in packets you put in the recycling. It’s time, we have to save the planet.
- Do: Go to WOW – Women Of The World Festival at Southbank Centre, London. March 7-12.
- Don’t: Be so offended. Can we all just stop being so outraged by everything and CHILL OUT?
- Do: Buy Gemma Cairney’s book Open (on sale March 9). It’s the guide to life you’ve been waiting for.