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Making Your Job More Fulfilling Without Changing Jobs with Shelley Kay

3 Things We Dive Into In This Episode:

  1. Why building a career that makes you feel fulfilled in the long term is important for your mental, emotional, and financial health.

  2. How working less is an important part of being more productive.

  3. Specific tools that will help you be present, honor your personal values, and create actual balance in your life.


📌Episode Highlights

[05:17] Get to Know Shelley

  • Shelley describes herself as a ‘light and inspiration’ for others.

  • She offers career and leadership coaching for high-achieving women to help them create the careers they desire and have their dream lifestyles.

  • It is her life mission to show career-driven women new opportunities. Ultimately, she wants women to understand that they can have the things they desire right now.

Shelley: “You can have both the career and the lifestyle. [A] job doesn't need to be something that's tolerated or counted down until your next vacation or the end of the day; it can also be something that you get a lot of joy from and that can fuel the rest of your life.” - Click Here To Tweet This

[07:50] Reimagining Career Happiness

  • Career coaches often focus on resumes, perfect interviews, and landing the next job.

  • For Shelley, career coaching should be about building a career you’re excited about and supporting the lifestyle you want.

  • A significant misconception about career happiness is associating it with landing the next interview or getting the next job.

  • As a result, we miss out on the opportunity in the here and now. We underestimate the power and influence that we have over our current situation.

  • Instead, try to be present in the now.

Shelley: “When you learn how to empower yourself and show up in your current situation… the next steps start to unfold more naturally. You start to magnetize them a bit more versus putting the energy into the next step and constantly trying to pursue that.” - Click Here To Tweet This
  • There is no perfect fix-all solution in your career — not the next job, next company, or next manager.

[11:07] Finding Your ‘Special Sauce’

  • To achieve long-term career happiness, you have to change how you show up. Be present; change the way you work and view your work.

  • Reflect on what you are good at — it does not necessarily have to be job-related. These are your unique strengths or "special sauce."

  • Be clear about your ‘special sauce’ and own them. Find opportunities to maximize your strength.

  • Bring your "special sauce" to your current job, and you will carry yourself differently.

[15:51] Be Present; Find Your Purpose & Values

  • Your purpose can be a North Star. It can change how you prioritize and perceive any opportunity.

  • Find your purpose. Add this lens to your job and bring it to even the most mundane tasks.

  • One day, your job will no longer be new and shiny. When that time comes, your purpose and values will carry you through.

  • There is extreme power in getting clear and exercising your values.

  • Use your values and purpose as a lens to find opportunities to improve, initiate leadership, and bring positive change to your work.

[21:58] Setting Kind Boundaries

  • Always remember that boundaries are kindnesses. Setting boundaries is the best and kindest thing you can do for yourself and your career.

  • Remember to give yourself a little bit of grace. Setting good boundaries takes practice.

  • Start with that one small thing and practice communicating it in the mirror. Practice being clear about what you are and are not available for.

  • Overcome the fear and keep the bigger picture in mind.

  • Try these first, and get feedback in that process. If you find that your workplace is still not the environment that is suited for you and your boundaries, leave.

[30:29] Work Less, Be Present, Achieve More

Shelley: “This change [to working less] is not just us waiting for corporate culture to change. [We need] to start the revolution ourselves, one woman at a time, and being that ripple effect.” - Click Here To Tweet This
  • Your productivity will increase when you work less.

  • You are most productive, focused, and present when you are rested and enjoying what you do.

  • Stop viewing your value as "do, do, do." Instead, be present and find the worth in your strengths.

  • Start by getting deep into your energy, what brings you energy, and how you are managing your energy.

  • Find approaches to your job that maximize your energy, like spending more time doing tasks you enjoy.

[40:35] Productivity in the How

Caitie: “Do you want to be remembered as a workhorse? Or do you want to be remembered as the person who was present, helped people, and was all there?” - Click Here To Tweet This
  • Remember, productivity is in how you do and not what you do.

  • Three factors hinder this approach:

    1. The corporate scheduling structure was created by men, for men.

    2. The work-from-home and flexible work arrangements and the pressure and semi-expectation of being constantly available.

    3. The output-based ‘productivity tools’ make us forget to take a beat to reset.

  • More does not equal better. This mindset causes burnout in the long run.

[43:12] Sourcing A Sense of Worth

  • High-achieving women often get validation through their work ethic — by working hard, being ‘perfect,’ and showing up always ready to take on any task.

  • However, this mindset creates a very short-lived validation.

  • What will bring you fulfillment are honoring your values, having balance, and being present.

  • Stop sourcing a sense of worth or safety from the wrong place.

  • We must break the cycle and be examples for future women that there is a different way to prove yourself and make your mark.

Shelley: “It ultimately comes down to the relationship and connection with yourself and being able to listen to and honor [those] — [this] is really the ultimate path forward.” - Click Here To Tweet This

[49:38] Shelley’s Morning & Evening Anchors

  • Shelley begins and ends her day by making space in her mind and body.

