The Balancing Act
It's easy to get caught up in the race that is your career. Pushing for that promotion, earning recognition and constantly climbing that salary ladder. A little bit of healthy competition doesn’t hurt either, in fact it can often be beneficial...the key word being ‘healthy’.
We all make compromises to maintain some degree of balance in our lives, and this changes as our priorities evolve, but when competitiveness becomes our main priority, it’s easy to lose focus. We can end up compromising the things we really need and ultimately throw a lot out of balance without even noticing.
Relationships with family and friends, our health and finances can all suffer from a lack of prioritisation, and focusing on competition at its expense can land us somewhere toxic. For example, living a particular lifestyle can be all well and good if you have your priorities in order, but causing yourself or your family financial stress just to maintain it can be detrimental on many fronts. Likewise, being a social bee can be great for your personal happiness and networking, but burning the candle at both ends just to maintain an image can have severe repercussions. Or say you are a new parent, and are placing full attention on your career whilst getting baby through those first few months, lack of attention to your own health isn't going to help you, baby or your career. Alternatively, say you suddenly find yourself out of work, and rather than taking the time to reassess your options you jump at roles as they appear in an attempt to reduce any bruising to your personal brand. Reacting too quickly to changes that at first seem pretty negative can often make the situation more difficult as you might enter a role you don’t enjoy, or find it more depressing to receive closed doors. Either way you miss a chance to see the silver lining of the situation, which might really be the life change you need.
And it doesn't end here. Colleagues and individuals within our network may feel intimidated and pressured to compete themselves, fueling negativity and creating a self-perpetuating and constant cycle that is not so easy to get off.
But can we?
Knowing what to prioritise can be difficult, but if we start by acknowledging our current life stage we can better accept what we realistically need. Understanding priorities and putting them in the right order provides the best chance of a positive work-life balance. Sometimes it means we change our personal lives, sometimes it means we change our careers. The end goal? What makes us happy.
Below is a simple practice in identifying priorities, placing them in order, and setting up personal goals.
Review your current life stage.
Write a list of anything and everything that has some impact on your life. This can be your own health, the health of others, your family, friends, financial position, goals, career, responsibilities etc. Seeing these things in an actual written list can help to visualise what really is a priority at the moment and what isn’t. You will generally feel an emotion when you think of one of the life factors, and it is important to recognise that feeling.
Assess your priorities.
Write down another list of what your honest priorities are at the moment, the ones you are actually acting on (no point stretching the truth here because this is an exercise only for your eyes!). Compare this list to your list of life factors and see if there are any life factors that are missing from your priorities, or if any are suffering as a result of your priorities? For example, could your financial position improve if that shuffled a few places ahead? Could relationship issues maybe start to clear if they came into a prime position? The missing puzzle pieces will reveal themselves and it is up to you to fill the gaps.
Don't fear change.
Fear not having the chance. We can get so absorbed in the narrow frames of our careers that we can only focus on pushing forward and are frightened of going in any other direction. The truth is there are so many people doing such wonderful things in all different types of roles and industries. Shuffling up your priorities to be more conscientious of your life factors is the most effective way to break away from this mindset and open a world of opportunities. You can find yourself doing things that might not be what you thought you would be doing when you first started your career, but is certainly something that suits you now and provides you, and everyone around you, with balance and happiness.