During her career in healthcare administration, Lauren quickly climbed the corporate ladder. Although successful, she also experienced the darker side of being solely focused on a career. This prompted her to start FORM Project: a company which empowers the human form – body, mind and spirit – in a burnt-out world, through one-on-one guidance and group gatherings. FORM Project helps individuals and organizations prevent burnout, heal from it, and cultivate a leadership paradigm which helps us to move past it.
What was your education like?
In high school, I was a straight-A student, but in my first year of university, my father was diagnosed with cancer and I lost focus.
I actually ended up failing most of my first-year courses. I transferred to a women’s college, where I could also be closer to family, and when I first set foot on school campus I felt a kind of spiritual connection to the place and had this overwhelming knowing that this was the right place for me to get back on track. It proved to be exactly that! It was there where I first raised my hand to fill a leadership position, such as Class President and President of the student body, and ended up graduating with a dual degree in business and biology. Upon graduating, I worked for 10 years in leadership within healthcare administration, and finally returned to school to complete my Master’s in Integrative Health Studies.
Why do you think your interest in filling leadership positions was sparked at the women’s college and not earlier?
I largely attribute it to being with women. It was a group who had mutual respect for one another; we held each other up while we each explored our own interests and talents and became who we were meant to be. This school was where I saw and experienced empowerment first-hand.
What was it like to go from this warm, empowering environment to the somewhat more tough and competitive corporate world?
The transition between the two was quite a change for me. The corporate world felt like a rat-race, where everyone is fighting their way to the top and stepping on each other to get there. It’s a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol; working all night and missing meals is a sign of hard work and a source of pride. Another big difference was the number of female role models, or lack thereof. In fact, it seemed like in the corporate world everyone was trying to be a man, which was strange to me because I had seen how successful women are as their authentic selves – they are natural leaders.
Did this prompt you to start the FORM Project?
Yes, but not immediately. I thought there must be an option where you can be successful as your authentic, healthy self. Because I also saw how the exhaustion culture was impacting health, for example, diabetes, cancer, infertility, heart disease and burnout are all related to our stressful work/life style. But I knew I needed to first challenge my own assumptions about what it means to be successful, healthy and a leader. I needed to ‘unlearn’ so to speak, which is what prompted me to return to school for my Masters.
You gave the Feminer Team an interesting training about the importance of boundaries for an individual’s wellbeing. Why is setting boundaries a form of self-care in your opinion?
There are different ways of looking at boundaries. For example, they can be seen as a personal limit, as the furthest you can go. Boundaries can also be seen in terms of your identity – where one person ends and another person begins. Personally, I find it to be quite powerful to see boundaries as a form of self-mothering. How do you recognize your needs? And how do you honor and care for them? To me this is where boundaries and self-care overlap.
What are the best ways to set and guard our boundaries?
At the core of boundaries are personal needs. Therefore, taking the time to clarify your needs will help you to define boundaries. This is why setting boundaries is more than just saying no. It’s the moment-to-moment awareness that we have needs, and how to best embrace, nurture, and protect them. You can start by tuning-in to the voice of your body. It can be with small things, like using the restroom when you need to or eating when you feel hungry. We often override these basic needs because we think what we are doing is more important than our personal health, than our needs.
The Feminer community consists of ambitious young women and men who are motivated to have successful careers. How do you balance ambition and listening to your boundaries so that you don’t push yourself too hard?
I think it is important to explore what success means to you – this is how we start to create a new leadership paradigm that moves past burnout culture. Most of us unconsciously carry a definition of success that is inherited – from our family, friends, society. Taking the time to unpack what is others’ versus our own definition of success is essential to being ambitious, within our limits. Asking yourself questions like: What is of most importance to me, right now? How does the way I work reflect (or not) those things? Who do I want to become? Does my environment mirror back the qualities I wish to embody? Questions like these help us to develop an ongoing dialogue with ourselves about success. And the deeper our dialogue goes, the clearer we get on who we authentically are – versus who we’ve told we should be – and how to be ambitious while also respecting ourselves.
For me, I’ve discovered my own definition of success expands beyond the scope of career, to include my lifestyle, like sleep, nutrition, and community. This more rounded way of looking at success allows me to listen to myself and respect my boundaries, in all aspects of my life.
Which quote best symbolizes your philosophy?
The quote by Krishnamurti: ‘It’s no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.’ Which, can also apply to success: ‘It’s no measure of success to be well adjusted to a profoundly exhausted society.’