  • She starts her day with journaling, followed by a 20-minute meditation.

  • Shelley also enjoys an activity called Tapping with Brad.

  • Before going to bed, Shelley stretches. This helps her let go of the day and wind down.

  • Then, she completes the end-of-the-day five-minute journal prompts and does her skincare routine.

About Shelley

Shelley Kay is a coach for high-achieving corporate women, helping them leverage their skills and experience to create a balanced career they are passionate about. Using her Embody method, she aims to help career-driven women work less, be present, live more, and love their jobs — without having to work themselves to the bone. Before her coaching career, Shelley was an HR professional at top Fortune 100 companies like Google and PepsiCo.

Connect with Shelley on her LinkedIn or Instagram.

You can also visit her website for more details on her career coaching.

Enjoyed the Podcast?

Whole, Full, & Alive is a podcast exploring the art and science of falling in love with your life, with your story, and with who you truly are — underneath your titles, your resume, your relationship status, and your bank account. You don’t have to be the corporate workhorse who makes the impossible happen. Instead, work less and be present in your life and career.

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Thanks for listening! 💖 Stay tuned to my website for more episode updates and other exciting programs and resources.


Shelley Kay: There's never going to be the perfect fix-all solution in the next job, the next company, the next manager. What really creates this long term fulfillment comes by changing the way that you work and changing the way that you view your work.

Caitie Corradino: Welcome to Whole, Full and Alive, a podcast exploring the art and science of falling in love with your life, with your story and with who you truly are underneath your titles, your resume, your relationship status, and your bank account. I'm Caitie Corradino, a registered dietitian, nutritionist, certified fitness and yoga instructor, eating disorder recovery coach, Reiki healer, and founder of full soul nutrition.

But underneath my titles and resume, I’m a big fan of kitchen dance breaks, early mornings, all things chocolate truffles, world traveling and serendipity. I'm here to share no bullshit stories and actionable tools to help you feel unshakably worthy, you have everything you need within you to feel whole, full and alive. Right here, right now. Let's get into it.

Hey, welcome back to another episode of Whole, Full and Alive. So grateful that you are here for your first episode or not your first episode or whatever. So happy we're connected in some way and that you're tuning in today. I want to start today's episode by inviting you to relax a little bit. Can you take the deepest breath you've taken all day right now? I'll give you some time to do it. Take the deepest breath you've taken all day. Inhale, hold it. Exhale, release it.

Then maybe you bring your right ear towards your right shoulder for a moment, feeling a stretch in the left side of your neck. Then maybe you bring your left ear towards your left shoulder, feeling a nice big stretch in the right side of your neck. Bring your head back towards the center and just shake out your upper body a little bit. I hope you're feeling a little bit more centered and a little bit more present and a little bit more in your body than you were 15 seconds ago.

I always want to emphasize that these little things that we can do, these little tiny, tiny things that we do, can cause a really big shift. You never need to reinvent the wheel or go on a juice cleanse or do all of these ridiculous things that we're told we need to do to feel well to feel back in our bodies. It really is tiny micro moments and tiny micro steps in the midst of our day that can help us feel more grounded, more connected, or present or inspired.

So anyway, let's get into today's episode. I am so excited about it. Today's episode is with Shelley Kay. She is a career coach for women who are feeling at a crossroads in their career and are ready to make lasting changes to finally have a lifestyle that they want while also loving what they do for a job. I am so stoked to have Shelley's voice on the podcast today. It's like one of those episodes where it just keeps building and building and the interview keeps getting juicier and juicier and by the end you're just like wow.

The theme of this episode is so powerful and so amazing and I'm so excited to implement this in my life. That is the main thing I want to say in today's intro because that's how I was feeling by the end of this interview with Shelley. It was like one of those things that just kept building and by the end I was like wow, I can see changes that I want to implement in the way I work in the way I operate in the way I approach my career.

So I'm so excited for you to hear Shelley's voice. Today's episode applies to you whether you are contemplating making a change in your career or not. It is not just about making a change to what you do or what job you have. But it's also about making changes to the way you approach the job that you currently have. And right from the get-go in this episode, Shelley provides super tangible tools for approaching your work life differently.

I also think that all the things that Shelly talks about in this episode can also apply to you if you are a student or filling some other kind of vocation that's not necessarily work related. So I'm super, super stoked to have Shelley Kay on the show today, I want to dive into this interview right away. Enjoy.So Shelly, thank you so much for being here today.

Shelley: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Caitie: So the first question that I ask all my guests is, who are you? And not really what you do but who you are?

Shelley; It's a tough question. But I think, who I feel I am at my core is a light for others and an inspiration, showing them what's possible in their life and their future. That's also really what I live my life by is just being really committed to making what I want a reality, whether that's like, the lifestyle, the career, but whatever it is, that is my heart's desire, I want to believe pursue those things, and really spread that to others, but they can, they can have whatever they want to.

