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Anjali Leon: On not recognizing yourself and the journey home

Anjali Leon is an entrepreneur, an agility coach and a consultant. Her area of expertise is in dealing with change. Anjali not only helps teams adopt agile practices in technology development but, she also offers one-on-one coaching for professionals navigating career and life changes with greater agility.

Her services have been greatly informed by her own personal experiences navigating the ways her personal and professional life are intertwined. "They're all linked... Very much the things that are going on in our personal lives, we bring that to our work. And so we absolutely cannot ignore that. It's all tied together. And then we bring the work into our home and family lives. And we can't ignore that either. And so I think that with agile ways of working...a lot of those strategies are applicable even to our personal lives."

Exploring the overlap between personal and professional pursuits has enabled Anjali to use agile practices in managing her life. She shares how the agile approach is iterative and so she plans her strategies and tactics around an iterative cycle on a weekly basis. Anjali starts by reflecting on the past week's accomplishments, then prioritizes her tasks for the week ahead.

While Anjali experienced tremendous joy and freedom after "stepping into entrepreneurial life" 7 years ago. The excitement in and of itself couldn't sustain her. She reflects, "what I realized is that not taking care of yourself throughout, even when things are going well, will at some point come back to hit you."

Always the innovator, Anjali strove to come up with new ideas for her business when COVID hit. But she wasn't really paying attention to herself and her needs. Within a few months, she experienced a debilitating downward spiral. "I started to feel anxiety that I had not really experienced before. And that lead to anxiety when I was doing things that were common practice for me; facilitating a session or running a workshop. And that started really affecting me in terms of my confidence. I didn't know what to expect because this was an unfamiliar feeling."

Anjali wisely decided to giver herself a break. She needed time to recover. "I started paying much more attention to taking care of myself. So taking more walks, setting up time to meet with friends. Taking some nutritional supplements... I think all the little pieces worked together, and I started to feel better."

While embarking on her journey of recovery, Anjali grappled with feeling like a stranger to herself. "It was like I was watching somebody whom I did not recognize and resisting that. And, the resistance just made it worse."

Her resistance showed up in the ways she spoke to herself, "even just thinking that that's not me...using language like, I have to get back on time to get back on the horse." While she agreed to give herself a break, Anjali realized she wasn't showing herself compassion.

Another way Anjali wasn't showing herself compassion was by timeboxing her recovery. She expected to go back to "the way things have always been" within a month.

All of this came from lifelong conditioning, "I've been always been an achiever. There's nothing that cannot be overcome. There's always striving towards excellence. That's the way I was raised. That's what drove me. That's what fulfills me. And, here is this person who cannot do those things. It was a depletion... I don't have a spark anymore... And you don't know if it'll ever come back. And that's a pretty scary place to be. And it scared me as an entrepreneur. Running your own business, you're dependent on yourself, especially at consulting practice. You are the product... I had that fear of how I would go forward."

Even though Anjali didn't experience a complete turnaround in the timeframe she established for herself, she persisted. "I started clearing my plate a little bit and reaching the amount of work that was sustainable for me where I was at. So giving myself that room and not judging it. And then accepting this as part of my experience, my lived experience... it is a human experience. And that was okay. I was getting a chance to experience something new, that sense of surrender and acceptance of that as part of me was the liberation."

The camaraderie with a few female friends really enabled Anjali to wade through the struggle. She met regularly with a group of friends to do collaborative work together. "During that time, I felt like I wasn't bringing anything to the table in terms of creativity, in terms of new ideas. But still, every week we met and whoever I showed up as was perfectly fine. I am so grateful for that. And it's the women in my life who did that for me."

Throughout her recovery, Anjali continued to feel the pressure to perform as a business owner. She had to show up for her clients like nothing was amiss, even though it was. So she began setting new boundaries. "I had to prioritize big time... I had to say no or not yet to other opportunities that came up in terms of work...I had to double down on the back end to show up in the way that they needed me to."

Bringing the energy your clients expect when you feel foreign to yourself is no easy feat. Anjali found a few practices to help elevate her energy for her work. It was paramount to do her already established morning meditation practice every morning. Above and beyond that, she started walking daily. Then she started jogging.

Through this experience, Anjali learned "don't wait for you to get to a point where you have to kind of put all of your energy into rebalancing." Sustaining these practices needs to be her way of life moving forward.

While Anjali has emerged from the darkness that was surrounding her, this experience has "influenced how I want to work going forward. The mission is how do we get to better business outcomes in our collective being. And now I'm amping up the collective well-being part and finding ways to incorporate it in my coaching and my training."

We concluded by exploring what co-creating looks like for Anjali. "I've always thought of my relationship with my clients as a partnership... Just creating the space where we can start from scratch together and the complementary capabilities that we bring to the table. I've seen huge value in taking that approach, and even in terms of ownership from the clients part in owning whatever it is you're creating."

Connect with Anjali

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