In recent weeks, there seem to be so many significant life challenges impacting my co-workers, friends and family. It’s hit me particularly hard as I prepare to fly out of town to support my younger brother who is going into the hospital. The fact is we all face personal challenges, often more frequently than we admit or disclose.
How do people manage? Challenges come in all shapes and sizes. When combined with the pressure of work, the stress can be overwhelming. I’m not just talking about the big challenges either, but every day ones too. Choices like these: driving your kid to daycare, making a decision whether to attend your son’s after school soccer game; watching your daughter’s concert; volunteering on a non-profit broad or mentoring a child in need. If there is an easy answer on how people manage their blurring professional and life commitments, I’d love to hear it.
I bring this subject up because I’ve been thinking a lot about the choices we make. One of the top questions I receive as a professional, aside from “what if someone thinks you’re a bitch?” is “how do you manage work life balance?” The fact is I don’t have the balance I would like, but greatly appreciate that some people think I’m doing it well. I think in the high tech and marketing fields, the pace of innovation, change and complexity make it increasingly hard for all of us to feel that we are completely caught up on our own professional sphere let alone life responsibilities. This statement is for both men and women.
So what do I do? I learned a helpful trick a few months ago that brought really valuable perspective. I wish I could give credit to the source but honestly i can’t remember. The point was that when we all have conflicts and our knee jerk reaction tends to be “I have to”. How many times have you had a meeting scheduled over a prior commitment and told your team/family/secretary “I have to take it”. The fact is if you change your vocabulary and switch “I have to” with “I chose to” it brings an additional level of thought to your action. I admit, I still chose to reprioritize but I find I am increasingly not making changes as well. The pressure I felt to just do something because it was expected was lifted when I remembered the power was in my choice and action.
We live in a fast paced, chaotic, exciting and challenging world. No one will ever ask less of us. We need to feel personally empowered to make choices that work for us and all the people that depend on this. Trusting people’s choices is also important. Let your team and co-workers make their choices and don’t second guess or criticize. An oldie but goodie says you don’t know until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes. Let’s all start making more choices and not feel pressured to just respond. In the end, it will make us better managers, employees, spouses, fathers/mothers, people.
My choice for the next few days is to support my family. Work will manage and if they need me, they can find me.