Caitie: So your mission is to show people what's possible for them, and to help people understand that they can have the things that they deeply desire, and they don't have to like, deserve them. They can get them right now.

Shelley: Yes, yes, you said it so much better than me. But that's exactly it.

Caitie: That's beautiful. So what do you do? How do you do that?

Shelley: How do I do that? Well, right now, I do that through career and leadership coaching for high achieving women. And by helping them create the careers that they desire, having work that they're passionate about feeling.

You know — growth and challenge and making an impact, without sacrificing a lifestyle that they're really lit up about too, because I know that you can have both the career and the lifestyle and that a job doesn't need to be something that's tolerated or counted down until your next vacation or the end of the day. It can also be something that you get a lot of joy from, and that can fuel the rest of your life.

I want every woman to have that fulfillment and joy in her career, and really have her career support a holistic lifestyle that also feels really nourishing and exciting.

Caitie: So I like that concept of being a career coach, but focusing just as much on the lifestyle as you do on the career because I think people might have an idea of career coaches, being someone who helps you identify, obviously, your career goals, and what job you want to have and what expertise you need to accumulate. And what is interesting about your approach is that there is just as much of a focus on the lifestyle that you deeply desire to have and making sure that that is incorporated into the career goals. It's not just about what's going to help you feel good. In the office, it's what makes you feel lit up outside the office.

Shelley: Yeah, exactly. And I've actually struggled with the term career coach, because when I like even, you know, other career coaches in my network, it's very commonly focused on your resume and interviewing and landing that next job. Resume and interviewing is the tiniest fraction of what I do with my clients.

So I call it career coaching, because it is focused on building that career that you're really excited about and that supports the lifestyle. But I think the misconception is that career happiness will take place when you get a different job, when you land the interview, when these things happen, and in my experience, and what I see with my clients is that there's so much missed opportunity in the here and now.

We underestimate the power and influence that we have over our current situation. What I've seen and what worked for me in my own career is when you learn how to empower yourself and show up in your current situation to bring to life more of what you're desiring — whether that's growth and challenge, whether that's balance, whether that’s impact, whether it's meaning and fulfillment, the next steps start to unfold more naturally. You start to magnetize them a bit more versus putting the energy into the next step and constantly trying to pursue that.

Caitie: I feel like I have a lot of clients who would benefit from hearing that right now. I have a lot of clients- so a big bulk of the population I work with — not the entire population I work with, but a lot of my clients are young professionals. They're around, I would say, like 25 to 30 years old. Most of them are at a stage where they're sick of their current job, and they want to switch to a new one. They're in the stage of applying for the job going to all these interviews. The job market is tricky right now — I just think it's always been tricky. I think it's always just been sticky and terrible.

A lot of them are not getting the jobs that they were hoping they were going to get and feeling just like pretty stuck, pretty hopeless. I want to know what messages you have specifically for those people who feel like the only way career fulfillment is going to come is from the moment they get the next job. What do these women do, who are feeling a little stuck in their current job, don't love it, but it's like — I always hear this word: it's flexible enough.

I think what they mean by that is I know what I'm doing enough that I don't have to stress too much about this, and it allows me to kind of be flexible in my life and not let my career take over my whole life. So it's like, what would your advice be for individuals who are in this place of like, okay, yeah, this job's flexible enough, it's good enough, it fits my lifestyle enough, but it's not the thing. It's not the one, I'm not super happy. What do I do while I'm in the waiting game of finding the next thing?

Shelley: Yeah, so many things, I've also done in their position, right? The strategy that I have now, and that I use with my clients comes from over a decade of my own career experience in working in HR and thinking, “Oh, when I get that job, everything's going to be better.” Oh, when I get this job, everything's going to be better, when I get a new manager, everything is going to be better. What I realized through my own trial and error is that there is nothing outside of you, that is going to fix everything, ever.

But for long term happiness, I had to change how I was showing up. Because otherwise, you have the same- the new job is shiny and fun for a couple of months. And then it becomes enough, again, like you feel kind of like you're settling and in that stuck energy. So there's never going to be the perfect fix-all solution in the next job, the next company, the next manager, and like, what really creates this long term fulfillment comes by changing the way that you work, and changing the way that you view your work.

So if you're the woman who is like, “I am tolerating this,” but you know that settling stuck energy that feels really unmotivating, and, frankly, exhausting, I would tell her to spend some time reflecting on what are you really good at. It doesn't have to be necessarily job related. I mean like, I am amazing at organizing my house. I am amazing at painting watercolors, I am amazing at being like the best dog mom in the world. Whatever it is that you are. I'm amazing at making my friends laugh so hard it hurts.

Whatever it is, get really clear on what your “special sauce” is, like your unique strengths. There are characteristics about you that no one else has. I want you to get really clear on what they are, and I want you to own the heck out of them. Because this is the difference between just doing a job, checking the boxes. This is where the exhaustion and the settling comes from: going through the motions versus bringing your own unique spark to it. So once you are really clear on what those things are, and you start to own them, bring your special sauce to your current job.

