Hello SOTGC community,
This is a question that has been at the back of my mind since I started my career more than a decade ago. For the vast majority of my career I have been in male-dominated, highly competitive industries. Industries where working 10-hour days are the “norm,” as well as working weekends and holidays. To climb the ranks fast and solidify your position at the top level, you become the job. Those that sacrifice many hours from their personal lives are rewarded with higher commissions, bonuses, promotions, and accolades. And it programs you to believe that if your hands aren’t wrapped like a vice around the pulse, that you could very well lose your edge and lose your place in the organization that you’ve worked so hard to achieve.
This is where you see the burn out rate happen. Where individuals wake up one day and realize that they’re 35 years old with a thriving career and financial stability, but that they are on the fast track to ulcers and heart problems. When they realize the close relationships they once had with friends and family are slowly fading due to years of neglect. Sound like I’m speaking from experience? Perhaps I am.
A few months ago a series of events happened that really shook me, and forced me to step back to assess my priorities as well as take a long, hard look at the track I was on. My life had become completely unbalanced. I was traveling 80 – 85% of the time for work. I saw my friends and family maybe twice a month (if I was lucky) and had started to define my personal and professional value and happiness on work. Ask anyone who has done this, and you will be told this is not sustainable.
As I turned to my personal board of directors, friends, and family for support and guidance during this time, the resounding theme was that I needed to get some semblance of balance back in my life. Or, more aptly, that I needed to learn what balance was and at least make baby steps towards achieving it. You know what went through my head as I worked through what “balance” looked like and how I could achieve it? “But what if I gain TOO MUCH balance? What if I get so “Zen” and “centered” that I lose my edge, and everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve slides downhill and I lose it all?
How jacked up is that?! Have we gotten to the point where everything in life moves so quickly that we feel we need to keep up with this digital world that gives us results immediately or that, like the new software apps and programs of today, we too will be deemed obsolete and stale?
When I asked my support system this question, none of them had a direct answer. But what I got from implementing, and working on, their suggestions is that finding balance, inner peace, and being centered doesn’t take away core personality traits such as drive, tenacity, and hunger to achieve and be more. It actually enhances them because it forces you to slow down. To focus on being present in the conversations and interactions in front of you instead of thinking about the next 20 steps down the road. It will help you become a better teammate, leader, and person overall.
So back to the original question I posed for this article: Will finding “balance” take away your “edge” at work? No, it won’t. Things like: not coming in on time, taking “European style” long lunches when you’re given only an hour, taking sick days frequently and unnecessarily, deciding you no longer wish to bathe on a regular basis or wash your clothes—those will probably lead to a rapid decline in your career trajectory.
Seeking balance, at least for me, has led to a greater appreciation of the opportunities I have been given and earned. Seeking balance has given me a sense of inner peace that I have never felt before. Seeking balance has given me back my valued personal relationships, and it’s leading to an even clearer picture for the future that I envision.
So how about you? What have you done to seek balance? Do you have tips for me or for other people in the SOTGC community? I’d love to hear about how you’re achieving or seeking balance.