I was once told during a professional seminar on "time management", that as working adults, it was impossible to find a work/life balance. No kidding, they actually said that.
At that time, I was feeling completely overwhelmed and struggling as a single mother. So, not only did I believe them, I accepted this as my fate. I told myself that I was working hard for my children, to give them a better future. I bought into the belief that happiness was attained by chasing "The American Dream." It was obtained through money, career success, and a collection of material things.
Over the ten year span of my career, I compromised my values and personal integrity by wearing a mask every day to conform to the status quo. Always aware of the "acceptable" corporate perceptions, I became disgusted with myself as I allowed my career to become more of a priority than my own children. I'm ashamed to admit that I spent, on average, about 12 hours a day at work. I would maybe get to see them for 2-3 hours. I wouldn't exactly call that "being present in their lives," or "quality time."
Looking back over the years, as I reached different levels of achievement, I was actually just chasing the next moment of fleeting happiness. Subconsciously, I was driven by my need for approval and validation of self-worth. But, at the peak of my career, when it would appear that "I had it all," I was completely empty inside. It all felt meaningless. And, there was no amount of money in the world that would have kept me going on that path. In the last weeks before resigning, I became paralyzed by what I can only describe as "Soul Sickness."
Taking an honest assessment of my life and responsibilities was the catalyst for identifying and realigning with my true priorities. This deconstruction and rebuilding process did not happen overnight. It was not by any means easy. Even now, it requires regular check-ins with myself, including setting firm boundaries, a solid commitment to what is important to me, and a whole lot of communication.
What I discovered is that those people were wrong. It is entirely possible to live a healthy, balanced life. The key is to build your life around your priorities, and not the other way around.
Balance is not something that you find. It is something that you create. Here are some steps to get you started.
Note: Your self-care should be in the top 3. This is not selfish; this a necessity, a new, non-negotiable. Your commitment to this is not only healthy; but, it will greatly support you during these times of change.
In all of your decisions going forward, get in the habit of asking yourself, "Does this align with my priorities?"
Now, as you reflect on the remainder of your responsibilities, ask yourself the following questions:
What can I change? It's important to remember that we always have a choice. We often resist or delay making decisions or taking action. Most times, it is out of fear of judgment, or fear of the "unknown." We do not want to let down, disappoint, or hurt the people that are closest to us.
Am I repeating learned behavior? Witnessing my mother's hardships and struggles as a single mother, formed a belief in me that "suffering and sacrifice" meant that I was a good mother. As you look at your own behaviors, ask yourself if you are repeating a pattern of what you learned growing up in childhood.
Am I a taking on additional responsibilities out of fear that it won't get done or that I won't be needed? This is a fear-based form of control, self-preservation, and protection. It's the belief that we can only count on ourselves, which often results in feeling overwhelmed, stretched thin and burned out.
Where can I ask for help or support? Asking for help feels weak. However, there is deep humility, strength, and connection to be gained in our ability to seek out, ask for, and receive help.
Am I avoiding any other responsibilities or unhealed emotions by finding ways to stay "busy"? The answer to this question may not be as obvious as the others. If you continue to practice these steps, you might be surprised, as it reveals itself.
Where in my life can I clear space and simplify?" Adopting a simpler lifestyle or practicing minimalism not only clears out space and old energy but having less also means there is less to care for and less to clean! Ask yourself if you are placing your self-worth or value on any of your items. This also applies to your finances. Where can you eliminate any unnecessary expenses? If it feels you will never have enough money, you are most likely seeking it as a form of "identity," or as a false sense of security and stability. You would be surprised by how little you actually need to be happy in life.
Now, what does a balanced life look like for you? Write it out. Hold the vision.
Take small steps each day. Remember, this is a process. It might take years of honest reflection, making new choices, and regular maintenance, to find your "sweet spot." But, I promise you, it will be worth it.