Tag Archives: balance

Lean In

“… I do not believe there is one definition of success or happiness. Not all women want careers. Not all women want children. Not all women want both. I would never advocate that we should all have the same objectives. Many people are not interested in acquiring power, not because they lack ambition, but because they are living their lives as they desire. Some of the most important contributions to our world are made by caring for one person at a time. We each have to chart out own unique course and define which goals fit our lives, values, and dreams.”  Sheryl Sandberg

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I recently read “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg. Wow. What an incredible book, not only for the amazingly rich and well-researched content, but also because it kept my interest. Not always an easy thing to do. 

I’ll explain.

Being in corporate for over twenty years, I’ve read a lot of management-genre books. I usually enjoy them at first, though around halfway through, I lose interest. The content seems more of the same and I often feel as if the book could be a wonderful ten-page article instead of an incredibly long book that I want to use to pummel myself to a slow, painful death.

This book was nothing of the sort. In truth, part of my level of engagement was the subject matter. The book makes a case for the cultural and historical perspective of the gender gap, and through poignant relatable examples, gives examples of what women and men both do to perpetuate it. Sheryl tactfully and touchingly addresses the personal choices that women make regarding family and career, and drives the importance of selecting a real partner in a spouse in order to juggle, if that’s what a woman chooses. She also talks about the consequences of the choices we make.

I remember over ten years ago running into a woman I was friends with in middle school. She told me she had four children, and asked how many I had. When I said that I had none, her lip curled and she grew very distant. “Oh, you’re a “career girl”,” she said. She may as well have substituted “career girl” with “child molester” with her reaction.

By not making a choice to have a family, I essentially made my choice. I never consciously decided to not have children, and even now, it still surprises me that I don’t. I never pictured my life without them. However, I won’t live in a place of regret for not having children and for not following societal norms. The truth is that I wasn’t ready to have a child when my body physically was. And regardless of what my middle school friend thinks, that’s ok. It’s just a different choice. I didn’t place a priority of my career over family; I simply realized that I wasn’t ready to have a child and chose to do the work that I needed to in order to avoid perpetuating the cycle of abuse that I grew up in.

On the last page of the book, Sheryl notes that she looks “toward the world I want for all children—and my own. My greatest hope is that my son and my daughter will be able to choose what to do with their lives without external or internal obstacles slowing them down or making them question their choices… I hope they both end up exactly where they want to be. And when they find where their true passions lie, I hope they both lean in—all the way.” 

Wow. I’ll be thinking about this for quite a while, and in my opinion, that is the epitome of a very well-written book.

Integrity

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02-20-12 © almagami

Integrity is a quality that I value greatly. It’s important to me, and something I consider frequently when making decisions. Especially choices regarding where I will spend my time. If I say I’m going to do something, then it’s important that I am true to my word and do what I commit to doing. It’s equally important to me that others behave in the same manner.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of integrity is “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”

Here’s my quandary: what about integrity to myself?

A typical example of this issue is in my work. I want to do a good job and to be helpful to other people, however, I often end up putting myself in a position where I lose my work/life balance as a result. Periodically I re-establish my boundaries, but then feel the constant struggle of not doing the work that should be shared by others instead of just jumping in to take care of things.

As I continue struggling with this situation, it occurs to me that it’s really an issue of maintaining the same levels of integrity to myself that I do for others. If I say that I’m not going to do something, then I need to stand by that decision instead of feeling obligated to do it. Just because I did do something at one point, even though it wasn’t really my obligation to, doesn’t mean I’m required to continue doing it.

I find this so difficult to do.

Today I delegated several things to people on my team because anyone can do the work, not just me. I waited to see if anyone would take ownership, but everyone is so used to my jumping in to do it, that they wait and assume I will take care of it. Instead of doing that, I decided to assign the work elsewhere.

Baby steps.

Life Lessons Learned in Yoga

Last week I put my intention out there: within the next two years, I want to spend several months a year in Colorado to be able to live near my nephews and be a part of their life on a more regular basis.

Immediately following that declaration, I went into a tailspin. My “monkey brain,” the very same one that churns like an ocean in a storm when I try to meditate starting buzzing with everything that I will need to do to make that goal a reality.  

My brain very quickly turned to: What the hell am I thinking??

The blessing and curse of being an achievement-oriented person, I view a goal, and immediately begin to map out the tasks I’ll need to do to get there, almost like building a set of stairs moving me to the next floor. My brain starts churning and I become very focused considering all that I must do, the risks, the issues that I’ll deal with, what and who I will need to make it happen.

And then I realized, I don’t really need to do this. At least not right now. Sure, at some point in time, I’ll need to figure out the details, but my job for the moment is setting the intention: the what. How that will happen will come later, and when it’s the right time, the big pieces will start to fall into place.

For now, my job is to have faith, to be clear in my intentions and to be sure I’m putting out there exactly what I want. When I feel my brain start to slip in this mode, I find the following lessons learned in yoga class help to get me back on track.

