Over the weekend I attended an event called Baby+Work+Famiy sponsored by ParentMap magazine. About 300 people turned out, mostly women, to listen to others talk about work life balance, and to meet some vendors that might be able to make their life easier. (My company is offering a special workshop in June that is more focused on being a parent opposed to be an employee.) The key takeaways from the event keynote and panel speakers are not that different than what I teach in my workshops: take care of you so you can be strong for yourself which in turn makes you strong for others, know how to say no and ask for help. All good sound advice. What was missing for me, that I feel is the cornerstone of my work, was the notion of choice, that it is a choice to live with more balance every day.
Though the information was practical and it is very helpful to hear what others do that work for them, I’m not sure many people left feeling empowered; I do know they felt like they weren’t alone. I admit I’m totally jaded on this topic, and might be overly critical having been rolling this content out in corporations where it is all about the results and takeaways. Maybe my lesson is to ease up on the takeaways and be more in the stories sometimes, that sometimes community empathy is just as important as empowerment.
Either way, I applaud the magazine for putting on such a great, authentic event as I know there is a huge demand to gather, talk and learn about ways to feel more in control. There are millions of people that suffer from imbalance and don’t have even have the slighted idea about where to turn for a resource or how to find good role models to learn from, so I’m grateful for the magazine raising awareness on the issue in my community.
As part of my personal and professional development I’m training to become a professional coach. In the training we have been talking about fear and the incredible power it holds over us. Part of the conversation about fear it that most of us fear success beyond measure, because for most of us the unknown of success is just as scary as the known feeling of failure. I know I fear success, what my life would actually be like if all that I’m working toward manifests. Sometimes I fear it just as much as I fear the idea that my life stays the same. There is so much power in fear; I wonder what it would be like to be able to transfer the power from fear to possibility. A dear friend of mine who is in the training with me dug up a quote from Nelson Mandela about fear that speaks to that very point.
Our Deepest Fear
Our deepest fear
is not that we are inadequate,
Our deepest fear is
that we are powerful
It is our light, not our darkness,
that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
“Who am I to be Brilliant,
Gorgeous, Talented and Fabulous?”
Who are you not to be?
You are a child of the universe.
Your playing small
does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened
so that other people won’t feel
insecure around you.
We are born to make manifest
The Glory in the Universe
that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us;
it is in everyone.
As we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated
from our own fear,
our presence automatically
–Nelson Mandela – 1994 Inaugural Speech
I teach in my workshops the importance of checking in with yourself as your needs for balance are always evolving, and a student challenged me a few weeks ago to “take my own workshop”. I accepted the challenge, in that I went through the exercises I ask my students to do. Perhaps because I live with this content everyday as I teach and write about the subject, it’s easy to stay in my head about it and disconnect from the heart/emotional struggle that roots our actions and values and keeps many people spinning out of control.
It’s very easy to conduct my workshops and advise audiences about the importance of aligning their values to their actions. I have many stories from my past that I can pull from to talk about the struggles I’ve had that come from acknowledging what is important to me, realizing I’m not on a path to achieve it, and staring at the empty abyss that appears between my vision and my reality. In “taking my own workshop” I have a renewed appreciation and respect for my audience in asking them to take this inventory and consider jumping into the dark scary abyss in-between.
I was reminded that it takes a great deal of courage to change a course of action, especially when the path has been laid out for many years in some cases. It takes strength and humility to examine one’s life and acknowledge, perhaps there are disconnects between our words and actions. It takes even more guts to change behaviors and communicate to the ones you love what’s not working for you and what you want to do about it.
Seeing my content again through my students’ eyes, I’m reminded that once you see your actions are not in alignment with your values you cannot “unsee” it. But seeing “it” is no guarantee you will take action, it only means that you now know you are part of the problem as much as you are part of the solution. In the sea of the in-between abyss the choice to act on your awareness is what makes the difference between those who ultimately sink or swim. The good news is every day is a new opportunity to sink or swim, and I’m grateful to my students that they continue to challenge me to keep swimming, seeing and evolving on my own journey for balance.
For those of you deep in your workaholic addiction, there is now more proof that working too much is bad for your heart. A new study points out that those working 10 plus hours a day are more likely to suffer serious heart problems, including heart attacks, than those who work 7 hours or less.
In an article about the study on Yahoo! Health, it states that the hours alone don’t cause heart problems but that long hours are linked to a lifestyle that can be “associated with work-related stress, which interferes with metabolic processes, as well as “sickness presenteeism,” whereby employees continue working when they are ill.”
What really stirs me up, and not in a good way, is when people who are ill, stress induced or not, continue to show up for work and put themselves, their families and their companies at a disadvantage. What kind of a world have we created in that we enable each other, and teach our children that our health comes last? Everytime you or someone you love goes to work sick, they might as well show up wearing a shirt that says, “I’m a martyr and I don’t think my health is important”. What stirs me up even more, are adults who are surprised by children who exhibit the same behavior with schools and activities and struggle with learning how to take care of their own health, and putting their needs first.
As millions of children watch sick and stressed out parents continue to go to work and neglect self care, I fear for the workforce of tomorrow and shudder to think what they might teach their children.
Have you figured out your WHY yet? If you have, celebrate it and share it. If not, keep moving through the through process, be patient with yourself and don’t over think it, as humans we tend to over complicate things, odds are your why is sitting on the tip of your tongue. Once you have the why figured out, then it’s easy to move to you whats. More than that, is the question of your whos. If you know your purpose and have an idea of what you are going to do about it, if you are not sharing it with the right folks for you, it’s almost as bad as not knowing your why. I saw great quote from Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, Built to Last and How the Mighty Fall, that really speaks to this, “You can pick the right whats, but if you’re with the wrong whos, life is going to suck.”
I was forwarded a very inspiriting video by Simon Sinek called “Start With Why”, of which he has a book of the same title. He says that “There are leaders and there are those that lead. Leaders hold a position of power and influence. Those who lead inspire us.”
Aside from this being required viewing for any entrepreneur, he has some great points about leaders and motivation. More than that I think his message also translate to those who are seeking better balance in their life – think of yourself as the organization he is talking about and ask yourself – what is you why, then look at you how’s and what’s and see where they line up. Time and time again I see in my workshops most people forget, or don’t even know, their own why’s.
Do you know your why?
Now I’m not a mother, but I can tell you this news story still got my attention in a big way. According to a new survey compiled by Save the Children which analyzed a range of factors affecting the health and well-being of women and children, (health care, education and economic opportunities) the United States ranked 28 out of 160 countries. Norway, Australia, and Iceland were the top three counties to be a mom. One of the reasons provided for the U.S. position was that this country ranks behind many other wealthy nations in terms of the generosity of maternity leave policies. Bull’s eye right in the heart of a woman’s struggle work life balance. Even through the data shows that work life balance is no longer just a woman’s issue; studies like this are a good wake up call to the unique challenges women face around the choice to be a mother and have a career.