Updated: May 31, 2022
"How do you navigate work-life balance in your life?" I get this question a lot so I thought I would put some balance energy in this space for you all to reflect on. This concept has been evolving over time, and candidly has probably migrated more towards work-life integration than balance.
First off, I want to let you all know that in my life there has never been a magic bullet to achieving the right balance, in any of the phases of my life. It has always been a dance. Changing and evolving through the various phases of my life. I always thought I would be able say differently but I will share some of my discoveries that will hopefully allow you to uncover what successful integration might look like in your own life.
Starting off my career, I would say my life was consumed by work. My priorities were aligned that way and the work demanded it. I was getting joy by being "needed" at work and the more I could take on, the better. Travel was many weeks a month. I had no kids at this point and wasn't married so my work was my life. Companies recognize that, and to no fault of their own, they capitalize on it. Based on the priorities of the person and the demands of the job, this could be a win-win for organizations so long as personal life isn't suffering. When the time and balance works for both parties, without the burnout, it does work, and it did work for me for a period of time.
As my world started to quickly change I got married, the joy came more from finding that balance and putting boundaries around what my job will or won't involve. I got to continue to travel, but my husband and I would make a mini-vacation out of it. I was getting to know and trust in myself more at this time. The joy I was getting from my work was more well-rounded, it was based more on relationships being formed and being able to serve others. I found out a lot about myself during these years. I figured out that what brought me joy as a 25-year old workaholic was not bringing me joy as a married 30-year old. That evolution took time - the awareness, the understanding that people and situations evolve and change. The awareness and understanding of realizing what is no longer bringing me joy before it's too late and it drained me. Again, the learning and growth that came was instrumental - and being open to that growth is KEY!
As I evolved, so did my situation. My husband and I then transitioned from a couple to a family. Within several years time, we went from a married couple to having three kids under two years old, with some hurdles to overcome each step of the way. As you can imagine, the pendulum shifted in a big way in a short period of time. Not only was it hard to be away from the kids, if I was going to be away from them I had a longing to be making a difference in everything that I was doing. I needed to be fulfilled in the work I was doing to justify being away from my kids. In other words, when I picked up my kids I wanted my energy tank to be full so I could fully invest at home. It ebbed and flowed. I always knew when I had more energy draining days or weeks than good, it was time for a change.
That work was much more in-depth than I thought it would be. I would get into jobs and be making a difference, but still wasn't fulfilled after a period of time. I would work on significant strategy-based projects just to have them drag out and never execute. I would drive major conversations among leaders that could change the trajectory of the company, only to implement half of the suggestions and make a miniscule impact. Was the work I was doing really making a difference? What part of the problem was me? Why was this a recurring pattern? Was this work draining me or filling my energy bank?
All the while, I was losing myself. I was trying so hard to make a difference, I forgot how I am wired. What brings me joy? What's a priority for me? What is my purpose?
This lead me to my "Peeling the onion, of me" blog post. As I was approaching forty, I spent time understanding myself. I had quiet time. I knew that in order for me to get "balance" or the right integration, I knew I needed to figure out what was going to fill my energy bank so I could come home each day filled up, ready to take on parenting in a present way. Knowing myself so well that I could trust in that and be confident in that in all ways. Being so clear on my priorities that my actions to align with those priorities and values came so easy to me.
That's when major shifts in my life happened. Using tools, resources and people to help me get that clarity, and reflecting on them, allowed me to understand that how I am wired is perhaps not the work or environment I was working in. The pace at which my mind works, the magnitude (or lack of) of the difference I was making, the box I was trying to fit in - all of it pushing towards conflict instead of harmony. So while making a difference to one person might look significant, to another may not based on how they are wired. Neither is right or wrong, it's how we are wired. That all became super clear to me through this process.
I know people evolve and change too. Just as my journey showed, the life stage I was in directed the priorities in my life and what that new balance or integration may look like. Sometimes we get off-kilter. We get lost in the corporate shuffle, we lose ourselves in the process. We don't evaluate and recalibrate as often as those changes happen in our life, or as we change as people. We get stuck trying to please others ultimately draining us. My wish for you is to spend time calibrating, and re-calibrating along the journey, so you can maximize your gifts in the world and ultimately find the right level of integration that works best for you.
Do activities and jobs that bring you joy, gives you energy. Fill your energy bucket so you can give that energy back into the world, your family, your spouse, your friends.
Questions for reflection:
When you think about your current integration/balance, how does that make you feel?
When you reflect, what elements of that pause are unclear that you can reflect on? Why are you feeling that way?
Do you have things in your days draining your energy bank? If so, what are they? What is keeping you from taking action?
Do your actions align with the priorities in your life?
Is your energy bucket full at the end of the day - meaning the work you are doing aligned with how you are wired?
Draw a stick person on a piece of paper. Around that person, write down all aspects of your life you spend time on (kids, church, networking, friends, volunteering, etc). Then put arrows in (for those that give you energy) and out (for those you give energy). Which elements are you feeding more than they are feeding you? What do you need to change or eliminate?
Use tools, resources and people to better understand yourself and how you are intrinsically wired. Predictive Index was a game-changer for me which is why I got certified to help people and organizations lean into their natural tendencies and maximize their gifts. Reach out if I can serve you in any way.
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