Most of us mean well when we ask this question. We ask because we’re trying to find a point of connection – to figure out what “tribe” someone belongs to, so to speak. In our country, your career is a major part of who you are. So it’s not surprising that so many of us fall into the trap of defining ourselves to some degree by our job title. Most of us want to work and work becomes an integral part of describing who we are.
Identifying too closely with your work, though, is a bad idea. Your job is only a part of who you are. You’re also a mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, friend, and more. You’re good at your job, but you’re also good at cooking, fishing, yoga, and more. Being work-focused can be good: It motivates you to perform at your best, to seize new opportunities, to take risks in pursuit of greater goals, to be creative, and to persevere through challenges.
But you are… more. When we lose sight of that fact, we begin to lose balance. When we begin to confuse ourselves with our job, it’s time for a shift in perception.
Remember that your work will end someday.
There is a beginning and an end to everything. Our jobs will end someday. We may reach retirement age. Our profession could be rendered irrelevant by new technology. Accident or illness could make us unable to do the work we do.
When we can no longer do our work, how will we know our self- worth? Who will we be? The time to prepare for life without the work we’re used to doing is while we’re still working.
Recognize the real sphere of your influence.
Married or single, parent or childless, you have relationships in your life that define you as much as your work does. Your work makes an impact, but so do the large and small ways you touch other people’s lives.
You don’t need to abandon your professional pursuits to maintain a work-life balance, but you do need to be honest with yourself about what sustains you, as an individual. You need to be honest with yourself about the efforts you make (or not) to sustain relationships with those who matter to you – and to make the necessary adjustments to nurture those relationships.
Find your center.
Work and relationships are both important, but neither one completely defines who you are. Both are elements of your life that are always shifting; sometimes in extreme ways and sometimes in subtle ways.
The elements that compose “you” are multi-layered and dynamic. There’s a you that goes way beyond your job description or title, your professional skills, your friends, and your family. “You” are a combination of your unique view of Life, what you’re bad at, what you’re good at, what you do for fun, what you believe in, and what and who you love.
Somewhere in all of these lies your center. This is the place where your balance lies; the place that holds you together even if everything else in your life fails or falls apart. This is how you remain who you are, through triumphs and failures.
With so many demands on our time, finding the time to stay balanced can be challenging, but it’s the only way to find professional success without losing everything that makes life worthwhile.