The Ever Elusive Search for Work-Life Balance

For many of us, the holy grail of success is achieving “Work-Life- Balance.” It is a topic of frequent discussion in my coaching sessions and is often first on the list when we start working together.
And yet, despite all the discussions, books, and articles, many of us feel this “balance” eludes us. It may be because we see it as an either/or – choosing between work and life to achieve balance.
What if, instead, we saw it, as James Michener did, becoming masters in the art of living.

“Masters in the art of living make little distinction
between their work and their play, their
labor and their leisure, their mind and their
body, their information, and their
recreation, their love, and their religion.
They hardly know which is which.
They simply pursue their vision of excellence at
whatever they do, leaving others to
decide whether they are working or playing.
To them, they are always doing both.”

As The Leaves Begin to Fall…

The weather here turned cold today, ending what seemed to be an endless summer. As the leaves begin to fall and we transition to winter in the Northern climes, it reminds us of the cyclicality of life. Time to reflect on what has passed, celebrate our successes, and remind ourselves that whatever may have been our failures, we get an opportunity in the new year to begin again.

In my experience, putting some intentionality around what I want to happen increases my chances of looking back at this time next year and noticing and measuring progress and success. With that in mind, I offer the following questions to consider before the year comes to an end. 

  1. Was there a significant experience in the past year that impacted you? How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired? 
  2. Is there something that you wish you had done differently this past year? Alternatively, is there something you are especially proud of from this past year?
  3. What is one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year? Why is this important to you? 

Celebrate Me Home Or Wanderlust…

Clients in transition have one goal in common: to live their purpose. And each person pursues this goal in their own unique way.

Most commonly, people choose to pursue their vision while physically staying in the place where they are.

On the other hand, for some, the draw is to explore; their pivot to something else may also include a desire to pivot somewhere else. And for those who currently live in a different place than where they came from, that somewhere else could be a return home. 

What drives these three choices? While different for each person following are some common themes I hear. 

Staying Put

  • My network is here
  • My family is here
  • My community is here
  • I am comfortable here
  • Moving is expensive

Wanderlust

  • I want to explore
  •  I want to experience other cultures
  •  I want personal growth
  •  I want to get out of my comfort zone
  •  It may be less costly to live somewhere else

Going Home

  • Nostalgia
  • My family is there
  • I feel a cultural attachment 
  • I feel a sense of belonging
  • Quality of life 

In the end, the choice is deeply personal. What resonates for you?

Independence Day

One of the books I like to recommend to my You Pivot™ clients is Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. 

In this book, Cloud uses a metaphor of rose bushes and compares them to our businesses, careers, and lives. He explains that a rose bush cannot support all the buds it creates. The beautiful ones only become so because of pruning. 

Cloud describes three types of pruning: pruning the good but not great branches, pruning the sick branches, and finally, pruning the deadwood. Perhaps the last two types are obvious, albeit sometimes hard to do. The first made me pause; really, I need to cut off some good branches for my rose bushes to flourish?

As I think about Independence Day, I notice the parallel between necessary endings and independence. For some of our forefathers, my guess is the relationship with Great Britain was good but not great. It certainly had benefits to go with the taxes and other challenges. And yet, despite the benefits, the founders of our country had the courage to recognize that an ending was necessary, declare their independence, and fight for it.

So, for each of us, the question becomes…

Who or what do we need to declare our independence from (and perhaps fight to summon the courage to do it) so that we can flourish like a well-pruned rose bush?

P.S. Another favorite you might like in the same genre is a book actually titled Independence Day by Steve Lopez.

What Is Your Story?

As human beings, we are all storytellers. Our lives are filled with experiences, memories, and emotions that shape our unique narratives. 

Each of us has a story to tell, and the story about who we are today may differ from the story we want to write about tomorrow.

Reflecting on our past and present stories is an act of self-awareness that enables us to write our story of tomorrow. It’s about understanding the patterns, themes, and lessons that have emerged from our lives. It’s about recognizing the choices we’ve made, the challenges we’ve faced, and the growth we’ve experienced.

The good news is that we have the power to shape our stories, and we can rewrite the narratives and create new ones that align with our true selves. 

Here are some suggestions to help you explore and understand your story:

  1. Reflect on your past: Take the time to reflect on your past experiences, both positive and negative. What have been the defining moments in your life? What lessons have you learned? How have these experiences shaped your beliefs and values?
  2. Identify your beliefs and values: What do you believe about yourself, others, and the world? What values are important to you? Knowing your beliefs and values can help you understand how you view the world and make decisions.
  3. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses: What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are you proud of? What do you want to improve? Understanding your strengths and weaknesses can help you make choices that align with your abilities and aspirations.
  4. Embrace your uniqueness: What makes you unique? What are your passions, interests, and talents? Embrace your individuality and celebrate what sets you apart from others. Your uniqueness is what makes it your story.
  5. Write your narrative: Once you have gained clarity on your today story, you can create a tomorrow story that aligns with your authentic self. Set new goals, take calculated risks, and pursue a path that resonates with your heart.

So, ask yourself: What is your story? And take the first step towards shaping a story that truly reflects who you are and who you aspire to be.

The Privilege of Choice

I frequently ask my clients, What are you willing to give up to get what you want? 

The ‘give up’ may be something we believe. It may be fear (of failing, being wrong), comfort with what we have or know, or it may be tangible, a cost associated with a choice.

