What does it look like for accomplished leaders to have “balance?” Does “balance” even exist?
When I coach executives on the personal side of leadership, I try to steer them away from this hypothetical question before it spins into a useless debate. The question isn’t whether or not work/life balance really exists. The question is, are you getting what you need to feel fulfilled and renewed so you’re thriving in every part of your life?
What helps you stay sane? What do you love to do? What’s your down time? Where’s your rest?
Lisa Weber was the president of individual business at MetLife – a job that requires high visibility and extensive travel. She has been named one of Fortune Magazines 50 Most Powerful women several times, she is a beloved mentor, and on top of it all, she’s also a mom. And yet, as busy as she is, she’s able to find a sense of balance by prioritizing the kinds of activities that sustain her every day.
I don’t compromise my morning run or going to my daughter’s school and reading them children’s books. To be able to sustain myself and work the long hours I do, I need to keep my priorities straight and keep everything in balance.
“Keeping her priorities straight” is key for Lisa, who has learned not to fall into the balance trap.
You can’t allow yourself to use balance as a measure for your life. You’ll always feel like a failure but when you think that way. It’s a mistake to ask, “Do I live a balanced life or not?” – as if it’s left to the whole world to judge.
The question isn’t, “Do you have balance or not?” The question is, “Do you feel balanced right now? What do you need to prioritize today in order to feel your best?
In other words, the point isn’t that you, too, should go running or read a children’s book. The secret isn’t in the activities, it’s in the prioritizing. Lisa explains:
No one can measure your priorities but you, so accept the priorities of your work and life. If prioritizing means you want to work a flexible works schedule so you can get home at 2:00 to take your kids off the bus, then you’ve set the agenda, you’ve prioritized what’s important to you, and you are going to feel a sense of balance. If prioritizing means you want to work a little harder to meet an important goal, then do that.
In the mornings, when I choose run, I prioritize running over sleep, or I prioritize my run over going to an early meeting. But other mornings, if something else feels more important than the run, I prioritize differently.
The only way to do that is if you are in control of what your priorities are. What are your priorities? How do they relate to each other? What decisions could you make today to help you feel more balanced? What decisions could you make tomorrow or in the coming week to help you align your activities with your values and goals? Says Lisa,
Balance is not a thing you achieve or a place you arrive. You constantly rethink and reprioritize your activities. If you’re feeling balanced, you’ve got it right. If you’re feeling out of balance, you need to go back and reprioritize your activities again!
Work and life are closer together than most people think. When you integrate them more fully, you lose the guilt and anxiety that comes from second-guessing your decisions. You make the decisions that make you feel at peace.
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