Where Is The Line Between Your Work and Life?
I’ve noticed that many people struggle to identify where the line should be between their work priorities and their life priorities some call it work-life balance. This struggle gets especially significant when a person is going through major career upheavals like switching jobs or changing careers. As an adult, we amass numerous important elements to our life like a spouse, home, family, friends and an ever emerging career. When decisions need to be made affecting our career directions, we take into consideration the needs and demand of those other aspects that comprise our life. Many times, some priorities collide, leaving us feeling like we’re going to make a bad call. On one hand, the work situation is seriously impactful, but we want to support and protect our relationships and what is important to others. Where is the line between our work and our life?
The truth: There is no line. Your work is part of your life. I think our culture has given us an implied belief that the two don’t mix and we need to cleanly compartmentalize each one, sizing each one appropriately. That’s like saying “I’m going to ignore my left leg until later today”. You can’t ignore one part of your life while focusing on another. We spend as much, if not more, of our time working than any other thing we do, including sleep. If that isn’t evidence that it’s your life, I can’t think of anything else to convince you. If we were to start looking at our career as a true extension of ourselves and not something we do self-esteem, then perhaps this will come into greater clarity. But for some reason, we try to think of work as the unruly appendage we have to deal with on its own.
We should be as passionate about our work as we are about getting married, having a baby or buying a new car. Just as any one of those things impacts your life in many positive ways, so does your career. It doesn’t JUST pay the bills – it gives you meaning and drive. When a person is fully realized professionally, their self-esteem is in great shape and their ability to engage in healthy relationships and community contributions simply soar.
The bigger question: How do you prioritize your professional and personal needs without leaving a trail of debris? Consider these solutions to common challenges:
- Understand the top priorities. Sometimes we make too many things a #1 priority, when in fact, they really aren’t. Get clear about the critical things.
- Understand that this is an ongoing process. People often get discouraged when they feel like they just made some decisions and now they are making them again. Life has changed. Understand that nothing but change is a constant. Cool your jets; relax and enjoy the change.
- Communicate with your immediate loved ones about their needs. Whether it is aging parents, high school kids or a loving spouse, don’t assume you know their level of flexibility for making changes. Even attitudes change.
- Look for creative alternatives. All too often I have seen people be at a point where they thought they were between a rock and a hard place and they failed to see that there were other alternatives. Once they did see alternatives, they immediately saw a vast field of opportunities for more priorities to be satisfied.
- Consider timing the priorities. We tend to be impatient to have everything now. Sometimes if we simply delay one priority for another, most needs get met with timing.
- Be willing to make the tough decision. At the end of the day, there may come a point where you can’t have all work and life priorities work out neatly. But no matter which way you go, be fully committed to the decision made. As the saying goes, there are no bad decisions; there are simply good or bad ways to react to the results. Make the best of it, because life will change again and perhaps open up the thing you just had to cancel.
Your work is one part of your life. Life requires ongoing decision-making to juggle all the parts of it that we hold so dear – including work.
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Brought to you by Dorothy Tannahill-Moran – dedicated to unleashing your professional potential. Introvert Whisperer