Work/Life Balance and Other Fairy Tales
The more we search for balance, the more we throw ourselves way off kilter and on edge. Let's rethink how we came to this place, the personal and professional costs and how work/life integration is far more achievable.
Picture yourself standing astride a teeter-totter or seesaw; the names are interchangeable. Arms and legs out-stretched in a last ditch effort to maintain a modicum of balance. Your thoughts are laser focused on keeping this thing you have achieved, for the moment, stable.
- How relaxed are you?
- How long can you realistically maintain this position?
- A minute? An hour? A year? Forever?
As a young mother, I regularly assumed that everyone in the supermarket knew exactly what menus they had planned for the week…everyone but me. They filled their baskets with artichokes and asparagus, lamb and lentils, exotic spices and oils. My cart was packed with canned spaghetti, cereal, eggs, cookies, and hopefully milk. On a good trip perhaps I added bananas and yogurt but this was not the norm. It mostly felt like a dash down the aisles in some wild supermarket sweep. I was bent on a mission to feed my family and especially my children whose tastes were quite narrow, all the while praying that no one I knew would see me. Sometimes I “stealth” shopped anonymously in stores closer to my office, so the only smirks I feared could come from a cashier. Crazy? Self-judging? Absolutely! We are champions, world class gold medalists in the unofficial “Olympic” sport of comparing ourselves to some fictional figure who could have it all. Only years later did I learn that you can indeed have it all BUT not at the same time.
So where exactly is that perfect spouse, the delightful children, a rewarding career and the limo always at the ready as you run yourself ragged attempting to maintain it all? Like the fictional family, these too are fairy tales that contribute to our lingering frustration. According to career author, Penelope Trunk, “The correlation between your happiness and your job is overrated. The most important factors, are your optimism levels and your personal relationships….When it comes to really being happy, you need solid personal relationships and a job that does not interfere with you enjoying them.”
The dirty little secret that we all tip-toe around is that there really is no work-life balance in a pure sense. Sometimes all our energies must support family or personal needs; likewise work may take precedence. Are our decisions the right ones for us at the time and whose needs are we serving? What assumptions are we making about what we “should” be managing better? In fact, the struggle to maintain the balance or this illusion of balance can sap us dry.
What would it be like to regain control of our choices and reclaim our lives? Suzy Welch, author of “10-10-10” offers a simple system that encourages values-based decision making in the short, mid, and long-term. With each decision, you ask three questions: What will be the consequences of my decision in the next ten minutes? The next ten months? The next ten years?
- Once your decision is made, go with it
- Second guessing only creates more anxiety
Stay consciously present with your choice and take heart, tomorrow is another day and you get to start all over again!
Learn more about the author, Maureen Weisner M.Ed. PCC.
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- work-life balance
- values based
- fairy tales