Cortney McDermott is the epitome of success. She graduated from the London School of Economics, and is fluent in English, French, Italian and Spanish. McDermott has served as an executive at Vanity Fair Corporation, was vice president at Sustainability Partners, and taught graduate level courses at several universities. However, balancing her career and family life while also trying to carve out some “me” time was more than a little challenging.
McDermott discovered that she was “miserably successful.” There’s a difference between genuine passion and chasing gold stars,” she says, explaining that society teaches us that when we achieve a specific goal or a have a specific material outcome, then, we’ll be successful, happy, and fulfilled. “What I realized in my own journey was that I was continually hitting all those targets, only it was never enough.” Instead, she says the goalposts were always moving away. “Success was always just around the corner – that’s what I call chasing gold stars.”
However, McDermott believes that when women start pursuing what they’re passionate about, they’ll no longer put off happiness until some unknown time in the future. “You begin enjoying the steady day-by-day progress of living your vision and values, as opposed to someone else’s.”
But, she says women have to stop long enough to identify their vision and values.
Having your cake and eating it, too
It seems that women are more likely to suffer from burnout, comparison, disconnection and distraction. “We’re in an awkward moment of our history in which gender roles have shifted significantly and a lot of women are struggling to cover all the bases at the same time,” McDermott says.
“A breakdown-moment question I often receive from women execs and entrepreneurs alike is some form of, ‘How can I grow my business faster while having a proper and healthy work-life balance and remaining present in my children’s lives and spending time with my hubby and traveling?’”
McDermott’s short answer to how you can have your cake and eat it, too? “You can’t.”
Her longer answer is, “One cake at a time.” McDermott believes that it is possible to live out the vision in every area of your life. “However, you have to be very aware of what’s most important to you and how you intend to consistently show up for that.”
For example, she insists on having daily, interrupted play time with her daughter. “Those simple moments together reinforce my commitment to be a playful and present mother, and show my daughter that she is a priority in my life.”
But this requires McDermott to be fully present, so she’s not checking messages on her phone, or thinking about something else she needs to do. “I’m fully present, and she can feel that – the cumulative effect of habitual, singular-focus action in any area of your life is pure magic.”
Today, McDermott is an entrepreneur who works with Fortune 500 executives, fellow entrepreneurs, and think tanks. She’s also a TedX speaker, HuffPost writer, and recently released a new book, Change Starts Within You: Unlock the Confidence to Lead with Intuition.”
However, she says she was raised for an assembly line, and had to unlearn a lot of things that she was taught. “I wasn’t taught to think for myself – instead, I was taught how to memorize facts and pledge my allegiance.”
In essence, she had to unlearn a lot of things that didn’t work for her, and replace them with the tools and practices that do. McDermott’s book includes many tips to help women (and men) clarify their dreams and turn them into reality. She shares three of those tips with HER Magazine:
#1: STOP. Drop everything you’re doing. Take a TIMEOUT. Whatever you need – a moment, an hour, a day – just be with yourself. Yep, that’s right, do absolutely nothing. As a recovering overachiever, I know how hard that is . . . but it’s also the first step out of the vortex of never-enough. The best timeouts are usually spent in nature, without your cell phone. Nature reminds us of how effortless growth can be. When we allow that same ease into our lives, the sense of struggle begins to diminish and clarity begins to take its place.
#2: BREATHE. How are you breathing right now? Can you take some deep belly breaths? If that’s too much, can you simply slow it down? Deep breathing is the coolest and fastest built-in reset button. So, if you want to get out and stay out of a funk, use it. Every day. Here’s the simplest way to get started: Inhaling through your nose, pretend there’s a balloon in your belly and that you’re filling that balloon with air. When the balloon is full, release your breath on a steady stream through your mouth. Repeat until you feel grounded and centered.
#3: LISTEN. We’re not trained to listen, especially to our soul’s agenda. Tuning in requires stillness. It means we have to lessen the amount of thoughts we’re having, and the other ways in which we’re ignoring our deeper needs. There are many ways to lessen internal and external noise and create the necessary space to confidently walk in the direction of your dreams. Test the simple breathing exercise above for 3-5 minutes daily for quick results.