Balanced…a lesson in boundaries and freedom of choice

I watched a TED Talk featuring Nigel Marsh on “How to make work-life balance work” and thought it was worth sharing as it inspired so many of my own thoughts and opinions on the topic.

Never has there been a time in our world where work and life have collided as millions of us are working from “home”. Gone are the days of punching in and out at the office as the office is now where we wake, where we eat our meals, where we live. It is fair to say that if you didn’t have balance before you are lacking it now…immensely.

As a leader I have preached work-life balance to my team and have worked hard to find it. I absolutely practice what I preach although not perfect I know the foundational points of the TED Talk are true and so I share them and my exponential thoughts on each with you.

  • If you don’t design your life someone else will design it for you and you may not like their idea of balance. #word
  • Never put the quality of your life into the hands of a commercial corporation. (It is not your companies responsibility to provide you balance. It is their responsibility to find the best candidate for the job to get it done efficiently.)
  • We have to be responsible for setting the boundaries we want in our life. #word
  • You have to elongate the time frame beyond a day; approach balance in a balanced way.
  • The small things matter.
  • The smallest investment in the right places can radically transform the quality of your relationships and life.

Six transformational statements, profound. This is what it is really all about. I have succeeded at some of the six and are learning how to solve where I have failed. The point is that I practice, I take a run at each of these on a daily basis.

The responsibility of having freedom is the act of choosing. Then why do we choose and then begrudge that choice? As if we can’t make yet another decision to change courses?

You decide, ultimately. If you don’t want to work in an office, don’t. If you don’t want to work weekends, don’t. If you don’t want to “drink the kool-aid”, don’t. Find what works for you. Don’t begrudge others that DO just because you don’t. You make everyone miserable when you DO what you DON’T want to…you decide for YOU.

It is YOUR life, YOUR journey, make sure you are getting more out of it then it is getting out of you. I give this career advice often. I believe that if you go about work, career or truly any task with this mindset everyone wins. If you are getting out of it what serves you best, you will serve the job better. If you are a slave to the job or task, nothing is achieved. You lose and so does the benefactor.

Last but not least is the idea of balance in your day, week, month…life. Decide what you want it to look like and then execute that vision. Understand that every day will not look the same and allow time to find the equilibrium. Sometimes in attempting to balance we realize that we have to remove from one side or another as all that we want is simply not possible. Again this is where choice is your responsibility. Right-side your ship to allow for smooth sailing.

I am reminded frequently by the wise duo that I call “The Aunts” that we all have the same 24 hours in a day; how we spend it is ours to decide. You will ALWAYS have the time however what you choose to do with it…well that is your responsibility. Own it.

Life as I balance it – L.

This is going to leave a mark…

This theme has been with me for weeks now and so here I go to give life to the theme. It is plaguing me with something pressing to say, to communicate, to shout from the rooftops…maybe.

It is too obvious to suggest that what we, as a world, have gone through in the last three months will leave a lasting impression that will be defined far greater than “leaving a mark”. What we have gone through in pandemic, protests and riots and politics will go down in history. We can only hope that all of the strife will change the future to allow recount of “how it used to be” versus “why it is this way”. This will all remain to be seen.

What is not obvious is the “mark” that is being left on you, on me, on each one of us mentally, transforming us physically. We are taking in images subconsciously that we are not used to processing. We attempt to create context around these images but we realize the internal struggle when we feel the anxiety, insomnia and otherwise unrest internally. We try to put a name on it, we try to diagnose it and yet we are left with discord and diagnosis undefined. We as a nation are not used to seeing violence in the form of protests in our streets, body bags being loaded into semi-trucks from the fallout of a pandemic that has not found its end and the lack of a leader to guide us out of chaos and into peace. Those images go in and then bounce around like the ricochet of a bullet leaving in its wake, damage. Minor damage for those that have the tools or resolve to digest it and flush it out and catastrophe for those that cannot imagine what they are experiencing.