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Be in the Now

I don’t need to worry about all the details of my future plans in one year, two years, or even further out. I need to focus on my now. “When you feel your mind drift off, come back to the mat” is the guidance in yoga class. So, I work to ground myself in my day-to-day of what I am doing, what I enjoy, and where my attention currently needs to be.

Acknowledge the Feelings

I find that often, I’m my own harshest critic. Some of my tailspin is because I’m feeling nervous, scared or even panicky about something and don’t think I should, or don’t want to feel that way. Then I judge the feeling as not good and I get annoyed with myself for it. It’s a vicious cycle. Instead if I just recognize how I’m feeling and why, it seems to not be quite so important. In yoga, I’m told to go as far into a stretch as I can, and stop when I feel pain. My body needs to be my barometer and I need to listen to how I’m feeling and acknowledge it.

Envision the Future

Slowly but surely, I’m starting to learn to calm my mind to meditate. Yoga teaches us to take a moment before getting into a pose to envision ourselves in it. I find that when I focus on how I want to feel about things, more than what will be, then I can better keep my brain from spiraling. I want to feel happy, peaceful, content and joyful, so I focus on that, and not the details of what my life will be like. 

Remember the Priorities

My goal of being in Colorado is all about family and being with my brother and nephews. Focusing on that, and how I will feel when I get to spend more time with them, watching the boys grow up helps to keep me grounded and calm. The details will work out, and most of them just really aren’t important.

What’s important is my nephews. Staying focused on that, makes a difference. I liken this to the concept of drishti in yoga, which is a point of focus where the gaze rests during a posture where you are gazing outward to bring the awareness inward.

I have my drishti point and I’m grateful for that.

A Goal to Look Forward to

Last week was a really crappy week at work. The honeymoon period at my new job wasn’t very long; maybe a day or two at the most. I unfortunately demonstrated competence, and got completely overloaded with work as a result. I learned that my  full-time project actually isn’t even a project but a program [the difference being that I am managing 10-15 smaller overlapping projects at a given time and not one, requiring a rather skilled juggling act].

As I’m learning how much my job actually entails and how different it is from what I was told and what my boss thought it was, he gave me another project because the person managing it isn’t managing it at all and it’s “off the rails”.

I do appreciate the vote of confidence, but my 45-50 hour a week job just became…??? I have no idea, but it certainly isn’t the 40 hours that I expected and very clearly stated that I was offering when I interviewed. I’m not very good at saying no traditionally, and not very good in situations where I feel that I can’t succeed.

Talking with my boss twice didn’t seem to help, and I was told that once I get over the learning curve, it’ll be fine.

Great.

Then the other Project Manager’s boss, my boss’ peer, called me to discuss. I had interviewed with her and we connected well, so she called me to say that she was concerned with my running both projects and asked how I felt about it.

My hero!!!!

She then arranged a call with the four of us (including my boss and the other Project Manager) to talk about roles and responsibilities and to walk through expecations for these projects. Apparently she had done some work on my boss in the meantime, and it appears that his expectations may be reset.

Hallelujah!!!

Apparently my big learning from this job is going to be saying no and setting boundaries regarding my work/life balance. I don’t want to have another week where I’m working more than 50 hours, exhausted, cranky and feeling like I’m climbing a solid-faced wall with toothpicks. There’s no time like now to begin my lessons, and my work computer will remain shut for the weekend. I’m learning.

Better late than never.

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© Tsmarkley | http://www.stockfreeimages.com

Painting My New Landscape

Now that I’m back working in a corporate job, things have changed in many ways. Some are more obvious than others.

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I must admit that getting a regular paycheck is nice. I really enjoyed my “lady of leisure” time when I wasn’t working, and found some satisfaction in prioritizing where my money goes. I considered what was important to me that I was not willing to give up, and didn’t miss out on any of those things. For anything else, I decided to not spend the money to give me more time. There was something very satisfying of feeling that sense of control over my expenses.

http://www.stockfreeimages.com

Hours in the Chair

I now need to make those same decisions about my time. When I had all of my time at my disposal, I could do most of the things that I wanted to do. So, I’m prioritizing some of the things I most enjoy doing, like hiking, visiting my hospice patient and my other volunteer work, and spending time with friends, to be sure that those don’t slip.

Choosing the Right Brush

I’m finding that time seems to pass as a big blur since so much of my time now is dedicated to work. Monday blends into Tuesday, and before I know it, it’s Thursday and I’m counting down to the weekend. I don’t want to wish my life away by counting those precious hours to the weekend. I want to be sure that every day includes some things I enjoy and that I try to find some pleasure in my work.

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http://www.stockfreeimages.com

Life is always a work in progress. I now do a better job of making decisions that are consistent with the person I am. The challenging part that I am facing now, is what to do about it: making a choice to consciously do what feels right, and not be guided by what I think I should do. Or not getting caught up in trying to be the best, and trying to please other people at the expense of myself. Sometimes this includes turning off my work when my hours are over, and not dedicating more time and energy to it than are required. It is also going to include setting realistic expectations of what I can do with my boss, as I’m already getting pressure to take more work on then I believe I can reasonably do.

