“I didn’t just change a job, I transformed the way I do everything.”

Lexie Papaspyrou’s transition is far less technical than “a job to job.” Career, in her dictionary, is not a noun but a verb: and it means to run uncontrollably. So she’s taking charge of both the pace and direction. Over the last year, she’s put various sabbatical activities, or rather – lifestyle changes into practice. From waking up at 5 AM to learning languages or biking around Scandinavia, she’s discovering depth and layers of life. Having just left her position at Sparta Global, her career change is not over yet.

Talk to us about why you started introducing all these lifestyle changes.

Those are things that are important to me and I am creating a practice because I want to have more of them in my life. Like looking at my wellness I spent 10 years not exercising because I’ve said I’ve been too busy with my career. I’m planning on spending a week in complete silence and another week running random acts of kindness. I want to take time to write letters to my friends and practice showing gratitude to all those special people I’ve come across in my 30 years. I am spending much more time with my partner and my dog, taking care of them. There is also dancing, bike tour around Scandinavia, going to China, learning Chinese and a number of other things. 

They’re big and they’re small. Different sizes of things I want to do. Beyond that, I don’t know. What I know is that I am not planning to get myself back to where I was before: climbing ladder. 

What does this decision stem from? 

Each of my career stops (and I wish we didn’t have to use career, it is a horrible word) has taught me so much and one of the last lessons was that although loyalty is a wonderful thing, it doesn’t necessarily be at the expense of your own wellbeing. I used to think career was everything. The older I got, I realized career is not a noun, it is a verb. It means to run and race uncontrollably into something. It sounds like something you can obtain, but not really, it is something you do. And I now think the practice of career is take this uncontrollable running to get somewhere and put some control in it. Sense of direction. Your own pace. So you don’t run into a brick wall, which is what I did. Achievement and career are totally different things. 

How does waking up at 5 AM benefit this notion? 

We are told our days start when we get to work. But they start way before that. What you do with your time is key question, and that comes to me deciding: how am I going to start my day? Calmly. There’s just something so nice about starting the day on your own terms and having a morning when you’re waking up naturally, spending time with your partner and your pup, no rush, everything is conscious and considerate. It makes me, on a very deep level, quite peaceful with my decisions. And being a person who is in a position of leadership, your decisions are what you’re paid for. Having the wisdom and the ability to synthetize a lot of information and decide what is the most important in a certain moment of time, is key, and often we are pressed and pushed, bombarded by e-mails from 7 AM.

“So I am creating space for myself, putting my oxygen mask first. Only then can I go and create the same for other people.”

Do you experiment with your work and life design often in terms of how your day looks like and how your week is designed? 

I’m not a person who’ve traditionally done that. I look back on my journey and I’ve had loads of expectations and limitations in the past I’ve felt I needed to meet that had kept me at a very safe, stable, traditional way of doing things. I might even have done the same things, like waking up early, but for the sake of “how do I optimise my performance at work.” So working with my life design is the one thing I learnt through this process of transformation: You need to think of what you’d like to change, how you want your life to be and then go introduce those changes.

For the sake of this interview, let’s simplify and say you’ve had three major work seasons: Apple, General Assembly and Sparta Global. What has each one teach you? 

Working in retail in Apple has been a real high at first. I was fortunate to go on leadership programmes with people from all over the world. Apple taught me that in order to really grow, destruction is transformative and powerful. People constantly reinvent and in order to reinvent, you need to tear down sometimes. Which does not make it less painful, but thanks to Apple I was able to uncover these layers of myself and say: This is me, my authentic self. 

The biggest thing I learnt from General Assembly was being around people that were transforming themselves. In Apple everything was makro, while in GA I worked with individuals onboarding them to our programme, people I knew by name. They were turning their lives on a pin, taking risks, doing something bold like changing their career. Practicing empathy through the good and bad, communicating on a deeper level, those are my biggest takeaways. 

Sparta Global spoke to me with its company culture and focus on diversity and inclusion which I had been lacking before. 

Throughout this ongoing process, what’s the biggest transformation you see in yourself? 

We often think we are failing in our roles, at our jobs. I certainly did, thinking: I should have said this, I should have done that, I wish I’ve done this differently, what are they going to think of me. And actually, what I’ve realized, being kind to yourself is always better than confronting yourself. 

You will make mistakes. You will get stuff wrong a lot of the time. Sometimes there is not right and wrong answer, there is just a better answer. There’s always an element of something being ignored or neglected as you move on to bigger decisions in life. You have to be able to look back and say to yourself: I did this for these reasons. And even though I picked the wrong things, I picked them for these reasons. I think this finally landed for me. 

“There’s no such thing as work life balance. There’s just balance.”

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