I have had the benefit of talking to groups of friends and colleagues that all share their experience. The same experience that I am party to however my experience being different based on my resolve. It is your internal resolve that will drive you to act or retreat. It is that resolve that will show resource or surrender. Anxiety is the theme, regardless of the individual. Why do I feel emotional? Why am I angry? Why do I want to retreat or rebel? These are the questions we are ALL asking. It is now that we are forced to come to terms with the inside voice that has its own monologue, those thoughts that show up in neon lights that dare you to act…before you think. But don’t! Stop. Stop everything. Take it in. Allow it to show itself. STOP. Then decide…what’s next. Yes, it always comes back to this one fact, you decide. Even in today’s world; you decide what risk you are willing to take, what opinion you will have and who you will follow. YOU DECIDE.

It is indeed fair to say that this will leave a “mark”. Yes it will, it has to, as nothing this extreme will depart quietly. Whatever is eating you today, you must meet yourself where you are and find a way to digest it. Decide what is right for you. Be careful of what you are taking in as not everything is fortifying. Let the mark that is left be partnered with a time you can look back and be proud of how you handled yourself, always meeting yourself where you are and not defining yourself by the moment. Anxious yes, it is impossible not to be, but taking that moment to stop and realize that the resources that I have can reduce it all and make sure that the mark left is not a scar but a battle wound!

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 25

Day 25 prompt:

We perceive “normal” in the context of our own experiences. Someone who grew up with domestic abuse thinks that’s normal until someone who experienced a life without abuse shows you that the state you are in is not “normal”.

What about your normal have you come to realize isn’t or wasn’t “normal”?

My answer:

This prompt is too similar to ones before identifying the fact that normal for everyone of us is about our current condition, state or environment. What one calls normal another calls strange. The real-deal is living the life you want to live, how you want to live it and owning it. That does not mean that you are subscribing to norms or defined by anyone else’s normal it means that you ultimately decide what you want, how you want it and go get it.

It is our human experience and sharing those experiences that can create new norms for each other. It is sharing what we “know better” to those suffering unnecessary circumstances to help pull each other, not only out of a situation but one entire step up in your own life and others.

It doesn’t always have to be a tragic event. In my case I am finding a writer inside of me that years ago I did not know existed and then when exploring this new passion and coming to know other writers that make me realize that writing and being a writer is a norm for others. This realization means that it can also be a norm for me. I just have to give it the time.

Every single blog post has one common theme and denominator; YOU DECIDE. Every single cell in our bodies and moment in our lives exists because of a decision we made to eat, exercise or not, go to the party or not, welcome a new friend or not…it is all about decisions that we make along the way. If you are accepting a normal that is not serving you, you are deciding to live in that unfortunate state and likewise you can decide to change it. You decide.

Life as I live it – L.

Seeking Normal – Day 14

Day 14 prompt:

How do other people affect your normal? How do you control those affects? Do you choose who’s in your life and what role they play?

My answer:

Other people affect our lives in all roles we play. While we would like to believe that we can control everything, we know better, and in this case there are too many external factors that ultimately limit out ability to control who is in our lives. For example, you cannot choose your family, your coworkers, your neighbors or even the most remote of interactions like who gets behind you in line at the grocery store. For this reason the effort and practice that we need to deploy is about controlling how we react and what we tolerate.

In my life there are people that have and do ultimately affect me negatively however I have made a concerted effort to remove those people from my life. Where I don’t have the freedom to choose I have chosen to limit my interactions and ultimately to control my reaction. I have learned that people will show themselves without my assistance and my intervention can appear to be part of the problem versus a solve. I have also learned that saying nothing at all, or in this case not reacting, makes more of a statement than words ever could.

The reason this prompt is important in the discussion of “normal” is that if you do not take steps to control your reactions or continue to allow people in your life that do not serve you well, your reaction becomes your normal. A normal over time makes you a victim of those people. Becoming a “victim” in any sense of the word is never okay especially when you can control and deny the victimization.

The more I write about this topic and others the more I realize that the common denominator is ALWAYS your ability to DECIDE. You decide everything in life. You decide if you stay, if you go, who you go with, how you go…YOU DECIDE. It is the power of that decision that ultimately affects everything. This is a topic for another day but I must say that it is where I have seen people NOT decide for themselves that they play victim to their environment. NOT deciding is also a decision and if that is the choice you make, own it, don’t make excuses, don’t blame others, own it and where you don’t need to explain, don’t, just decide.

Life as I decide – L.

Your priorities are not mine but are they yours?

