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Work/Life Balance and Other Fairy Tales

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

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.

  1. How relaxed are you?

  2. How long can you realistically maintain this position?

  3. 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.

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” – Alain de Botton

So where exactly is that perfect partner, 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. What if what we really want is the ability to be truly present in our work and in our lives outside work? That we integrate those pieces instead in a way that supports our vision of engagement as fully as possible? 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?

  1. Once your decision is made, go with it

  2. 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!

However comfortable you assumed you were with choice and change, it may morph into overwhelming anxiety that was never anticipated. This makes it the ideal time to engage the support of a career coach with experience in helping professionals achieve better, faster, results. At KICKSTART Your Transition we offer a broad range of services to fit your needs


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