Over the last few years, self-improvement culture has put us under pressure to be constantly striving towards our best selves. If we are not at work, we are told to be ‘working on ourselves’; even our sleep gets a productivity score.
More recently, we recognise that this unsustainable ideal can be damaging to our wellbeing and are beginning to create an individual image of success rather than chasing hyper-productivity. In our recently released UP Trends, we call this ‘Mellowed Productivity’.
Molly Flatt’s debut novel The Charmed Life of Alex Moore explores this complex tension between success stories, and true stories. The elusive sci-fi, self-help crossover, captures lead protagonist Alex Moore’s struggle as she tries to navigate the extreme pressures of mental and work-life balance. To coincide with its paperback release, The Success Monologues event series brings together a group of inspiring women in Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester and Orkney for an honest conversation with Flatt about grappling with limiting self-beliefs and re-defining success on their terms.
Before the Manchester event, we caught up with Molly to chat about her personal experience of success and taking a more mellowed approach to productivity.
Hi Molly! Your debut novel ‘The Charmed Life of Alex Moore’ and event ‘The Success Monologues’ focuses on the struggles that perceived success can bring. Why did you decide to explore this topic?
It comes from a very personal place. In my twenties, I appeared to have an Instagram vision of classic success. I grew up thinking writing a book would never be a possibility because I did not know anyone in publishing. So went down the corporate route. In some ways, it was amazing and I learnt so much. However, it was not the right fit for what I really wanted to do.
In my late twenties, I became tired of the divide between my outer and inner self. I trained myself to be what everyone else wanted and to look like what society said it wanted, but finally started to reclaim what I actually wanted.
How much do you think the desire to sustain our online image impacts our real selves?
Social media is a great tool for self-definition. A place we can communicate our identity. However, I do think the influx of influences and social media imagery somehow amplified how lost I have felt in the past.
Productivity has become fetishized online. Constant articles on how to get more out of your day and not waste time. We are so obsessed with constantly being productive. It is a real drive to perfectionism. We are trying to turn ourselves into robots and automate our brains to do everything in a clean, lean way. However, that is not the most interesting part of humans. There is definitely pleasure in productivity but it is important not to feel like a machine. Everything is about balance.
What influence do you think your environment has on your personal measure of success?
I grew up in the Oxfordshire countryside where my imagination grew from the freedom of running around fields and now I live in zone one London.
I have stubbornly remained in Hackney with a family when all my friends have moved out to the suburbs but I am enjoying exploring what success feels like rather than what it looks like. Living in such a diverse city allows me to define myself. I love and reject it in equal measure at different times during the day.
Has your perception of personal success changed compared to five years ago?
I think success works in cycles. What we want and value changes. I have realised it is about setting goals but not forgetting to live in that moment. Things change and the people around us change.
I explore this in the upcoming sequel to The Charmed Life with Alex Moore, which was about self-hood and discovering your own definition of success. The sequel will focus on our relationships. How does your own story come up against someone else’s?
As tech continues to evolve and become more sophisticated, how do you think this will affect our personal productivity in the future?
My protagonist Alex is about human intelligence and artificial intelligence. We get obsessed with creating artificial things that we forget how to learn. For all our amazing ventures in technology, we still have so much to learn about the world around us that could help better inform our future technology.
We need to treat the rate of learning about our world and ourselves parallel to the rate in which our technology is advancing.
Following on from Molly’s comments, we expect to see more brands tapping into Mellowed Productivity in the future. As consumers – particularly Gen Z – increasingly embrace different perspectives on how to define, track and improve productivity, brands are already starting to respond. Social media community Mogul empowers females’ worldwide offering courses, webinars and professional networking opportunities to help these women achieve their goals in all aspects of life. This is changing the way productivity and success is viewed into something more meaningful and fulfilling.
The Charmed Life of Alex Moore is available to buy now.