Or be just like “I am hilarious,” like you are the next stand up comedian. Make a couple jokes during meeting you know, like make it a little fun for yourself. Like if you're this artistic or you're just like a really caring, nurturing person, take an intern under your wing, you know. There are opportunities at your fingertips to maximize your strengths. That right there is going to be energizing and reinvigorate you. Just by doing that, even if it's like five minutes a day doing something a little bit new and different, it's going to change things.

So I think we get stuck thinking we need to be in the box. There's a lot of messages from corporate, you know, like culturally have these: look a certain way and do a certain way. That's when we strip ourselves of these special characteristics. So the first thing I want you to do is start to bring those back in, and you'll start to carry yourself differently, just as a result.

The second thing that I would recommend is to think about what your bigger purpose is, just how you had asked me at the beginning of this call. That's work that I do with every single one of my clients, because your purpose can really be a North Star. And it will change how you prioritize and perceive any opportunity.

So if your purpose is to inspire others, or your purpose is to create an environment for others to feel comfortable, whatever it is, add that lens to your job, and see what new opportunities. Like is it you start a group of women who meet for coffee and discuss whatever it is creativity, work life balance, you know. Look for these opportunities, bring your purpose to even the most mundane tasks, because when our job is no longer new and shiny, and it's just routine, all of that, like special energy gets taken out of it.

But even when you're sending an email, if your purpose is to inspire others or brighten their day, it's gonna change your entire energy that you bring to that email, and it is going to change the results of that email. So just looking at how you can bring that to the tasks that seem you know, like, tedious, mundane, whatever it is, it's going to change everything for you. Those two things are basically going to give you a new job; you're gonna feel like you're in a new job. I would recommend starting there.

Another really important thing is to be clear on what your values are. And use that as a lens for also, where things don't align for you come up with opportunities to improve what is right. Like if there's something that you're like, this process doesn't make sense, or like this meeting is really silly. Maybe your value is authenticity. Maybe your value is strategy, maybe your values, creativity.

Whatever is super important, are those cornerstones for you in your life, where things feel out of alignment in your job, use that as an opportunity to initiate your own leadership in making improvements and making changes that I've seen amazing results come out of that, like with myself and my clients, super empowering, and makes things a lot more enjoyable while you're still in your current position.

Caitie: Hmm. I love all these. I love all of these, because the first one invites you to celebrate yourself for what you're good at. And really lean into the things that you're good at no matter how seemingly mundane and unrelated to your job they might be. You don't necessarily have to do the things that you're good at at your job. I think a block that I see a lot of my clients have is like, “Well, I'm really good at whatever, even if it's something like painting or drawing and my job is looking at spreadsheets all day.” . Okay, you have to prioritize painting or drawing ten minutes in the morning, twenty minutes in the morning because then you're going into work with this sense of satisfaction.

The time when I hated my life and my job the most was when I was working at a hospital in 2019 in the ICU. I will never go back to working in the ICU ever again. As a dietitian it's the worst. Like in my opinion, it’s the worst position for a dietitian. Go off the queen dietitians who are still in the ICU doing that. I couldn't do it forever.

I had to get myself out of the rut that I was in during that time by teaching yoga before I went to work, so I had to teach 5am yoga classes. It was the only time I was going to be able to fit it in my schedule. But doing that literally sent me to work in such a different energy, such a different energy because I was so much better at teaching yoga than I was at calculating tube feeds.

I was able to go and lead this group of people through their morning yoga flow in person back in the day, and it was great, it felt amazing. And I can really relate to that sentiment of doing the thing that you're good at. Similarly, I can also relate to creating a mission and a purpose and coming back to it.

Being an entrepreneur comes with a lot of really tedious tasks, sending emails, scheduling, bookkeeping, trying to figure out how to pay taxes, all that shit. And I keep this post-it note on my desk, that has my purpose on it, which is to make people feel good about themselves and to make their lives better. And every time I'm feeling like shit, sending an email, or doing one of those things that I hate, like sending clients, their insurance claims, like my least favorite thing to do, I am just like, “Thank you, God for the opportunity to make people's lives better, and to make them feel good about themselves.”

I really, really love that idea of having a mission and a purpose and putting it into the mundane. And then personal values. Of course, I'm all about that shit, because I'm a body image coach, and I love helping people come back to their personal values, as part of the process of healing their relationship with their body and the way that they see themselves.

Shelley: Yes, definitely. That's a lot of people that don't know their personal values. I didn't until I started coaching training. And it seems so obvious. Even when I learned about it, I'm like, yeah, values. I know. Yeah, whatever, whatever. But could I listen? No, I'm like, I value honesty, I value- I could list off a few nice fluffy words that I believe in. But to actually do the exercise to get clear on your values is extremely powerful.