The idea of priorities have come up a number of times over the past week so I feel compelled to talk through the concept as I see it. Our priorities are what set our intention and purpose in our lives; or so they should. We decide what is important to us and then act upon those priorities. If it were only that easy it would not be a topic worth discussing but that it is not that easy makes it worthy of going on…and so I do.

The first thing we can can agree upon is that we will not agree on each others priorities. Those things that are important to me are likely not important to you. As family, friends or coworkers we may share some priorities but disagree on others and hence the debate about priorities. As we set out priorities we have to be unapologetic and own those things that are important to us regardless of how others value those same things. The issue here is that all priorities are not created equal. In my life I set those things as priority that revolve around family, health and finance. This means that my life revolves around these things as I see them as most important and therefore will decide how I navigate all other things as secondary to these three priorities.

This is where the topic turns, as this is where it can get dicey. We question each others priorities when they don’t match our own and worse when they get in the way of ours. This is where respect is key. If we respect each other then we respect each others priorities regardless of their importance to us. It means that when you make a decision to choose one thing over another that I don’t judge, I respect your choices and you mine. This is easiest when those decisions serve us and hardest when they don’t. When you don’t do what I want you to do because of what you deem as priority, the struggle is on.

Examples of how I navigate these and the hardships I face are as noted:

  • Family – my tribe. I am loyal to a fault to my family and friends. Once I “claim” you I will go to the ends of the earth for you. But will you do the same for me? That question is one that requires an exercise in compromise. This is where I have to be forgiving when your priorities do not match mine as part of my love for you is that you have priorities that you will not relent on and how I fit in that equation is mine to resolve. It does not always work out the way I want but nor will my priorities fit in with yours and I hope you will offer the same forgiveness.
  • Health – my life. I have made huge compromises in my life to be healthy and therefore it is a huge priority for me. I put it first and make room for it in my life. Making room sometimes means that I choose one thing over another for the sake of keeping my priorities. Choosing chicken over a burger is not one of those that may affect another but choosing to pass on going out for drinks or a late-night dinner may. I don’t drink and I prioritize 8 hours of sleep therefore I don’t do late nights any longer. This means when asked I will bow out of most of these situations for the sake of getting a good nights sleep. It is never personal except to me that knows what I need to function in this world optimally.
  • Finance – my career. I love what I do and I will do it for as long as can. It is about my passion for hospitality but also my love of financial independence. My life is lived easier feeling compelled and enthusiastic to get out of bed in the morning to go to a job I love with people I respect. The benefit of this passion is that through it I enjoy financial independence. I am able to live the life I want on my own accord and that matters to me.

All three of these priorities mean that I make sacrifices in my life and at times in the life of others to align my priorities with the asks of me in others lives.

The thing with priorities is that they are ours and don’t always “make sense” to others. My priorities have been tested along the way and that is how I have been able to cement what is important to me; those things I simply was not willing to relent on I knew were my life’s priorities. When you are attached to your priorities you are unapologetic and do not feel the need to defend. I think it is interesting when I see others questioning others priorities, in a couple of ways…

  • First the idea that we would question each others priorities is interesting in itself. We question what we don’t value but more importantly we question what doesn’t seem to have value to others. Checking priorities is an exercise for all.
  • Second the idea that you have to defend your priorities is a choice. I don’t defend what is important to me as I don’t see it as a debate. If asked I may explain why it is a priority for me but I will not defend what is not a fight for me. My priorities do not need to be yours and with that I am unapologetic.
  • Last, the integrity in our lives is tested through our priorities. I set them, I defend them but do I live them 100% of the time? This is where the debate can ensue. If I say “no” to you but then “yes” to another it brings into question the importance of that which I am willing to sacrifice my priorities.

Our priorities change over time as the seasons of our lives determine what is important. The fact that you have priorities is key, it is indeed about intention and living a life of purpose. You get to decide what those priorities are but you also have to be willing to live with those decisions. When others decide that your priorities are too far from their own they may move on. If you are willing to live with those consequences then you know you are aligned in your own life. This is a weighty decision and one that can find ourselves reevaluating our own priorities.

In the end or better yet at the beginning of setting those guardrails in your life ask yourself, “Is it really that important?” and “What and who am I willing to give-up?”. In the end, and at the beginning, you decide. L.