It's too bad that working motherhood doesn't come with an instruction manual. If it did, you'd have an answer to the elusive question: how can I achieve work+life balance? Instead you look with admiration (and maybe even envy) at other working moms who appear to be getting it all “right” while you flounder in the unending chaos of work and life. Every day you wish, hope and pray that one day you’ll finally arrive at a place where life is balanced and “perfect. "
Work+life balance, as it's traditionally viewed, is a myth. There will never be a moment in your life when everything is balanced and “perfect. " Instead life is unpredictable and messy. If you're alive and fully engaged in your life, it will always be this way. So instead of trying to find the answer to the mystical question of work+life balance, you've got to start with the right question.
The answer to work+life balance is revealed when you understand who you are meant to me. That's it. Sounds too simple, right? It is and it isn't. Truly knowing who you're meant to be requires a higher level of personal understanding that few are willing to attempt. Why?
As you deepen your personal understanding, you'll see the truth about yourself. The truth can open up emotional wells most would rather assume are empty – anxiety, fear, loneliness, resentment, anger, etc. These are unsavory feelings. You don’t want to feel them and you especially don’t want others to see you experiencing them! I urge you to press through the uncomfortable nature of this self-discovery anyway.
Because when you're the person you're meant to be, you'll find your “groove. " And it's within that groove that you'll experience work+life balance – an optimal sense of flow. You see, when life begins to feel rocky it's because you're not in congruence with who you're meant to be. And until you resolve the disconnection between how you are living and how you're meant to live, you'll always be off balance.
Who are you meant to be?
As you consider the question, let me share my story. I was raised to believe that success in life meant going to college, having a great career, getting married, having kids and buying a house – your standard “American Dream. " By 28, I'd achieved all the things that should have made me successful, yet life felt like a song being played in the wrong key.
That's when I began my tactical (and spiritual) planning. I started by writing out the things I wanted to accomplish in the next year. At first the list was familiar – pay off debt, buy a bigger house, get a graduate degree, etc. – these were the external goals of my life. As I continued the process my goals shifted from what I could achieve to who I wanted to become – be a better mom, be a loving wife, feel fulfilled, etc. I quickly realized that knowing how to be the woman I was meant to be would get my life back on track.
Next, I began journaling on what “being" really meant to me. For example, how does “be a better mom" really look? For me, it meant having time to be engaged and involved in my children’s’ lives, without guilt. It meant having a career that challenges and feeds my mental and spiritual soul. It meant teaching my kids about true love through a relationship with my husband that was more than the minimum to avoid divorce.
Who are you meant to be?
Here are a few things to consider as you begin to search for your answer:
- Finding your groove takes time. Unlocking who you're meant to be doesn't usually happen at the snap of your fingers. That's because you'll need time to “percolate" on new ideas and ways of thinking. Be patient.
- Finding your groove isn't a finite goal. If you are maturing and growing as a person, you'll constantly be re-discovering who you're meant to be. Life is a perpetual cycle of change, so expect it and know that with each change you are strengthened.
- Finding your groove is about playing by your own rules. This doesn't mean you ignore the advice you receive from the people in your life. It does mean that you'll need to master the skill of discernment to know when the advice you hear is for your benefit and not a way to satisfy the needs of others.
- Finding your groove means letting go of practical thinking. There are some things in life that cannot be answered by the logical, analytical mind. So, if you're a believer in God, the Universe or something greater than yourself, then learn how to meditate or pray on who you're meant to be.
- Finding your groove forces you to experience everything. Your thoughts, emotions and feelings, whether positive or negative, are necessary elements to discovering who you're meant to be. Learn how to truly feel again and if you need support (it can get messy!) work with a therapist, coach, or pastor.
Finding your groove is possible once you’ve discovered who you are meant to be. Enjoy the journey and I’ll see you along the way because it’s a lifelong walk that has no final destination, but WOW what incredible things you’ll see, experience and feel along the way.
Michele Dortch is the Founder of The Integrated Mother, a nationwide coaching and professional development company providing work+life solutions for working mothers, and their employers. Get your FREE ‘Work+Life Makeover Kit’ at http://www.worklifemakeoverkit.com