Caitie: Yeah. And, of course, none of this stuff, none of these exercises about doing what you're good at, and identifying your mission and your personal values applies if you're in a super, super toxic work environment, right? We can't erase a toxic work environment, by reframing the mindset and things like that. This is just if you're in a monotonous job that you really don't like, and maybe your boss isn't like the coolest gal in the world, and you're just like, “Okay, I've got to stick with this ship.”

But this doesn't apply if you're in a toxic work environment, if you are in a work environment that lacks boundaries that allow you to have good mental health. Do you have any words of wisdom around that, Shelley?

Shelley: Yeah, I mean, I've certainly felt that way before. I work with clients, as well. I think the first thing to get really clear on is how kind boundaries actually are. Like they are kind, they are necessary, and what I see with my clients, especially when they're getting messages from, you know, people around them that, like time for themselves isn't important, or whatever. Like productivity is the only priority here, it’s like, “Oh, if I set boundaries, they'll think I'm not doing a good job. And if I set boundaries, I'll look like a slacker or whatever”

There's always the fear to taking the action. So I think first and foremost is: the mindset around boundaries. That you doing what you need to take care of yourself is actually the best thing that you can do for your productivity, and it is the most kind of thing that you can do to those around you like when you are showing up as your most well rested, balanced, you know, attended-to self, everyone around you is ultimately going to benefit.

Maybe not everyone has that awareness, but really like you are doing the best thing for yourself and others when you set them and hindsight is always 20/20. So like I know, I've been in that place where you're like, ah, you know, even if it's leaving work 30 minutes early, or like going outside for your lunch break, whatever it is, can feel like a really big step but it is really the best thing that you can do. So start there.

Then I would say give yourself a little bit of grace because the other thing with boundaries when I work with my clients — I don't know if you see this — is that we expect perfection immediately. Like what is the perfect way for me to phrase this so that no one gets mad at me no one's offended and you know, well perceived and whatever and boundaries just take practice. So I would say start small and if what you need for your mental health is, yeah, leaving work at a certain time, taking a break, like doing a yoga class and coming in 30 minutes later than you have been. Just start with that one small thing and practice communicating it in the mirror a couple of times. Don't apologize, just say I will be x, y, whatever it is, just state it.

Then give yourself a little bit of grace if it's not perfect. But I say start small and it will build up your confidence. I think the most challenging boundaries are when they're not time related, but they're behavior related. You have to communicate to someone, it makes me feel really uncomfortable when you do that, or I'm not available for conversations gossiping about XYZ, coworker.

I think those can feel the most challenging, and make sure you have support. Practice. Be clear about what it is that you are and are not available for and also get really clear about what you will be available for once you no longer have that. So if you are saying you know no to gossiping at the office, because that's dragging you down, you need to set a boundary with someone, think about what that is going to open your energy up to as it relates to your purpose, as it relates to honoring your values, as it relates to showing your unique strengths. Being grounded in that benefit is going to make it much easier to carry through because we often think like, “Oh, this is rude, or how are they going to take it,” or whatever.

But keeping that bigger picture in mind is just really helpful. Because that bigger vision is what we have to show up for and keep making those small steps forwards.

Caitie: Yeah, so remembering that boundaries are kind is great, like setting a boundary is the kindest thing you can ultimately do. Because when you set the boundary, you're able to show up with your fullest cup with your most present energy, and actually be all there. Kind of like you and I had to set boundaries with each other in terms of scheduling this interview, we scheduled it three times outside the boundary. Then you had to set a boundary and now we're here.

Also, remembering that boundaries are something that takes practice is amazing, because I have so many clients who expect themselves to be perfect the first time they set a boundary or they're like “I suck at setting boundaries, I did it so badly.” It's like, you're doing this so much better than you did this a year ago today. Let's talk about how many more boundaries you're setting and not expecting it to be perfect in every single moment.

Because we're human beings, we get triggered, we get activated, we can't always speak in the most, you know, eloquent and sophisticated way all the time when we're activated. We do need to give ourselves grace and practice being composed in stressful situations. Finally, remembering that boundaries are also a pathway towards honoring your personal values is beautiful.

I think that if you're in a work environment where you can't honor boundaries, you can't practice kindness through boundaries, you can't give yourself the opportunity to even practice setting boundaries, because there's no opportunity for it, then, of course, you're in a toxic work environment. The most important thing is to get out of there as quickly as possible and figure out what you need to do. Work with HR to communicate an exit strategy that's going to be healthy and good for you.

I think it is important to say that. If you can't set these boundaries, you know, attempt to set them first, dive in there, see what you can do to make sure, and if it's impossible, then yes, you're in a work environment that you need to get out of. And it doesn't matter when the next interview comes around. You just got to get out of there.

Shelley: Yeah, I think what's so important about what you said is to try first. So many women I talked to don't try because they assume it's not available. So it’s important to try and if you get information in that process, this is not an environment that is suited for you, then that's information. And you left with some boundary practice and some practice empowering yourself and standing up for yourself and getting clear on what it is you need. Then you use that information when you're then looking for the next opportunity.

