Nivi Jaswal: Trading perfectionism for purpose.

This is a simple topic: perfectionism. For many, the thought of failure is a painful paradox, the kind that can haunt an individual and its loved ones. To avoid feeling this way, perfectionists develop a myriad of methods that allow them to control their environment and themselves—and it can only be a good thing.

My name is Nivi and I am obsessed with food. I don’t just mean I love eating it, I also mean that food is my passion. It is the fuel that powers me. It is the idea that drives me to succeed. It is the thing that I spend most of my time thinking about, researching and experimenting with. It is my life.

Nivi Jaswal was a high-performing senior executive with an unwavering will to succeed—until one day, when she awoke on the floor of her hotel room, exhausted, hungry, or both. She’s given up perfectionism in exchange for a life of health, meaning, and service, and she’s dropped 30 pounds as a result.


Nivi Jaswal was frightened when she awoke on the floor of her Hong Kong hotel room on March 9, 2015.

Nivi was disoriented and bewildered, with no recollection of how she got there and ten missed calls from worried family members and coworkers on her phone… But there was one thing she was confident of: something had to change.

She’d been on the road for a business meeting and was quite busy. “It turned out that I hadn’t eaten anything that day. Nivi, who is now 37 and resides in Boston, Massachusetts, remembers, “I was running on nine espressos and some chocolates just to keep myself going.”


Nivi sees herself as divided between perfectionism and meaning in her hard job prior to change.

Nivi was no stranger to high-intensity work environments.

Nivi was living her life at breakneck speed—and putting her personal needs aside—due to many difficult foreign assignments as a senior marketing executive with regional and worldwide responsibilities, as well as a persistent inner desire to achieve.

“I didn’t get much sleep for nearly 15 years. There were times when I was up at 3 a.m. replying to emails from the other side of the world. Supervisors warned me about it, but I didn’t want any unread letters in my mailbox. I wanted to get rid of everything.”

Nivi felt that if she could keep her email clean, she could keep everything else under control as well. But the reality was that she was exhausted. Passing out was a rude awakening.


Nivi’s life was full of adventure and travel, but she was exhausted physically.

Nivi, a self-described high achiever, took action. She went to a dietician, began counseling, and focused on reducing her stress.

It seemed like things were improving at first.

However, she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, or low thyroid levels, later that year.

She was also becoming more concerned about getting a diabetes diagnosis. Her father has type 2 diabetes for more than 20 years, and the illness runs in her family.

Nivi was able to reduce weight and cure her hypothyroidism after adhering to a strict ketogenic diet and hiring a personal trainer.

But then came the perfectionism. Nivi ended up addressing her health habits in the same way she treated her job.

“I was frantically trying to stay on track, hoping that if I was flawless with my exercises and nutrition, that perfection would somehow protect me from destroying my health. Regardless of what I was doing, I felt as if I were on an express train speeding down that same route.”

Meanwhile, Nivi began to exhibit symptoms of insulin resistance, indicating that she, too, was on the verge of developing diabetes.

Fearing for her health and well-being, she realized she needed assistance—but it had to be long-term.

Nivi decided to give Coaching a try when her personal trainer recommended it.

Unlike previous diets and lifestyle modifications Nivi had attempted, she felt comfortable being less than perfect with Nivi.

“One of the best aspects about PN is that it allows individuals to fail and then pick themselves up and try again,” Nivi adds. “That was the essence of it, and I felt really liberated because it allowed me to open up and do new things.”


Nivi accepted the PN program’s emphasis on “experimentation” rather than “perfection.”

For one thing, she gave herself permission to consume things that were previously off-limits.

“For the first time in I don’t know how many years, I had a piece of bread, and I smiled and cried.”

Nivi was reintroduced to the idea of eating a greater range of whole foods and, of course, less processed foods, by PN.

She began concentrating on fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy grains, and plant-based proteins after years of treating casein shakes and protein bars as significant dietary categories.

Eating whole foods not only gave her body a wake-up call, but it also motivated her to make a full career change.

Nivi decided to start two new businesses after deciding that being a part of the “big food and big health” supply chain no longer aligned with her values: a digital marketplace for rural women artisans from Northwestern India (where Nivi is from) and a non-profit that runs healthcare-related camps for the same artisan community.

Nivi redirected her energy into meaning after finally letting go of her perfectionism.

Nivi had dropped almost 30 pounds from the time she awoke on the hotel room floor and the conclusion of the PN program… She wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Nivi ended up influencing everyone she came into contact with.

Nivi’s father, who is 68 years old, was motivated to enroll in a diabetic coaching program. He was able to stop taking most of his medications and drastically decrease his insulin dose as a result.

Nivi’s mother, also 68, was able to correct her hypothyroidism and get her blood pressure back to normal. When she dropped weight, her early-stage arthritis went away as well.

Nivi’s father-in-law made a commitment to exercise. He was named “fit senior of the month” at his local exercise facility at the age of 76.

Sean dropped almost 40 pounds after following Nivi’s advice on portion management and adding more fresh, plant-based meals.

Their connection was strengthened as a result of the event.

“My PN journey would not have been as joyful, satisfying, or exciting if it hadn’t been for my husband’s support, cooperation, continuous encouragement, and eager adoption of our new approach to nutrition.

“Our relationships play a critical role in helping us find our actual life purpose. I am really thankful and fortunate.”

Nivi is now leading by example, rather than being consumed by her own perfectionism.


Nivi is now attempting to lead by example. She thinks, “The teacher only comes when the pupil is really ready for the lesson.”

“By changing the pace and purpose of my life, I was able to increase my efficiency and effectiveness.”

Nivi adds, “Now I’m really getting more done.”

I’ve discovered that self-pacing and self-compassion don’t always imply that you’re sluggish or uncompetitive. You’re more competitive because you’re having a good time.”

Nivi is now enrolled in The Mayo Clinic’s wellness coaching program with the goal of helping other CEOs avoid burnout and stress (along with the health problems that come with it).

“A pleasant workplace is one that is healthy. While many corporate leaders feel compelled to be strong at all times, my goal is to help them understand that, in fact, ‘Happy is the New Strong,’ as I have learned from personal experience.”

“The sooner we understand we are our own greatest projects, the better.”

Do you want to be the healthiest, fittest, and strongest version of yourself?

Most people are aware that getting enough exercise, eating properly, sleeping well, and managing stress are all essential for looking and feeling better. However, they need assistance in putting that information into practice in the context of their hectic, often stressful lives.

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Una is a food website blogger motivated by her love of cooking and her passion for exploring the connection between food and culture. With an enthusiasm for creating recipes that are simple, seasonal, and international, she has been able to connect with people around the world through her website. Una's recipes are inspired by her travels across Mexico, Portugal, India, Thailand, Australia and China. In each of these countries she has experienced local dishes while learning about the culture as well as gaining insight into how food can be used as a bridge between different cultures. Her recipes are often creative combinations of traditional ingredients from various different cuisines blended together to create something new.