Recently I had the opportunity to have a long conversation with a young mother who was working on changing her career path. She wanted to find balance in her daily life that didn't require working 70 hours a week. You see, she's an event planner and a good one at that. I listened to her tell me how she's slowly backing away from taking on 30 events a year and even took the drastic measure of getting a totally different job to help her "stop" saying yes to new clients as they called for her services. She was at a cross roads because her child, now in the 7th grade was growing up so fast and she didn't know how to be there for her daughter and also show up for herself. Hmmmmm....
Sound familiar? That work life balance thing can truly feel like a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. One wrong move and we're falling to unknown catastrophe that feels completely out of control, and let's face it, unstable.
I listened to this woman intently. She went on for quite some time. She had so many skills and talents. At one point, I finally cut in and said, "Ya know, you don't have to prove anything to me. Your resume' is amazing, and I can tell you're a rock star. So how do you really WANT it to be?"
The silence in the room engulfed her like a cloud rolling in on a foggy morning. She was stunned. A deer in the headlights, she really didn't know how to respond. She had spent the last forty five minutes telling me all the things she could do, all the skills she had, all the stuff she had accomplished and yet, had never actually asked herself, what is it that I want?
"What a great question." she finally replied. "I hadn't thought about that. I guess I kept thinking I needed to prove to myself that I could do whatever I set my mind to doing. Isn't that a good thing?"
"Yes and no." I said. "You see, if we spend our lives trying to prove something to other people and maybe even prove something to ourselves, just to see if we CAN do it, we spend an awful lot of time trying out things that we may not even want to do. When it really comes down to it, do you WANT to leave your event planning business?"
Again, silence.... The sound of it was a much needed experience for this woman to ponder her own feelings and ideas. I had a feeling no one ever supported her in silence so I simply waited.
"No, I don't think I do. I think what I want is to slow down. I don't want so many weddings to plan and I want to stop feeling so guilty when take time for our own family." she said.
"Well, what would slowing down look like to you?" I asked.
She replied very quickly, "Ten! I would love to do ten amazing weddings for the season."
"Ok, now we're getting somewhere."
Let's face it, we all have the rock star gene - maybe it's because we're American, or maybe it's because our culture thrives on go getters. No matter the reason, we all have this innate desire to show the world our skills, make a difference, and be the best at something. Well, guess what? You will never really know what that "best" thing is if you don't listen to your heart, your values, and your soul. When you spread yourself too thin, taking on too much, you lose sight of what really matters. The drive, your fire, the thing that breathes life into your soul is where your focus should be.
Each and everyone of us could go out and do any number of things in this life. We could start a business, we could change careers, we could work at all manner of vocations - but that's not the point. If at the end of the day, your passion is helping others, there's so many ways to do that... So the next step is narrowing down the ways that YOU ENJOY without comprising everything else that's important to you. If at the end of the day, your passion is building things, guess what, the next step is narrowing it down to WHAT you want to build. When your spot light is on "balance" you will be focused too much on not falling. Instead, focus on your passions, what you get excited about - then you're headed in the right direction.
As this young woman was leaving our meeting, she smiled and said, "thank you so much for listening to me today. I know I was hear about a job, but it turned out so differently than I expected. Can I give you a hug?"
"Of course!" I replied. I stood up and wrapped my arms around this complete stranger who felt like an old friend. Her steps were lighter and she looked different as she stepped back and smiled. She was on her way out that door with a new awareness about herself. An awareness that she gets to do exactly what she desires - balancing her own life with a career she loves and time for her family. It's the desire inside of us that creates the passion to move forward. If something doesn't excite you and scare you a bit, it's probably not for you. Pay attention to what excites you in life. That's where the magic is. :)