So definitely worth giving it a go — I would say necessary to try — because it is only going to keep helping you and like even the jobs that I love I think the most in the most amazing companies and cultures, I still had to set boundaries. You still have to communicate, because no one is a mind reader. So the fact that you need to set boundaries doesn't necessarily mean there's something wrong with you, there's something wrong with the job, there's something wrong with the company. It just means like you're being called to rise to this next level of empowerment. And in that process, yeah, you're gonna get more information and kind of learn as you go.

Caitie: Yeah. And I think this is a good segue into another topic that I wanted to talk about, which is the idea of allowing yourself to work less, and see how when you work less, you achieve more, I had to learn this the very hard well, not the hard way. Actually, I learned this the easy way. I'll tell you how I learned this, but it was just like a very zero to 100 kind of way.

So I decided to work from Rome for a month, this past summer. And when I was working from Rome, I worked approximately six hours less every day I worked when I was in the States. And I made approximately three times more money that month that I was in Rome than I normally make. My business exploded that month. I actually told the story a couple of podcast episodes ago, because I was like, what was it that happened while I was there? And there was a lot of things that happened in terms of just leaning into pleasure and ease and giving myself grace.

But I know one of the simplest ways to say what happened was that my productivity increased when I worked less. And I know this is a topic that you've been talking about and that you're passionate about. So I totally want to hear more from you on that.

Shelley: Yeah, no, I think this is like the most important misconception in the corporate world, being on eight plus hours straight. Like most people, it's 10 plus hours and that's just how it's done. Like, you're expected to be on back to back zoom meetings, or, you know, going through Excel spreadsheets, and that equals productivity. I had my own realization with this, when I had I done the boundaries, right, like I had multiple boundary conversations. From the outside, my life was really balanced. I was leaving work at fou, four-thirty. Like, I had a very manageable schedule.

But I had a performance review, I had just gotten promoted, I landed two huge projects. And my boss's boss was giving me the review. And said, like, you know, “Shelley, you are just known as a workhorse. And we can count on you to get anything done. You'll take the impossible, and you'll still make it happen.” She was describing it as the biggest compliment of what I was capable of. And for me, it really hit me as something needs to change, because when she said the word workhorse, it just hit me. I'm like, this is why I don't feel fully fulfilled. This is why I still feel exhausted, despite having the outward appearance of balance, of enjoying my weekends of you know, leaving work, walking my dog, hanging out with friends, whatever. I still feel exhausted, because all I've done is taken whatever it was: the ten, eleven hour days, and I've compressed them into eight hours.

So doing less is more than just working less hours. It is also changing your entire energy and approach to work. Because we can “productivity” and “efficiency,” anything. And even like four hours of going insane with your Excel spreadsheets and trying to multitask and do a million things in this frantic energy. It's still going to feel horrible. Like your four hours in Rome, I'm like, oh, what's she doing? Like eating ice cream while Voxer messaging, whatever.

So that was my own realization. And that's why after that situation, I thought, I need to leave corporate, because corporate is the problem. Corporate is enforcing the workhorse in me. The only way I can say goodbye to this workhorse mentality is by leaving corporate. And when, you know it, I left corporate and I was enforcing that same exact mentality on myself as an entrepreneur. So that's when my mission of being a career coach changed from helping women get progression and get raises and get all those things that are, you know, absolutely deserving of, to: my mission is to change how women work.

Because this workhorse thing is not serving anyone. I thought corporate was the problem. But I wasn't forcing it on myself, you know, just as much as I thought it was. So like, the change here is not just us waiting for corporate culture to change. The change is starting the revolution ourselves, like one woman at a time and being that ripple effect.

So I haven't even answered your question yet. But that is just like a little backstory. My own relationship with this, working less doing less. A couple of things: I go through a framework with all of my clients. We start by getting really deep on your energy, and what brings you energy, and how you are managing your energy. So just starting there, and getting clear on all that is a wonderful foundation, because you could be spending ten hours a day doing the most draining thing, and you're gonna feel you're gonna feel exhausted.

How can you approach your work so that your energy is maximized? Like you can spend more time doing the things that you enjoy? Like, can you- a lot of my clients lead teams. Can you delegate? Can you empower your team? Can you lean into this leadership strength that you have, and really inspire others to step up? Not everyone has a team, and not everyone can delegate, but how can you — knowing what really makes you tick — how can you rework your schedule and the tasks at hand to really maximize your energy, and know that the ultimate productivity is when you are rested and when you are enjoying what you are doing?

I think like the whole productivity, we get this idea that it's like, in front of the computer doing something. Like me. I'm like, “Oh, I'm just going to condense it into eight hours instead of ten or eleven, and I'm being more productive.” And yes, focusing and doing less is more productive, but the ultimate productivity is you fueling yourself, so that you can be rested, and you can be like focused, attentive and present. That is the ultimate productivity.