When we are talking about giving up something to get what we want, the key questions are these:

  • How much do I want the “something” I say I want?
  • What am I willing to give up to get it?

We live in a world of abundant choices. From the clothes we wear to the career choices we make, we are constantly faced with decisions that shape our lives. While having choices can be a privilege, it can also be a source of fear and anxiety. The fear of making the wrong choice or FOMO can paralyze us and prevent us from taking action.

The fear of making the wrong choice is a common experience that can prevent us from taking risks and pursuing the change we desire. However, we also know that making mistakes and experiencing setbacks is a natural part of growth and learning.

Here are some strategies for navigating the privilege and fear of choice:

  1. Consider what REALLY matters to you: Take the time to reflect on your values, passions, and goals. When you are clear on what matters, you can make choices that align with your authentic self.
  2. Prioritize and simplify: While having choices can be empowering, it can also lead to decision fatigue. To avoid this, prioritize your options and simplify your decision-making process. Consider what’s most important to you, and focus on the choices that align with your priorities.
  3. Take action: Making a choice involves taking a risk, but that doesn’t mean you have to be reckless. Instead, just as you do in business, gather information, weigh your options, consider the potential outcomes, and then take action.

In summary, having choices can be both a privilege and a source of fear. By cultivating self-awareness, prioritizing and simplifying, and taking calculated risks, we can effectively navigate the complex world of life choices.

Is It Time to Wait or Time to Act?

A once well-known brand, Paul Masson wine, is best remembered for its 1970s marketing association with Orson Wells, who promised on behalf of Masson: “We will sell no wine before its time.” In this ad, Wells is discovered by the camera listening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, “It took Beethoven four years to write that symphony” Wells says, “Some things can’t be rushed. Good music… and good wine”.

Steve Jobs was famous for delaying production and, ultimately, the release of products until he was satisfied that the design met his goal. He was reputed to have sent his product development team back to the drawing board, time after time, to get the design exactly as he wanted it, e.g., perhaps the most well-known example, “just one button.” 

On the other hand, in 2012, Elon Musk forever changed the automobile landscape when the first Tesla rolled off the assembly line. At the time, many believed this car was sold “before it was time.”

When considering a transition or pursuing something I want, I remind myself to reflect on these stories and ask:

Is it time to wait or time to act?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I stay or should I go? This is often the question facing clients participating in my You Pivot™ Program. 

The answer, of course, is it depends. 

A friend of mine called me recently with this exact question. He is a senior executive in his late sixties, planning to work until 70. This week the company offered him and several colleagues an exit package. On the surface, at least, the exit appears optional. Should I stay or should I go, he wonders.

A long-time client of mine, who founded a company 20+ years ago, sold to private equity, and she stayed on. The PE firm is hands-off, but it’s not the same. She created something unique and had fun when it was small. She isn’t having fun now but wonders what she would do instead.

A new client has been a professional manager for many years. Recently he was promoted to a senior manager role which he thought would be exciting and different, yet it feels so much the same. What to do?

These are all today stories. In my experience, the answer to the “should I stay or should I go” question begins with identifying what matters most, and then, once you are clear about what matters, writing your tomorrow story. The writing of the tomorrow story is most helpful in deciding and navigating any transition that results. 

Sometimes the decision is to stay, and the transition is to come to a place of acceptance; sometimes, the decision is to go, and the transition is to navigate to the next destination. 

Walk? Run? Fly? Or Even Crawl…

It is sometimes hard to know when to walk, run, fly or even crawl. In our fast-paced world, we strivers tend to default to running. 

My sense is that different circumstances require different speeds, and most of the time, I find it is best to let things unfold at their own pace. 

When I remember to pause BEFORE taking action, I ask myself these questions to determine which pace makes the most sense:

  • If I am feeling a sense of urgency, what is driving it?
  • What will happen if I let others drive the pace rather than me?
  • If I slow down my pace, what benefits or costs will result?
  • If I speed up my pace, what benefits or costs will result?
  • What will happen if I choose to observe rather than act for some time?

No One Is Coming

Years ago, a friend said this to me. Her comment profoundly impacted me, and when I recently read this line in a book, I called her. After we talked about our memories of that conversation, she asked me if I would write about it, and I agreed.

No one is coming. What does this even mean? 

The great thing about this comment is that you can interpret it in your way. When I heard it the first time from my friend, the message I heard was that no one would fix this for me, and no one was going to rescue me or the situation. It’s up to me to choose to be a victim or choose to take action.

 I was at a career crossroads. My friend happened to call me one day when I was sitting on my back porch, ruminating. I was frustrated about my situation and wanted it to be different. Until my conversation with her, my focus was on how to change my circumstance. Instead of seeing a bigger picture and possible alternatives, I was narrowly focused on finding a solution to what was.

I shared the story with her, and she shared one of her own, and then she flatly stated, “no one is coming.” At first, I was taken aback by her comment, yet her words caused me to pause and evaluate. After some reflection time, I realized she was right, no one was coming, and it was time for me to choose. 

Embarking on a pivot of my own led to creating The You Pivot™ Program, which enabled me to continue my mission of inspiring others toward action so that they can achieve the results that matter to them. 

P.S. Today, whenever I feel frustrated and powerless in a situation, I remember my friend’s words and remind myself, No one is coming.