6 Life-Changing Habits to Start Doing Right Now, From Some of NZ’s Most Successful Women

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No matter where you are in your career, advice can be a game-changing tool to broaden your perspective and help you get ahead. We love a career life hack here at Capsule, so we’ve had a yarn to six incredible wāhine about the habits they’ve adopted that have helped catapult them to be at the top of their game.

“Form an early morning routine”

Annah Stretton, Stretton Clothing Founder, Entrepreneur, Business Mentor and Philanthropist 

There are a lot of behaviours or habits that I have integrated into my daily practice over the years but the one that immediately leaps to mind is my non-negotiable 5am morning routine. I get up and go early to give myself three or four solid gold hours of work before the “adorable chaos” that is my life starts to roar into action.

That habit started in the ’80s when I was studying for my accounting degree and working full time and has never ever left me because it works so well.  I have always found the quality of my focus and decision making to be severely depleted after a full day of work and study. Whereas in the mornings, I am mentally on fire. I’m faster, more energised, boosted and much more focused.

Nowadays, any piece of work that requires a highly functional and focused brain is placed in my morning pile because I know that’s the time of day that will elicit the very best response from me.  It’s when I do my writing, researching, university study, designing and creating which coincidentally, are all the things that I love doing and that matter to others.  Using that time of the morning to do really important and interesting work also makes getting out of bed easy.  The other key ingredient of this strategy is getting into bed early.  A 4.30 am alarm is matched by a 9.00 pm bedtime.  Try it and you will be amazed at how much more you can fit into your day!

“Remind yourself to find purpose in everything you do – and give yourself permission to fail”

Audette Exel AO, Founder and Chair of the Adara Group 

I profoundly believe that when you put purpose and gratitude at the heart of everything you do – including in your career – amazing things happen. My life has been all about finding and living my purpose – and I have made it a habit to remind myself of this every night when I go to sleep. 

Through my work with the Adara Group, I have the huge privilege of working with communities who live in poverty in some of the world’s remotest places, while also working with some of the most accomplished minds in the Australian financial services industry.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed at the sheer size of the need in our world, especially during these complex times and when working in the area of human social service delivery. I used to torture myself thinking, “Oh my God it’s not enough. Oh my God it’s a huge responsibility. How am I going to keep it going?” 

But there is a trick – find purpose and make it a habit – it can stop you from getting lost.

“Build confidence to ensure you don’t underestimate your ability”

Jenni Prisk, President at Prisk Communications

When I founded Prisk Communication in San Diego, California in the early 1990s, to provide public speaking and leadership skills, I suffered from the dreaded “Impostor Syndrome.” When I landed a contract to train, speak or coach, negative messages would often flood my brain.  Can I do this?  Do I have the scope and knowledge? Will I meet expectations?

Over time, I realised how futile these thoughts were, and how much they undermined my confidence.  I began a process,  utilising words from Buddha: “What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.”  Every morning, I would square off in a mirror and say these words to my image, finishing with a punch in the air and a loud, “You’ve got this!”. It was interesting to discover the power and benefits of this mantra!

My confidence grew in leaps and bounds. I passed the words onto many women. And at the grand old age of 72, if negative thoughts dare to creep into my brain, they are quickly banished. Women owe it to themselves to be the very best they can be. Rid yourself of self-doubt. Believe in yourself, your education, experience and expertise.  Use positive language when speaking of your qualifications and success. Don’t hide your unique light under a bushel.  Be proud, use your voice and soar. You’ve got this!  

“Whaiā te tika me te pono; the pursuit of justice”

Caren Fox, Deputy Chief Judge (Māori Land Court) at Ministry of Justice

When talking to whaiā te tika me te pono, I am using it as a metaphor. In the pursuit of justice for yourself, the physical action I refer to is writing down and setting intentions and following the correct and true path to the outcome. Dare to be single-minded but remain open to new ways of doing things and new perspectives. Remember why you are doing what you do. Act with honesty and integrity and be as transparent as can be. 

Another action that connects with writing down and setting intentions is Whaiā te Mātauranga me te Tikanga o Ngā Ao e Rua – Te Ao Pakeha me te Ao Maori. Continually build skills to be the best you can be by taking what is best from both the Māori and Pākehā worlds. This progression is what encouraged me to do a PhD in Te Tikanga Whenua o Ngāti Porou – Ngāti Porou Customary Land Law. There’s always a way to find time to build skills.

“Visualise your way to success”

Marisa Fong, Madison Group co-founder, investor and entrepreneur

It takes a lot to keep motivated and so knowing “why” makes it easier.  In my early working life, my desire to be financially secure meant I pictured in my head what that looked like. Without even knowing I was doing it, I was using visualisation. Later on, my drive to have financial freedom included being a master of my own time. That was another goal and that’s what I visualised. My husband calls it “living in Marisaland” because he couldn’t understand how things I wanted would somehow materialise! 

The more detailed your visualisation, the better. And for those doubters, science backs up the practice. When I imagined myself being financially secure, I pictured owning my own home, a 6 figure salary and a company car. I could actually feel the peace of mind that gave me and helped me to keep pushing myself forward. Being the master of my own time and having financial freedom looked like this; having a beautiful home in the suburb I wanted to live in, with one child and being able to afford a nanny so I could continue to work. Despite fertility challenges, I had my daughter and ended up living in the place I wanted to and co-founding my first business. 

Recently, my visualisation has evolved to become a vision board. I’ve used it as a touchstone to remind me of the “why” in embarking on my new venture. Journaling is another method but whatever technique you choose, visualisation works for all parts of life: career, relationships and self. Go try it…..and visualise your best life!

“Embrace opportunities”

Keren Blakey, Chair and Senior Partner, PwC

I appreciate this sounds obvious but, when you’re trying to hold a lot of moving parts together, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s an opportunity. 

Managing the daily complexities of life responsibilities, family, friends and work is a balancing act. Ensuring you have a sustainable and enjoyable lifestyle where you get the right balance between looking after yourself and those you care for and being open to career opportunities can be challenging. 

For me, the trick was to develop my “why”. What contribution do I make to the lives of others, what makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning and doing the hard mahi? It may mean that something has to come off the table to allow me to pursue it but, if it resonates with my purpose, it’s worth it!

It also pays to remember that self doubt can be the biggest barrier.

Reflecting on the pivotal moments of my career, being made a Partner, being the first female on the PwC Board and even standing for PwC Chair in the midst of COVID-19, my initial reaction was one of “there’s no way.” This is where my support network – friends, colleagues, mentors – were invaluable. People who have your best interests at heart will challenge you to lean into your vulnerability – or fear of failure – and overcome it. 

So be brave and open to the opportunities that come your way.

Each woman featured is a member of the non-profit organisation Global Women, a collective committed to increasing equity, equality, inclusion and diversity for women in the workplace and society to help stimulate economic growth. 

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