"You know when you meet someone whose company is incredibly comfortable, it's normally because they know who they are."
I met Stephanie for the first time at TP Bennet where she is an Interior Designer, dropping off some samples, something which is normally done in 5 minutes but 45 minutes later when I realised that I was deeply absorbed in conversation about clubs - and no, not the open 11pm till 6am type, I was hooked and needed to know more.
Stephanie fell into design as many probably do, a born creative who would feel content for hours with a sketch book, pencils and a cup of tea. What makes her different is, I believe down to her father Trevor.
In his twenties, Trevor studied engineering at Queen Mary's and in his spare time was an Olympic diver who competed at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 and won bronze at the Commonwealth games. I don't know about you but in my spare time I create pintrest boards I never revisit. Following this remarkable achievement he was interviewed by the BBC on the topic of “Work Life balance” and it seems, history is repeating itself.
Amongst other things, what Trevor has passed down to his daughter is the importance of self regulated balance. Yes, we all yearn for a world where work is enjoyed and not tolerated but for the majority of us, work does not and cannot supply all the ingredients to bake “content cake”.
When Stephanie first started working as an Interior designer it was pretty gruelling. As the weeks went on the days became longer, harder and eventually work was all consuming. After a few years, Stephanie realised that the late nights weren’t doing anybody any good; not herself, her circle of friends, family or her colleagues. Something had to change so she decided to make time, just a small fraction of her 112 waking hours every week to spend with her other passion – sport.
"There must be another way for me to show my company what I can do."
To start off this meant leaving work at 7pm to make it to the gym or a club session and before long Stephanie noticed she was arriving at work more energised, becoming more productive and was getting her tasks done quicker and to a higher standard. She was a happier, healthier person and this small nugget of self dicipline was the catalyst to a big positive change.
We are told all the time that balance is the key but if you look at an old school set of scales (not the battery required type) it’s clear that TO balance we need to have equal weights on both sides of the scale. It occurred to me that that trying to balance work and life when “life” consists of netflix and chill– no wonder this quest can feel unachievable.
So what is the solution? Stephanie has one tried and tested suggestion which is utilising groups and clubs.
"My aim now is to do more things that really take me out of my comfort zone, so I'm doing a navigation course in the Brecon Beacons, so I can plan my own multi day hike/ trekking trips."
Now Stephanie is obviously a natural sportswoman, who else could win a silver medal in their first ever triathlon! It helps that she is a member of Clapham Chasers running club and has been part of her home running club Leigh on Sea Striders for 11 years.
Personally, I have always thought of athletics as quite a "solo sport" but in Stephanie's case this is far from the truth. She organises exercise classes at work twice a week and is a National Trust volunteer at Box Hill, helping with hiking tours and tending to the countryside, which is something close to her heart as she gets so much enjoyment running amongst the beautiful british countryside, she feels it is only right to help conserve it.
"I've supported 100mile hikes across Bavaria and the South Downs UK, which was incredible and really opened my eyes to the world of hiking and trekking, which I'm now building my experience in to go on big expeditions around the world."
The resounding realisation I have had through my time with Stephanie is that the person to your left, to your right, the person in the front page of the newspaper and the poor fella sleeping on newspapers, we all have 24 hours in our day. How we distribute and balance our time is a skill but something we really should try and get better at for over our lifetime, we have so much to gain from this mastery.
After doing some research, it's clear that Stephanie is not alone in her enthusiasm for groups and clubs - there are a plethora of them just a click away and if you are based in London, there is absolutely no excuse not to give one a go. Just a quick scroll through the website Meetup and you will find everything from "The Terrible Footballers" and "Reiki healing" to "Walks by water".
If Trevor can be an Olympic diver in his spare time...
Thank you to Stephanie for sharing her time and thoughts - I hope like she has for me, she can inspire you to be more thoughtful about the way you fill your 24 hours.