Remember the awesome arcade game Whac-A-Mole? Where the gophers pop up out of their holes and you have to pound them back down with your hammer? I love this game, and not just because I am enormously competitive and it’s one of the few games I can win against my kids. There’s a sense of excitement in anticipating the next mole and accomplishment when I can clear the board. It’s an endless cycle of surprise, anxiety, and rush to conquer. In the end, I either clear the slate and win, or the crazy mole beats me and lives another day.
As an adult, I feel like my average week is one giant roaring game of Whac-A-Mole.
Back to back meetings. Dinners to cook. Deadlines. Kids’ activities. Bills to be paid. Budgets and business plans to draft. Aging parents. A gazillion emails. Car repairs. Date night. Conference calls. The list goes on and on and we get tired and overwhelmed just thinking about it. The modern American family is faced with more time commitments than ever before, but yet there is the pressure to meet this unrealistic state of “work/life balance”. The phrase work/life balance is an oxymoron. Even typing it makes me chuckle and shake my head. An urban legend. There are just too many moles and not enough time or hammers.
You can find endless advice on how to accomplish work-life balance…everything from scheduling your days to exercise to self-care to limiting distractions to turning off email. There’s no end to the quick fixes or habits to develop. All of these are very valid components and do play a role in a happy, healthy, well-balanced life.
But, it is bigger than that. At the end of the day, it is all about perspective.
I once received the greatest compliment from my boss in a brand new position. She told me a couple weeks into the job that one of the reasons she hired me was because I seemed to have good work-life balance and she admired that. I will never forget that conversation and the way it made me feel. I was so surprised because I sure didn’t feel that I had it all figured out. But, then, long after that conversation, it hit me like a bolt of lightning. That balance came from a deep-seated perspective I had on life and family. See, my husband and I lost our third daughter. She passed away at birth. My family, my principals, my priorities, my life was rocked to the very core. The things that once mattered, no longer mattered. The things I needed in my life were no longer the same.
It was long after her death that I made this connection and fully realized how that event shaped my perspective on both my personal and professional life. The balance that others were seeing in my life was actually just a reordering of what I considered most important. A happy healthy family was number one and a fulfilling and meaningful career was second. And there was time for both. It was born out of a mindset and necessity.
Of course we don’t all need to go through a major life trauma to get this place! And everyone’s order of priorities may be different. But have you ever stopped and thought about how your life would change if the things you love most were no longer there? Are you so caught up in the whacking all the moles that you forget that you are playing a game and whether you win or lose, you still have the things you love most in life? Do you have a healthy, high-level perspective on your life and priorities?
Don’t lose sight of what’s important. Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for grace and perspective. This will naturally bring balance and you will ultimately conquer all the moles.
This blog post was written by DRG Group member, Sarah Sims. Sarah is a nonprofit consultant and Executive Director, Donor Relations at the University of Florida.