Working for balance

"Remember, the universe cannot resist authenticity."

Businesswoman, yogi and fitness lover. Passion for fashion and a head for technology. A shrewd business sense with a determination to eschew the competitiveness and stress of modern life. Can all these things exist within one person? They do, it appears in this one. Ingrid Green talked to business loving yogi Laura Doonin ...

If there is a kind of modern day superhero, Laura Doonin is it.

Several times a week she swaps her business attire for active wear and takes on a whole different mission. Describing herself as a business loving yogi, she seamlessly combines her challenging Moustache Republic partner and director role with that of a gym fitness and yoga instructor.

In this ever-changing, fast-paced, social media-saturated world, she says, where people are becoming tired, disconnected and lonely, she is determined to seek greater purpose, compassion and resilience, and to help others do the same.

Hailing from Scotland, Laura came to Australia about 10 years ago, pretty much when the recession hit. She had always been into fashion, and had worked as a menswear buyer for a big retailer in the UK, but also possessed a tech-savvy business mind.

“It’s all about that retail-tech space, and I love business strategy and looking at ways to grow business for Australian business.

”Making the move downunder to launch eBay’s Australian fashion arm, she then moved on to client relations for Pitney Bowes, then Pharmacy 4 Less as general manager, and more recently, Moustache Republic.

But for Laura, one thing hasn’t changed – her dedication to her health.

That dedication has seen her pull off a feat many career women of her calibre would envy – she teaches fitness classes, on average five a week.

Centred mainly on yoga, with some additional cycle and resistance training classes, her role as a fitness instructor is vital to her wellbeing.

“I’ve just realised that for me there isn’t a separation between work and life. Fitness, yoga and teaching is important to keep me optimal in my business capacity as well. It’s just part of what I do.”

Laura describes mindfulness for her as being about self awareness and the ability to observe without criticism or too much reaction.

“We live in a fast-paced, social media-saturated world that’s only going to get faster. I think that’s why it’s becoming more and more important and critical to become mindful.

“Mindfulness is so important for me because to live optimally and to grow and progress through career, love, any kind of stress you have, it’s what you need to do. For me it’s getting back in control, when you lose control.

”Laura says the impact of burnout and stress-related disease is one of the biggest threats in the workforce today.

“We’re losing control and connection to what really matters and that usually is friends and family. Competition and pressures – which most of the time are out of our control – are impacting the quality of our lives.

”She says there are steps companies can take. In particular, flexibility, and to take care in how they develop their leaders. They need empathy, she says, and to really emotionally connect their teams.

Culture is also vital.

“The sad reality that we’re living in is that we’re connected so much of the time, people can get you at any time of the day and there’s an addiction to looking at our phones. I do think it’s a workplace responsibility to realise that that’s not healthy and put some rules in place.

“There is now a lot of data relating to productivity – it’s not about how many emails you answer or how long you’re at the desk. It’s about making it work for the individual. It’s less about what you do and more about the quality of what you’re doing. Organisations are losing out on really good people on the team, and the studies back it up.

”Ultimately, however, we need to take responsibility for our own wellbeing. That’s where health, fitness and mindfulness come in."

The concept of multitasking is a myth, she says, which depletes our ability to truly focus. Deep work will make the real difference in the future, for men and women.

Finding a purpose or meaning in what we do is critical.

“We become as a society obsessed with smart goals – extrinsic goals like a pay rise, bigger apartment or house, new car, six-pack – and they don’t build sustainable happiness.

”For that, we need to give back.

“It’s less about “me” and more about “you”.

It’s important you look at where your skills lie, what makes you happy, and what the world needs, and then finding that nexus point and that’s usually where we’ll find what we call purpose.

“I’m seeing more and more women in their career who are looking outside for something else. This kind of blending is okay now, and it’s accepted, whereas even five years ago you would be really reluctant to say that you had another interest outside of your full time job.

And the number one thing to do to live a happier life? Practise gratitude.

“We live in a society of wanting more and that ability to sit back and be really grateful for what you have is critical.”

Discovering your purpose and passions

In terms of building a strong personal brand, self-awareness is key.

The biggest no-no is being inauthentic. You can only do you, so, if you haven’t done the work, it’s time to get to know yourself: the good, the bad and the ugly.

You first need to own your wonderfully human flawed self.

Draw influence, learn and listen to others that inspire you but realise developing an authentic personal brand is the long game.Taking time to find a sense of purpose, or as the case is for so many of us, purposes, is far more rewarding than any other growth hacks that exist.

I hope these tasks can help you journal and look deeper into who you are and what your gift to give is.

Remember the universe cannot resist authenticity.

1. Advice to your former self

Imagine you are meeting yourself five years ago. What advice would you give, knowing what you know now? What are the areas in which you’d have some knowledge to share?

2. “IN FLOW” Moments Exercise

A: Think back on your life. Choose three to five times when you felt most alive and creatively inspired, times when you were in- flow and all sense of time diminished. How would you describe these moments?

B: When you think about the answers to question 2 what do they tell you about the sort of environments you thrive in?

3. Your Perfect Day

Picture yourself waking up in the morning. What does your life look like? What do your surroundings look like? Who’s with you? What do you do upon rising? What next? Keep describing your day until the moment you shut your eyes at night.

4. Your History

What have you done in the past? What subjects did you study and what projects have you initiated?

*Look for experiences you really enjoyed, not just around achievements but the tasks involved, scratch a little deeper into why you found them enjoyable. Get to know yourself and what tasks make you tick.

5. The Close Friends Test

What do you spend your time thinking about and discussing with your closest friends, when you're least inhibited?

6. The Apartment Test

Take a look around. Pretend you’re not you. What kind of books are there? How is the space decorated? Are there any items that stand out? What words would you use to describe this person? What are they into?

– Adapted from Laura Doonin's Purpose and Passions Worksheet

#Mindfulness #leadership #progressiveleadership #WomenInTech

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M: +61 403 363 257

PO Box 5192 Greenwich NSW 2065

Symes Group Pty Ltd trading as Jessica Symes Toomey.

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