This past week I spoke at a Career Accelerator Workshop for proposal management professionals on the topic of Work-Life Balance.
Confession: I was completely triggered by the topic and session title I was assigned – It’s a Marathon Not a Sprint: Work-Life Balance for the Long Haul
Why was I triggered?
I heard people talk about balance like it’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or an elusive unicorn waiting just beyond the horizon. There are tons of self-help books, podcasts, and classes about mastering it. Insert yoga class, meditation, essential oils, and kale and voila, we can achieve Work-Life Balance! Even with the best intentions, these positive practices last a week or two before the common stressors of life kick in like an unappreciative boss, sick kids, a computer glitch, etc that set us back into our self-destructive ways.
Why do I know this?
This is what I do for a living. I work with people to get motivated and de-stress. I’m known for helping people with burnout recovery and prevention.
The Real Reason
Because this is me. I SHOULD have it all together, but just like the shoemaker with no shoes, I am guilty of negative self-speak, lethargy, over-consumption of crap television and junk food (sour cream and onion chips!). I was in a daze of distraction of late nights binging on Netflix to self-assigned dead-end projects knowing they didn’t serve me or my business. I was spinning my wheels and I was aware that I wasn’t gaining traction. My energy sucked, I put on 15 lbs. and I couldn’t look on Instagram without hating myself and 98% of the people posting.
I’m not writing this as a reflective story from five years ago. This happened just a few weeks ago. I wrote my first book in August and got an amazing response and I thought naively that the momentum would continue and the next idea for a book would come rushing in. But it didn’t.
I then decided to make an ego-rocking decision to move from my amazing apartment in the sky with picture perfect views to a studio with 40% less space, no view and more quirks than I knew what to do with. I got rid of my furniture and non-essentials. I thought the less stuff and space would give me an opening to create. It didn’t. Instead I felt claustrophobic, isolated and paralyzed. My space didn’t make me feel successful. An ounce of clutter overwhelmed my sight line. A dirty dish became an impossible task. My bed became my home base where I spent more hours in then I want to admit.
Who was I to be giving advice on Work-Life Balance, when my world seemed to be merging into a blob of funk??
This was my real trigger. I felt like an impostor. How could I be the expert on balance when I was struggling to get myself out of bed? How could I inspire people to be confident in their own skin when I didn’t feel comfortable in my own?
It wasn’t until my grandmother’s funeral the week before Thanksgiving that it clicked. I had been focusing on what wasn’t there or what was lacking. My brain was on high alert pinpointing everything that wasn’t working. But there’s nothing like people who knew you when you had a snotty nose and were missing teeth.
My family that I hadn’t seen for 15+ years didn’t care that I wasn’t writing another book – they were happy I wrote the one I did and that it was dedicated to my grandma, Dolly. They didn’t care that I put on weight – they had nothing to compare it to. They were just happy to see me and to hear my stories honoring Dolly. They loved me because I showed up as me.
My heart filled up to a level I didn’t know I had been missing. I was open to receive and to listen to what I needed.
What was out of balance?
I was out of alignment with familial connection. I was so focused with creating, entertaining and managing other people, that I forgot about my own need for connection. I excused it away as people being busy, but I missed my family and my friends.
After returning home, I decided to get my shit together and park the pity train at the station. I signed up for a 4-week workout/meal plan challenge at the insistence of one of my clients (yes, even the coach can get coached!) and have stuck with it. I asked for help from my amazing neighbors who volunteered their space for me to work out of and store my over-sized furniture. I can now see my floor and access both windows in my 395-foot space. I started writing again – hence this blog post.
Most importantly I spoke to that room of proposal management professionals not as an uppity expert, but as a human being doing the best I could. Instead of reading slides and telling people what to do, I offered tools and encouraged them to trust themselves and listen to what their body and soul really needed.
See, it’s not about the perfect amount of time or energy that you spend at work and home, but about how you spend it. It’s an ongoing check-in with yourself about what’s working and what’s not. When you make it about your choice and your terms, you have the ability to reframe any situation or make new decisions that better serve you. When you take care of yourself first and foremost you can better support and take care of others around you!