by David B. Bohl
When you go to parties, do you start talking business with new people before you even exchange names? Or perhaps you refer to yourself as “Mike–the insurance guy,” or “Sue–the medical billing person.”
Do you realize what you’re doing? You’re defining who you are by what you do. And if you’ve reached the point that you’re sick and tired of it, then this article was written for you.
Why is defining yourself by your work bad? Everyone needs a purpose in life, right? Sure you do…but the danger in defining yourself by externals–like what you do–is that things can suddenly change, leaving you undefined, much like division by zero. What happens if…
- You define yourself as an old-fashioned company man…and you get laid off?
- You think of yourself as “the TV repair guru”, but then everyone starts buying High-Definition TV’s that you can’t fix?
- You define yourself as the owner of a local magazine…and the local economy goes south, advertising dries up, and you go bankrupt
Another danger of defining yourself by what you do is that you will most likely end up overworking yourself to the point of illness to achieve goals that get higher and higher each year.
Start defining yourself as you are, not by what you do. Consider what’s most important to you – your values and your beliefs. Focus on them and take action to achieve a life around them.
Try these 7 suggestions for balancing your life and defining who you are:
Take 30 minutes to sit down with a pen and a pad of paper, and write down what your ideal life would look like. Where would you live? How would you make money? What would a typical workday be like? What would your life look like if you created more time?
Think about what your work-life combination would look like if it were up to you…and then realize that is up to you. Don’t buy into anyone else’s definition. Companies always want more of your time, and you always want to hold back so that you have some left for yourself and your family. Remember this: you have the ultimate say in what work-life balance means to you. The good news is that life comes first for more and more people nowadays. We want life balance and we have the resources to achieve it. Think about the resources you have available and write them down.
Spend a few moments each day in quiet reflection. Take a look around you and within yourself. Regularly reassess your goals and priorities. Write them down. You have tremendous pressure on you to constantly better yourself and to want it all and do it all. This pressure exists in your work, your community, your family, and with your friends and associates – and most especially in your mind. Take time to consider how you have responded to those expectations.
The skills that get you ahead in business may not work in your personal relationships, but the time and effort needed is just as important. Don’t assume that managing your private time and family life will be easy. Sure, you’ve got good professional skills and training, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to being a good spouse and parent without thinking about it or developing the necessary skills. Relationships are like work problems in that they take time, enthusiasm, and imagination to nurture. Take the time and effort to identify life’s opportunities and pleasures so that you can enjoy them.
Make use of technology that allows you to conduct business on your own schedule without becoming a slave to it. Self-serve websites and phone-activated systems like voicemail that will let you run your business on your own schedules are an absolute must. This will allow you to be more productive and mentally present at work so that you can make the most of your private time. For instance, when you know that potential clients can leave a detailed message, or that they can check a site you’ve set up and read the Frequently Asked Questions, you won’t worry so much about taking time for yourself.
Start drawing general boundaries, such as:
“I don’t work on my kids’ birthdays”
“I don’t work on Christmas or other major holidays”
“I don’t work on Sundays”
Schedule your personal and family time just like you would your business appointments. That means putting a note in your Blackberry for “6am–Treadmill for 20 minutes”, or “7pm–Dinner at Uptown Blanco with wife”, or “3pm Saturday–Brittany’s soccer match.”
Be authentic – be yourself.
Work-life balance is a process, not an outcome. It changes constantly, particularly at different points in your life. Wherever you are today is all right. Don’t beat yourself up. Accept yourself and learn and grow from where you are. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to live a balanced life. If your goal is constant balance and happiness, however, you’ll be disappointed. Life happens – be flexible. Your true objective should be to inspire personal growth and positive change, moving you closer to what you want. If your aspiration is learning and growth and positive change, then you’ll be just fine.