Really taking that pressure off of like doing more, and instead of us viewing our value, as do do do, what if your value is being there. Instead of doing five things while you're attending a meeting, like what if your value comes from just being really present, and having two ideas that you share. There's just so many things, but that's really like the energy piece is the first part of it, and just changing how we view our value from having the highest output to it just being our presence, and like leveraging our unique strengths and our purpose, and all those things that we've already talked about.

Caitie: I love that. I hate when I say “I love that” too much on the podcast, because I'm just saying that all the time. I love all my guests. They're amazing. It reminds me of when you're saying that your HR, or whoever gave you your performance review your manager, said that you're a workhorse like, okay, that sounds like not like a fun thing to be viewed as necessarily that sounds like not a fun thing to be perceived as that sounds like not the best thing to be remembered for.

Like, do you want to be remembered as a workhorse or do you want to be remembered as the person who was present and helped people and was all there? And I saw a tweet or something on Instagram yesterday that I reposted that said, what if we measured our — I don't remember if it was value or worth or something like that, or self esteem. But what if we measured our value by how safe people felt in our presence?

It reminds me of what you're saying. Because what if we measured our value by how present people could sense we were when we are with them? What if we measured our value in the workplace by how much energy and creativity we are able to bring to each task we do, rather than by how many tasks we do. That's a big, I think — lightbulb moment for me, personally — is like the productivity is: your productive if you're showing up fully. The productivity is in the how you do. The productivity is not in the what you do.

Shelley: Exactly. You nailed it.

Caitie: Good shit. I love that.

Shelley: Yeah, and this is revolutionary. Like in the corporate world, showing up in this way is revolutionary. But this is how you create the impact.

Caitie: Why is it revolutionary in the corporate world? I know the answer, I just kind of want to hear it.

Shelley: Yeah, well, I mean, a couple of things. First of all, the corporate scheduling structure was created by men, for men. I'm just going to name that. Men are on a 24 hour hormonal cycle, women are on, you know, 24 to 28 day cycle. So as women, we function, our bodies function differently than our male counterparts. So I will name that and just say that, for most male-identifying beings, the “productivity all day” — that tends to work a bit better for them.

I'm still not saying the way we work today is totally healthy for all men out there. But the way the system was formed, was not informed by how a woman's body functions. So that's just one thing. But then, as we've added technology, I think, and especially working from home, it's so amazing to have the flexibility. But then there's also this pressure and semi-expectation of being constantly available. So I think the way we work, have this constant, like back to back zoom meetings, and chat and the logs — like constantly available, it's giving so much opportunity for constant interruptions.

We're all just multitasking all the time. And these productivity “tools” this technology, like it is really great. But in the process, we have also lost sight of how important it is to also take a beat to reset, and really reprioritize how we are working. For a period of time, the whole pushing for output gets results, right? Like, in the short term. I, in my business, I have times when I need to get stuff done. In short, isolated instances, that's okay. But we get this validation from it. I see this in women, like, you know, in corporate, you know, you get the validation, and it's like more more more and more and more and more, because we think more equals better. But in the long term, that's what makes people burn out.

High-achieving women and their careers? We start out either at a college, wanting to get validation, wanting to prove ourselves, and how do you get validation is through your work ethic. You might not be the expert, you're coming out of college, you feel like you know, nothing. So how you prove yourself is by working really hard, and being “perfect” and showing up in always ready-can-do attitude, ready to take on any task, blah, blah, blah, right? Then you are praised for it, and that feels good, and you're like, “This is how I am loved and accepted. This is how I provide value in the world.”

Then it just keeps building into a place where it's insatiable, right, like you can't just keep working harder and harder, like you can, but the validation, that high that you get from it is very short-lived. That is not going to bring you long term fulfillment and enjoyment in your job. So I think the cycle starts and then we don't know another way. We're like, “I worked really, really hard and I pleased everyone and that's how it's done!”

But then you're, you know, five, ten years in your career, you're burnt out, you forgot why you got into that line of work in the first place. You know there's more for you. You have a bigger mission and purpose in your life. You have these talents, and you're not using them because you were taught that the way to do it is to work yourself to the bone, to not speak up, to say yes to everything, to always take on more. And that's when women hit this point when they reach out to me. Because they're like, I want a career of some sort, but I am miserable and I don't know what to do about it, I don't know the path forward.

So I think that was like three different answers. And there's like the corporate culture and the technology, there's the way this working world was founded way back when. And then there's just this validation cycle that teaches us “this is how we work.” And then we have to break it ourselves and ultimately be examples for the future women who start out of college, to show that there is a different way to prove yourself and to make your mark.

Caitie: I mean, everything you just said in that last like, two minutes, I was just like, oh, I really want to respond here, I think, who at the very least, right, if you take on that mentality of, I've gotta keep working and saying yes to everything and keep working harder and harder and be a yes-man, and all of that stuff. At the very least, you're unfulfilled at the like, at the most, you're completely burned out.

That's important, because that sourcing your sense of fulfillment through getting validation from your supervisors or sourcing your sense of worth from being the person that can always do everything and always says yes to everything doesn't bring you fulfillment It's honoring your personal values and having balance and bringing energy to the things that you do and being present. That brings you the fulfillment.

