As published in the Accountancy SA Magazine 2018

Responsibility, dedication and loyalty are trademarks of an accountant. These are the qualities that differentiate us from the pack and contribute to our success. In a deadline-driven environment, these qualities help us thrive. For many years these were the qualities that helped me to climb the corporate ladder at a young age. At one point in my career I started to question these qualities though and I realized my sense of responsibility, dedication and loyalty started to become my downfall. I gave everything for my employer but lost myself in the process.

Any employer value characteristics like responsibility, dedication and loyalty in an employee, but if not managed properly by the employee; burnout, illness, obesity and unhappiness can occur.

I spent more than a decade, after qualifying as a chartered accountant, at a large listed corporate. I was in a senior position on group level with a strong team and many subsidiaries reporting into me. The adrenaline of the roller-coaster rides during reporting periods was exhilarating and made me strive for more.

I performed best under immense pressure. Working seven days a week non-stop for three months during year-end was my ‘normal’. Then there was the merger, which is still considered to be one of the biggest mergers ever in South Africa. We were repeatedly told experiencing a merger of this extent is an once-in-a-lifetime experience that few accountants ever get to experience. It was intense, it was big, it was exciting; but the extreme working hours and constant pressure also started to take its toll.

I loved my job for most part of my corporate career, but in 2014 I realized I was no longer happy and content. I started to ask myself important life-changing questions: ‘what is my purpose in life?’; ‘do I really want to do financial reporting for the rest of my life?’; ‘what would I do if I could do anything in life?’; ‘how can I make a bigger impact?’; ‘what should I do to realize my bigger dreams for my life?’.

I was sick often and constantly struggled with running or cycling injuries, because I was not in a position to exercise consistently. During training for the Amashova and Momentum (now Telkom) 947 Cycling Challenges in 2014, shortly after another tough year-end, I regularly experienced dizziness and black spells. The results from all the medical check-ups came back clean. It was when the one doctor asked: ‘When last did you take a break?’, that I realized my body and mind were crying for help.

My sense of responsibility became my downfall. I gave too much of myself and didn’t take proper care of myself, my health and my needs. I never said ‘No’. I was nearing burnout. I knew I had to walk away and put myself first for a change. I used the opportunity to start my own businesses – something I will forever be grateful for.

We often push too hard to meet deadlines and be successful, losing ourselves in the process. Our physical and emotional wellbeing is just as important as our financial wellbeing and we need to take care of it. Going for regular health checks, exercising on a regular basis, and eating healthy meals should be part of our lifestyle.

We often work under enormous pressure and we need to find ways to manage our stress levels. We need to make time to do those things that we love and make us feel alive. Spending time with our loved ones should be our priority.

Don’t wait until it is too late … take care of yourself.

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