Are you a human being or a human doing?
OK - I'll admit it. I don't know how to 'not work'. When introducing myself at meetings during the 'go around the room and say who you are' part, it takes all of my will power not to shout out, "Hi, my name is Kathy and I'm a workaholic". I tried it at a networking gathering once, but not ONE person in the room shouted back "Hi, Kathy" - so I never did THAT again. (Those of you familiar with 12-step program meetings may appreciate that little attempt at humor). And my recovery has been going so well. On a vacation to Florida earlier this year my team said "now don't you work - just enjoy yourself". And I tried to not work. I really did. But there was a really fast internet connection. And I guess I could just NOT 'not work'.
And you know what?! That's OK.
So I may be the poster child for 'always doing something' and the queen of multi-tasking, but it works for me. I've spent most of my career feeling guilty about 'working to much', about not spending enough time with my family or making others who work with/for me feel guilty because they didn't work as much as I did. But I'm not feeling badly about it anymore, because I've realized that we all define balance in our own way. We all define success in our own way. We all decide how to integrate and align the many complexities and demands in our lives in ways that work for us.
And while it is very true that my family didn't always get the priority status they should have during parts of my career, I've always tried to be there for the 'big stuff'. To be present and supportive and 'all in' when they really needed me most. And that's what matters, making sure to fully be there when it counts rather than trying to have balance. Because there really is no BALANCE - especially for working women. Even if you are a highly successful human doing and multi-tasker - you just can't do it all for everyone. So don't even try. Just not possible.
But what IS possible is to manage those things in your control - how you think about the world and show up every day, how you align your focus with your values, how YOU decide what matters most to do with whom and when.
Here is what makes sense to me:
- Work/Life Balance. Considering that for most of my career I've never really had much balance, I'm not one to speak to this (and I never even had kids to work into the mix). So I googled Work/Life Balance to see what others think, and found some interesting ideas. Work/Life Balance does not mean equal distribution of time, it is fluid and varies each day and for each person. There is no one-size-fits-all picture of what the right balance looks like - you need to define it for yourself. The key is to find the right amount of achievement and enjoyment in each day, while honoring the commitments you've made to those you love and work for.
- Work/Life Integration. We all know that the line between one's professional and personal lives is very blurry these days, and that technology has enable us to be 'always on'. I'm old enough to remember the time when I couldn't be reached 24/7 and there are many days I curse my cell phone because I now can 'always be reached". Many experts call it many things - work/life balance or integration or harmony or convergence or flexiblity or whatever. Jae Ellard, founder of Simple Intentions, has found the key in my opinion - that most of us just have a simple desire to create joy and meaning by integrating all of our interconnected roles, relationships and responsibilities that make up our lives. And while we are indeed always 'on' these days, the key is to actively define and focus on what gives our life the most meaning so when we are 'on' it matters.
- Work/Life Alignment. As I've gotten older, my job (defined as the things I get paid to do) has taken on a less significant role in my drive for achievement and success. Certainly a large part of this is because my husband and I are more financially stable now, but how I find meaning comes from many sources. I can scratch my 'need for achievement' itch in many different ways and my whole definition of success continues to evolve. And while I'm really only at the early stages of this journey, trying to allign all aspects of where I choose to spend my time into a cohesive bundle of meaningful 'human doing' is something I think a lot about. I am certainly moving to Life/Work Alignment, and am lucky enough to have enough 'years in' to make this possible.
Each of us needs to find our own way to handle the many demands that we face each day, as we determine what Work/Life Balance/Integration/Alignment means for us. So while I expect I'll always be a bit more of a Human Doing than a Human Being, I am finding ways to slow down and just 'BE'. Still a long way to go, but it's a start.