Also on the flip side, that stuff also prevents you from reaching the territory of complete burnout. And this is so much like your relationship with food and body. Because if you are sourcing your sense of self-worth, from getting validation for your body shape and size, that keeps you on the dieting hamster wheel, that keeps you on the restriction hamster wheel, that keeps you in a place when you where you can't feel really truly good in your here-and-now body.

This is why so many women that I work with, would benefit so much from working with you. And vice versa, because this same pattern repeats itself when it comes to food and body image and also in the workplace. They both come from the same root cause of sourcing a sense of worth from the wrong place. Or I say worth a lot, but it's also sourcing a sense of safety from the wrong place; sourcing a sense of regulation and fulfillment and just feeling cozy and safe from the wrong place.

Shelley: Yes, perfectly summarized. And it's yes, it is. When I have this on my resume, when I get this promotion, when I get this raise, when I have XYZ accomplishment, then I will be enough. Which is so often what also drives that disconnect with our bodies and our food and our self worth. It's like when I look like this, when I- you know what I'm saying? Then it will be enough and similarly, I think that sense that the answer is in getting this job, that job — the answer is similar to thinking it'll be this diet. It'll be that diet, it'll be this exercise program or whatever.

There's never like one fix-all answer, I would say is the other theme. What it ultimately comes down to is that relationship and connection with yourself, and being able to listen to and honor that is really the ultimate path forward.

Caitie: Ooh, so good. It really comes back to the mission of this podcast, which is you have everything you need within you to feel whole, full, and alive. You have what you need within you to source that sense of fulfillment. It is not going to come from the next job. It's not going to come from the raise, it's not going to come from the praise. It's not going to come from the promotion.

You can start to source a sense of wholeness, a sense of fullness, a sense of aliveness and energy from what you have, right now, from tapping into what you value right now, from tapping into a mission or a vision that's bigger for your life as a whole and finding ways that you can implement that into little mundane tasks. Doing the things that you're good at, finding space for that — this is all so important. So I could talk to you all day. Thank you so much for this conversation.

I love to wrap up my episodes by asking my guests about their anchors that they use in the morning to start the day feeling a little bit grounded. We actually just talked about this off-mic for a sec. And also the things that they might use to unwind and bookend the end of their day. So with the caveat, always, is that these things don't happen every single day, which is exactly what you and I were just talking about off my, what are the things that you use to start your day and end your day in a way that feels good for you?

Shelley: Yes, I love starting my day with the five minute journal. I'm just, I love it. I've been doing it for years. Now it comes in multiple colors. I have the light pink, I'm obsessed. It's beautiful. So I do the five minute journal. I do usually a 20 minute meditation, and some Tapping with Brad, EFT Emotional Freedom Technique. I'm no expert on it, but it makes me feel really good. So shout out to Tap with Brad. That is my ideal morning.

Caitie: Tap with Bard — that sounds so funny.

Shelley: Oh my God. He is like-

Caitie: I love that. I love tapping.

Shelley: Okay, yeah. Have you done tap with Brad?

Caitie: I have not done tap with Brad.

Shelley : Caitie. Okay, you got to check it out. We'll talk later, Brad and I are friends on LinkedIn. I really, yes, we're close.

So that is my stable morning. And then there's always a dog walk that happens in there at some point. And then at night, my favorite thing to do is stretching before bed. I feel when I create space in my body by stretching, I always create space in my mind. And it really helps me just like let go of the day and wind down. So that is my favorite. And then I do a little — The Five Minute Journal has prompts for the end of the day. So I'll do my stretching, that, and then my skincare routine that has too many steps to cover in this podcast. That's another self care staple for me.

Caitie: Hmm, create space in the body to create space in the mind. That's good. The body keeps the score.

Shelley: It does.

Caitie: I really do love that. It's when you get that sense of relief and release and stretching in your body. It's like something just sort of unlocks like a block that was in your brain before it just kind of like goes away. I love stretching before bed. So good.

Shelley: And then you wake up and like I feel better. I normally do some type of movement at some point in the morning and I feel like the pre-bed stretch really preps well for that

Caitie : Good stuff. Good stuff. All right. Well, Shelley, it's such a pleasure to have you here. I think that your words are going to help so many people start to make some shifts in their careers. Can you tell us how, where, what, who, why we can find you?

Shelley: Yeah, I hang out mostly on LinkedIn. Shelley Kay. Please find me on there. I'm pretty much on there every day, but I'm also on Instagram @heyshelleykay, and I have a website. You can sign up for my newsletter from my website.

Caitie: Good stuff. All right. If you enjoyed this episode, please give us a five star review. Maybe write us a little review. Reach out to me, reach out to Shelley tell us your thoughts, your feelings, your questions, the shifts you're going to make in the way you're approaching your career and your work life based on what you heard today. Love hearing from you, and I'll see you back here next week.


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