I recently reconnected with someone who I worked with and like and respect very much. I asked her how things were, we haven’t seen each other in three years, and she told me about her new young family, her busy job, her busy husband, and their busy household. Everything she said, I could relate to myself, having two growing girls going into school and training for careers, running a busy and growing business, working out, eating right, and overall being very, very, very busy. Being busy can feel like progress, but often it’s just being busy, a pattern we’ve become used to, because it makes us feel useful and like we are accomplishing more than we really are.
My friend mentioned that she often feels like she’s “going it alone” even though she is surrounded by a loving husband and children. I asked her if she ever wanted to “see someone”, everyone’s code word for therapy. She told me she’s much too private of a person for therapy, which apart from the expense is something I’ve heard from other friends in the past. As we talked more, I shared with her my experiences with meditation and the benefit of quieting the mind. She then told me about a book she recently came across and said that it has really helped her. The book is called Meditations for Living In Balance: Daily Solutions for People Who Do Too Much. She told me to check it out myself, so I’ve ordered it, but it hasn’t yet arrived.
The book has an over four-star rating on Amazon, and a copy editor promoting the book says this about it: “For men and women overwhelmed by life’s constant juggling act — the struggle to balance work, relationships, children, finances, chores, and more — Anne Wilson Schaef clears the way to serenity and joy.
“With her signature wisdom, insight, and humor, Schaef shows us how to stop living at the mercy of frenzy and chaos and start savoring daily moments that center, calm, and nourish us. Contemplation and ultimately practical actions come together to help us tune into ourselves, be still and mindful, lighten up, laugh, and revel in the adventure of every day.”
My friend’s favourite part of this book is the entire book. She is the sort of person who always strives to be her best. She is competitive. She is a ‘do-er’, passionate about people, projects, and ideas. She always has half a dozen projects in her head she wants to work on, while also being successful in her demanding day job while she raises two small boys. She wants to write a book. She draws and paints. Yet none of what she does ‘for herself’ relaxes her or ultimately makes her feel fulfilled, because in her mind there are so many things yet to be finished, done, fulfilled. She herself feels like she’s falling behind when nothing could be further from the truth. She is too hard on herself, reflects too much on failure vs accomplishment, and because she is a driven person rarely stops to smell the roses. She is always driving to some new goal or wanting to start a new project she’s got a vision for. All of this led her to burnout and cycles of burnout that became challenging for her. She started to lose interest in the things she once felt so passionate about, she felt anxiety about raising her boys and holding a full-time very demanding job, and she would feel overwhelmed instead of fulfilled. She told me, for her, this book did a wonderful thing: it made her feel like she could cope, she doesn’t need to be superwoman, and she needs to take real time for herself to reflect on why she has such high expectations of herself, who put them there, and the reality that she is the only one holding herself to such a high, and I might say unrealistic, standard. I can relate to a lot of these feelings myself, and so can, I think, most people I coach.
My friend called it “book therapy”, which is kind of funny, but I take her seriously because she is a serious and smart person who does too much. She said I also do too much. I often feel like I don’t do enough, and there aren’t enough hours in the day, and there are always new projects to be done and as a business owner I am always trying to stay competitive, be profitable, and grow. Some days I feel the weight of this “too much” – the stuff I’m doing now and the stuff that’s yet to do. With my mind on so much during the day, and with so many other people, coaching them in leadership and career, my friend reminded me that the person I think least about is myself. And that’s bad. We all need time out of the day-to-day of our lives to find our mental balance again. For me, I have turned to meditation as my peace, my quieting of the mind, my serenity.
When I do career and life coaching, one of the things I get my clients to do is something I call a Life Wheel. The purpose of the Life Wheel is to look at your life holistically and to balance all aspects of your life. I ask them to fill in a new Life Wheel every week and keep track of changes. What I often see is a real imbalance in a client’s first Life Wheel. Maybe they are going through a divorce and have a sick parent. That’s going to give someone low relationship quality, which means they aren’t being nourished by that area in their life. An imbalance here creates an imbalance in other areas of your life. For example, maybe you love your job, but because of things happening in your personal life, you find trouble concentrating, sleeping, feeling motivated. All these things are going to affect your job performance and enjoyment. The point of the Life Wheel exercise is to identify imbalances and areas for better balance. Improvements in every area of your life, however small, will improve your mental, physical and spiritual well-being. You will be better in all your relationships and you will find happiness and enjoyment again. It might take some time, which is the point of tracking your progress every week. When you can start to see the results, feeling the changes and finding better life balance, you’ll start to see that you can change your present and future. We can’t control some things like family illness, possibly divorce, loss of job. But we can change how we react to these events and how we feel about them and how they affect us. The Life Wheel is a meditation on life balance, of being able to see on a page that “hey, my life is out of whack right now and I need to find balance to be happier.” Mapping progress is vital to see how far you’ve come from where you started. If you’re interested in career or leadership coaching and finding that balance in your life, I’d love to help you.
I look forward to Anne Wilson Schaef’s book to arrive. In the meantime, I’m hitting the gym today because I have a Life Wheel, too. All our lives are a balancing act. But you don’t have to do a high-wire act without a net every day. You’re not here to impress other people with some thrilling, heroic performance. You’re here to be the best version of you possible, for you. Do what’s good for you, what’s important to you, not what’s expected of you – or what you feel ‘they’ expect. ‘They’ might not expect anything. Meditate on that for awhile.
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