LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE WITH LULULEMON’S SOPHIE VANDERKELEN
Sophie Vanderkelen is our kind of girl. As a super successful regional manager for lululemon, passionate health and wellness advocate and bonafide girlboss, she’s living her best life; one that is filled with balance, happiness, community and some pretty powerful self-reminders.
As a huge inspiration for us here at CORE+, we wanted to sit down with Sophie to chat about her life advice, deep thoughts and messages for the rest of us wanting to live our best life too. There’s some pretty awesome stuff in here – get ready to take notes.
Let us live vicariously through you. What’s a typical day like as part of the lululemon brand?
I don’t feel like I ever have a “typical” day! Generally speaking, my days involve visits to my stores, coaching and development of my Store Managers, business analysis and strategic planning, meetings with my Store Support Centre partners and peers interstate, talent attraction and recruitment, community development and relationship building, personal and professional development, and of course, lots of coffee and lots of sweat!
How has working for lululemon inspired your health and wellness journey?
lululemon is all about living your best possible life. It’s about putting it all in, so you can get the most out, and it’s really has taught me to take a more well-rounded view of health and wellness. From the food I eat, to the exercise I do and the relationships I keep, they all contribute to my overall health and wellness. There is no distinction between life, work and health, so they have to work in harmony with one another, and if I’m not happy with one of these aspects, then it will go on to affect the others.
What is your health and wellness philosophy?
I believe in doing what is right for you and loving the life that YOU lead…. Not that of somebody else. Find the practices that make you feel good and do them. Surround yourself with people that fill you up and “are sitting at your table”. What I mean by that, is that they want to support you, and they want to see you win. Find the sweaty pursuits that make you feel good – if you love yoga, do yoga; if you love cycling, get a bike. Do what feels good for your body and your mind. By all means, take inspiration from others, try things out and don’t get stuck in your box, but don’t keep doing things if they don’t feel right.
We’re guessing you have a pretty busy job — how do you ensure the pressure doesn’t get too much? How do you maintain a work life balance?
This is a constant practice for me – as a self-confessed “perfectionist”, I came to realise I can procrastinate a lot and this adds unnecessary pressure. My job is constant and I love all of the areas I get to dabble in, and I need to ensure I am clear on what my deliverables are. I am a big planner and I utilise my calendar daily. I diarise time for my tasks and try to stick to the timeframes I give them. I also schedule time for planning and organisation. It sounds a little crazy to schedule time to schedule time, but it works!
I don’t love the term “work/life balance” as it implies quite a distinction between the two, or an idealistic place that can sometimes feel I’ll never get to. My life and my work overlap quite a bit and I’ve learned how to recharge. I love my alone time and can spend hours on my own. I love sitting in cafes soaking up the energy, however not necessarily engaging with people. I love to walk along the water, workout in the gym, go to the movies alone. All of these practices allow me to recharge.
The lululemon manifesto features some incredibly inspiring thoughts. Which are your favourites and why?
Can I choose all of them?
- Before speaking, ask yourself: Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true? – There is so much power in our speech and I think it is underestimated. We tend to speak too much and not listen enough and this line really makes me think about what I’m saying and why I’m saying it.
- Stress is related to 99% of all illnesses – I find this quite a scary thought especially in the pace of our world today and everytime I read this quote, I take a second to check-in on myself and how I’m feeling, and ensure I am committed to my practices to manage stress… And when I say practices, they are a practice, and this quote is a reminder as to why I keep practicing.
- Ignore the haters, including yourself – I am my absolute worst critic and I need to ignore that voice quite frequently and get on with living my best life.
- Replace the word “try” with “will” and watch the magic happen – Language has been one of my biggest learnings at lululemon and turning my “trys” into “wills” allows me to feel powerful and take control of what I want in my life. No one else has control over my life, so it’s up to me to make it happen.
- Your biggest opportunity for growth is when it all hits the fan – I have never learned as much from a situation as I have when shit is hitting the fan! I’m out of my comfort zone and in a position that I wouldn’t put myself in by choice. When I look at my life, the best stories and strongest learnings have come from these situations and how I have grown from the situation….and best of all, I know there are many more to come in life!
- Vulnerability makes a good leader great – I believe in this so much…vulnerability is the unlock. It allows me to be real, to be honest, to share and it allows others to feel closer to me than they ever have. To enable vulnerability there must be connection, rapport and trust, and for a leader to develop that with their team and their business allows for an immeasurable amount of growth and success.
What are your top tips to creating a happy life?
Know that you have a choice in every moment.
Do things that you love and make you happy.
Surround yourself with people who want to see you win.
What do you daily for your mind, body and soul?
Sweat once a day (a lululemon manifesto line also!) – this could be as simple as a short walk, but something to get me moving, especially if it’s been a day at the desk or in the car.
Eat a good balance of protein, fat and carbs. Carbs are my friend and so are really good fruit and vegetables. My food shopping practices are enjoyable and my weekly stroll through South Melbourne Market is a highlight of my week.
I have a strong reflection practice where I constantly acknowledge what I am grateful for and what I am doing to make a difference in the world. A great leader and mentor of mine once told me that gratitude is the practice that keeps him present and if I am ever letting my thoughts overwhelm me, I will think about three simple things I am grateful for in that moment.
lululemon are world renowned for their uplifting, tight-knit community. Why do you think communities are so important?
As humans we thrive on connection and wanting to feel a part of something. When we are part of a community, we belong and we feel a sense of purpose. At lululemon, our community relationships create a feeling of connection for people in the health, wellness and fitness industry and beyond. Many of these people are working for themselves and that can feel quite isolating. Through our community connections we bring like-minded people together to connect and collaborate and, when you bring incredible individuals and businesses together like that, the opportunities are endless.
How can building a strong and positive community help us to create health and happiness in our everyday life?
In a strong and positive community, that feeling of belonging and purpose is so clear and so strong. Knowing my purpose in life and feeling like I am working towards my purpose while being surrounded by like-minded individuals is key to being happy and content with wherever I am at. I may not have achieved all my goals and I might even be struggling to define what is next, however happiness and health are not the destination, they must be a part of the journey.