A friend of mine has really been struggling lately. On the surface it would appear that she has it all. A successful career, a loving and supportive marriage, even close relationships with her children and grandchildren. I would venture to say that she is the poster child for ultimate Boomer ideal. There is only one little problem. She is absolutely miserable.
It seems that she has spent most of her life creating a life that she thought she wanted. There was a big house involved, a family, and of course a corner office with a sought after senior vice-president title. True to her generation, she really did believe she could have it all–and she made it happen. So what could be the problem?
Just one little thing. She hates her job.
What began as a challenge to climb the corporate ladder with odds slightly against her has become an overwhelming responsibility that sucks up all of her time both in and out of the office. She has lost all sense of balance and has no discretionary time. Once home she answers emails, reviews reports, or drafts strategic planning documents for the latest offering. She feels exhausted and empty. Yet she continues on the same path, day in and day out, feeling more and more suffocated by the very lifestyle she wanted so badly to create.
We met for lunch and I could tell her stress level was off the charts. I also couldn’t help but notice her waistline was headed in the same direction. Being a friend (but not her coach) I had to ask how she fit exercise into her schedule. I wasn’t surprised when she told me there was no time for that. Too much time spent commuting to possibly fit that in. And now that the kids were grown, meals were usually eaten out or on the run, but she did manage to squeeze in a week’s vacation once a year. Well, once a year every now and then.
In fact, she was so frustrated with her current situation she was ready to toss it all in. Quit her job, walk away from her house, and find someplace she and her husband could start an early retirement and maybe pick up a part-time job somewhere to fill her time.
I wasn’t really surprised to hear this since she had always been prone to overachievement. It only made sense when she was looking to change she would swing hard in the opposite direction. Of course, there was nothing wrong with her plan but I didn’t think it would bring the sense of serenity and balance she was truly longing for.
After she had finished explaining, I asked if she wanted to hear about a client of mine who had been in a similar situation. Good job, although demanding, great relationship, everything going for him. Yet like my friend, he was miserable. He was gaining weight, irritable, and questioning if success was really all it was cracked up to be.
His job had overwhelmed his life. He was on call to his boss twenty-four/seven with no idea how to create any boundaries between personal and professional time. All he did was work, and was reaching a tipping point. He barely saw his wife. He could either make a change or be miserable and earn himself into an early grave.
He decided the early grave option was not the best. It took some time but together we reinvented his lifestyle to include exercise, healthy eating, and even that most sacred possession–personal time. The man who had no time to exercise now hits the gym three times a week. On business trips he slides exercise dvd’s into his briefcase so he can stay energized on the road. He lost weight, gained energy, and even has a new perspective on his job. In short, he created a balance between work and home and now enjoys a feeling of satisfaction he feared was lost to him.
And he didn’t have to toss everything to find it.
It’s not unusual for people to put themselves last. Especially when focusing a career and getting ahead, many of us feel there will always be time for us later. There is a point, however, when waiting for that moment becomes toxic not just for ourselves but for our career and our families as well. You simply cannot continue to be productive and supportive of others if you have no reserves to draw upon. Self-care is the way keep those reserved filled.
I don’t know if my friend will throw in the towel and walk away from everything she has worked so hard to create. Quite frankly, I hope not. Perhaps the story of my client will help her realize it is possible to enjoy a challenging job and a fulfilling personal life as well. She does not have to choose one over the other.
If you have questions about reinventing a balanced perspective for your own life, contact me for a free consultation about ways to live the life you thought you had created.