It honestly didn’t hit me until the “happy anniversary” notices started flowing in on LinkedIn this week, but it has now been a year since I sold my ownership position in an established global consulting firm in order to launch my own strategic advisory entity, Escalate Solutions.
I have to admit, the unavoidable conversation about work/life balance was part of the equation in my decision-making for that transition. I have previously been among the multitude of thought leaders who assert that true balance in this realm doesn’t really exist. After all, I am a single mom with young twins (including one that has endured seven years of heart, cancer and stroke battles). My schedule has proven to be more tenuous than most – but even for the average entrepreneur, employee or consultant – obligations and juggling of responsibilities don’t go away easily unless you are fortunate enough to be able to not to have to work consistently, or can afford someone who can run your errands, fetch your groceries or cook your meals. Reality is what it is.
That said, I also believe that if you don’t take the definition too literally, work/life balance is possible on a more esoteric level. At least, that was the premise I started working toward a year and a half ago as I began to plan for the launch of my own business. I have found success in it, and I wanted to share it with you.
So many believe work/life balance is measured by whether or not they can attend their kid’s soccer matches or school recitals – that is fine for them (and trust me…I care about those events too) – but I believe the equilibrium and stability in this capacity is only derived on a more obscure and hard-to-define level. To me, the only tangible characterization of work/life balance lies in the merging of one’s personal and professional aspirations – the tipping point where you can integrate work into the rest of your life (and not the other way around). I have found that when you reach a threshold where your professional and personal lives converge in terms of values, culture, vision and aims, the conflicts of time, responsibilities, and obligations seem to fade. At least, therein lies the balance I need for me. Time commitment issues have become less of an issue because I made my professional mission align with supporting entities that care about prioritizing family and community involvement. The aims resolved the challenges in achieving them.
I know there is a purpose and reason as to why I have read countless articles, books and blogs about “doing what you love”; however, while most of those writings focus on the inspiration it brings to daily activities, I have noticed that most of these features fail to point out that there is simplicity and balance in in making all of your goals flow in the same direction. I have learned that once you find it, the obligations for career, personal life and community all blend together, and none of it seems like “work”.
For years, I served as a COO and partner for a company mission that I did not fully believe in. I found respite, escape, solace and reward – whatever you want to call it – in the various charitable and philanthropic causes that I supported in order to fill the void of my heartfelt personal mission because I wasn’t finding it in my professional one. Yet what I realized after some time was that I was completely drained because I was spending all of my waking hours just searching for a greater cause than myself. I was working 60, 80, 100 hours a week, and was still adding more onto the workload just to feel like what I was doing was making a difference. My personal, professional, and community profile was not driven by a common compass. The minute I changed that, everything in my life changed too.
A year and a half ago, two signature events came into confluence during the same week. The first was that my daughter finished two and a half years of chemotherapy after a lengthy battle with cancer. The second was that I was recognized as one of the Denver Business Journal’s Outstanding Women in Business for 2014. I remember standing on the stage receiving that award for my accomplishments as a business owner and entrepreneur, thinking to myself that (1) Life is far too short and (2) I can do this; the world is mine to conquer. I decided then and there that I was going to launch my own company.
My mission statement for my business now matches the one I have for myself on a personal level. Support pioneering initiatives…maintain a positive culture (at home and at work)…make a difference in the community…and enable the flexibility to do what I need to do in order to juggle the otherwise impossible. There is finally a compass pointing all of my interests into a single and common direction for the first time. And accordingly, everything I am contributing to feels as though all of my efforts and working toward the same aim. As a result, my network from my philanthropic and charitable causes are the number one driver of my professional, revenue-generating workload, and the companies I am working for share my cultural and mission aspirations. The mission has come full circle.
For me, work/life balance has been achieved. I truly hope you find it for yourself too. By whatever definition you apply to it.