Every day is a new opportunity to pull out my brush and practice my painting skills with some abstract concepts like balance and happy. It takes lots of practice to become expert at anything. Spending time consciously making decisions with where I spend my time won’t always be easy, but every time I practice that skill, it will get easier.

Going by Feel

I spent so much of my life doing what I thought I should do instead of what I wanted to do, that I lost my sense of touch. I wasn’t listening to my heart, and spent my days fulfilling my many obligations. It was an ok life, and I wasn’t suffering by any means, but I sure wasn’t thriving.

A few months ago, when I got my freedom through a corporate layoff, I made a commitment to myself: seek out what makes me happy, and let the warm feeling that washes over me when doing something that I’m truly excited about be my guide to making decisions. Essentially, I am regaining my sense of being in touch with myself.

Every morning I wake up and have an idea of what I hope to do for that day. I’m a planner, and that hasn’t changed in my quest of listening to my inner barometer. But now, I ask myself in the morning what I want to do. Sometimes my day ends up as planned, but often it doesn’t. I may feel like not hiking, and that’s ok—I can hike tomorrow. I may want to take the morning off to walk around a park with my dog, and will get my work done in the afternoon. That’s ok too.

I’m learning that being happy, and actively seeking out my happiness, is the best motivator for me. Showing my suffering as my dedication to a commitment is no longer my method for proving my worth. It sounds silly, but looking back now, I realize that’s exactly what I did. I worked the longest hours to prove that I was a good employee; I sacrificed my personal life to show that I was a hard worker. All these years later, I see that the person I hurt most was me, and that all I gained from my years of self-sacrifice is the learning that it’s not right for me and the ability to recognize that I’m doing it. Balance.

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I’m learning to live with less judgment, as doing what feels right makes me happy, and being happy is an end goal now for me. Not that I don’t like seeing that list of checked off items that I’ve completed and feel proud of how productive I’ve been that day, but sometimes, that’s not the day I need. And I now accept that without judgement.

There’s always tomorrow. Today I’m going to have fun.

Checking the Closet

When I was a little girl, I was sure there was a monster living in my closet. It was safe in my room during the day as the monster was asleep, but at night, the closet door had to be completely shut or the monster would come out. My nighttime ritual was that my dad had to check inside the closet, then shut the door fully before letting me blow out the light. If the door was open even a crack, I couldn’t fall asleep.

ImageI launched my business last week, called Volto LLC. I created the concept almost three years ago and started the process of creating the business, but then I chickened out. I got scared by the ‘what ifs.’ You know, “What if I don’t succeed? What if I can’t get any clients? What if I can’t make any money and have to go back to a corporate job, embarrassed and a total failure. Everyone will know.” Instead, I took a corporate job and told myself it was the right thing to do, despite the irony.

A couple of months ago, I decided it was time to resurrect the Volto concept. The same thoughts and feelings of dissatisfaction with my corporate work experience that led me to create the business three years ago had never subsided, and the song grew louder inside of me. Freedom. When I consider my personal definition of freedom in this context, here is the list that I came up with:

I want the freedom to:

  • do work that I love
  • that offers mental challenge and creativity,
  • that ‘does good’ and helps people,
  • with people that I enjoy and respect
  • while maintaining a balance with other important needs in my life (my volunteering, travel, etc.)

My professional work at corporations gave me certain pieces of this list, but never all of them. Generally speaking, I was unable to maintain a work-life balance that I was happy with, and while I often did work that I enjoy which offered mental challenge and creativity, I often felt that it was missing “soul” in terms of helping people. My volunteering satisfied that requirement, though to fit that in to a level that felt right often meant squeezing my personal time with friends. Finding a balance that feels right has always been a challenge, so I it’s time to try something different. I’m ready.

With Volto, I will offer copywriting (strategic marketing writing) and marketing consulting, work that I have been doing in a corporate setting for years and enjoy. I will also offer career coaching, which I have been doing for friends and coworkers informally for years as well, rewriting resumes and preparing people for interviews and negotiations. This freelance business will allow me the opportunity to set a schedule that I want and work with people that I choose, helping them with their various writing and consulting needs. I will be able to decide whom I will work with, and will be able to choose the projects I will work on to ensure balance in my life. It’s my dream and will check off every item on my list.

I still have the same fears of failure, which have plagued me most of my life, leading me to follow a path of working at large corporations— what I thought I should do because it was safe and expected. But instead of sinking into the fear, I now ask myself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” My answer is that the worst thing that could happen is that I decide to not pursue this opportunity, my dream, because I’m scared, and spend the rest of my life thinking, “What if I had started that business?”

So, after taking a step back and giving it a lot of thought, my question now is “what have I got to lose?”