There is no Balance! Only Choices

In Print Issues by Cindy Ishimoto

Have you ever heard that maintaining a work-life balance is the key to happiness, success and “should” be your goal?  According to the definition of this theory: work-life balance is the lack of opposition between work and other life roles. It is the state of equilibrium in which demands of personal life, professional life, and family life are equal.  This philosophy came into being in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It was the mantra of women in the workplace and is a working model that conceptually may be flawed.

As a dental practice management consultant and speaker, I was constantly challenged by trying to find work-life balance.  In the early part of my career that juggling act was something at which I constantly failed. I felt as though I dropped many of the juggled commitments.  What I learned along the way is that there is no balance only control of the choices that I make.  

That which does not kill you makes you stronger

The theory of work-life balance is appealing, yet it doesn’t leave room for life to happen. While life is happening, work is happening and those you love are by your side asking for your time. The choices are flying at you at such a rapid pace that sometimes your answer is I’m just too busy to…..  Some weeks you feel like you’re present in all areas of your life, and other weeks you feel pulled strongly in one direction. This roller coaster ride has some thrills for sure but is this what you really want? I have been told, “that which does not kill you makes you stronger.” My conscious self knows there are only 7 days in a week and 24 hours in a day. My subconscious self tells me, you can multi-task, you can give something else up this week and do it next week and do it all.  

What I now know to be true for me is that life is a made up of the choices we make.  The clearer I get about what I am passionate about, where I like to be, who I like to be with, who I like to work with, what I like to teach and focus on matching my core values, my mission, my vision the easier the choices became. Setting my intentions for my work life, my health life, my family life, my social life and on and on have clarified how I want my life to be.

I have been consulting and speaking now for over 40 years and my loudest lessons along the way clarified what didn’t make me happy.  The choices I made that filled my bucket helped me to become more intentional and focused on choosing what is right for me.

Choices, planning, boundaries, and change.

First, know your strengths and what you are passionate about: develop your business plan based on that.  There will always be distractions or offers that stroke your ego or seem appealing and saying no may be the hardest thing you do.  If it doesn’t fit in your passion-strength intentional plan it will take from your life instead of adding to it.  

Prepare yourself to listen to offers and invest evaluation time before committing:  Clarifying now saves time in the long run. If you can say yes to your clarifying business match questions and yes to the time commitment and your commitment to your personal plans, then move forward. 

The following are some of the clarifying questions that I use:

  1. Is this offer maximizing my strengths or is it a stretch towards my planned business growth this year?
  2. Does this offer allow me to align with my passion, my business vision, and mission?
  3. Will the work I do align with my core values?
  4. Is this organization or dentist a person I want to work with?
  5. Is this work within a location that fits my travel boundaries?
  6. Is the request in a planned business time in my calendar, or can it be negotiated to be within my open time?
  7. How much planning time, delivery time and follow up time is involved will it work with my business calendar and not spill over into my personal, family and social intentions?

Develop some of your own tried and true questions that are more aligned with your plans.  A great structure that works for me is to have a trusted colleague, friend or family member ask the questions. It is much harder for me to make it sound good to them if I only ask myself I can be a very convincing salesperson.  

These work choices and the many job offers in this consulting speaking world can impact our schedules over multiple dates and times making it more and more difficult to work in your personal life intentions.  The clearer you are about the work that you choose to do will have you living your passion instead of working “just because.”

Clarify and then prioritize what’s important to you.

Convincing yourself that you can “have it all,” increases the pressure to attempt to live the work-life balance concept.  Weighing your choices against your intentional business and personal commitments can ensure that the decision is the right one. We know that we can’t have it all, we can have as much of what we choose is important, although maybe not all at the same time! 

By prioritizing our personal and professional life goals and choosing what works we can achieve our version of work-life contentment. This could be family time, self-care time, continuing education, networking, personal time, traveling, or whatever fills you with purpose. 

Releasing things, and being ok with intentionally not doing certain things, outsourcing others, and accepting that now may not be the time to do certain tasks helps each of us to be a better version of ourselves.

Non-negotiables and boundaries: 

Time is our most non-renewable resource, be smart with what you commit to and guard your time.  Wanting to be a people pleaser, to be liked, to have a sense of belongingness causes us to say “yes” rather than to take the time needed to choose appropriately.  Intentional decision making may not be in our skillset, just like a weak muscle we can develop it to be stronger and help us to make the right decision. Too often we try to please people by saying “yes” to requests.  Sometimes “no” is the right answer and you won’t fill your life with things that are time-consuming instead of fulfilling your business and personal goals. Many times, saying “no” often leads to the opportunity for other things that work for you to fit into your valuable time.

While work-life balance may seem like an end game, we do live in both worlds simultaneously.  Ultimately, we can’t pit one against the other, sacrificing business for personal life or foregoing family time to do one more deal.  To satisfy all sides of us we need to develop clarity about what is important and fulfilling and then go out and do it. We often forget that everything is a choice and we can decide!

Zig Ziglar said:  There are 3 C’s of Life:  Choices, Chances, Changes.  You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.”