May 22, 2012

Balancing Life

I have a lot to say about my experience with the Colfax Marathon, but before I get to writing my race report, I really want to write about some amazing things I’m experiencing this week.

As a reward for my promotion this past year, I was invited to go on a personal development retreat out in California. We are staying at a stunningly beautiful resort on the Pacific Coast, eating delicious (and surprisingly healthy!) food, doing morning workouts outside overlooking the ocean… and spending a lot of time in seminars and one-on-one coaching sessions to do a checkpoint on our lives, identify our values and goals, and figure out what changes we need to make to be happy. It’s so rare that we ever take the time to stop and think about these things (or at least, I don’t). I am overwhelmed with gratitude to my company for providing this opportunity, which I can already see is going to be life changing.

But on the other hand, I’m also pretty freaked out by it all. When I truly stop to think about it, I am not honoring my core values, and I’m not often getting to do what makes me happy (professionally or personally). While I am an extremely goal-oriented person, I’m starting to realize that what I’m terrible about is identifying those goals to begin with. Instead of setting goals that are really what’s important to me, I set goals that I think I should set. I should work hard to get promoted, because that’s what people do. I should go out with my friends on a Saturday night because that’s what 20somethings do, even if I’m exhausted and getting sick from lack of sleep. I should finish running a marathon in each state, because I came up with the idea on a whim but then I told so many people that I felt I needed to stick with it.

To be fair, most of the goals I’ve set are ones that I’m glad I stuck with. I’m proud of myself for running a marathon in all 50 states – probably even more proud of the fact that I stuck with it despite it not always being easy or fun to do so. I’m glad I went out with my friends on Saturday night, because I had an absolute blast and it was great to catch up. And I’m glad that I’m doing well at my job, working hard, and continuing to get promotions and bonuses. But are promotions and bonuses the way I define success? They’re how society has taught me to measure it, but I’m not so sure that they’re what I actually want.

Food for thought: take a minute and draw the four circles of your life. Draw one for career, one for family, one for community/friends, and one for self. Maybe something like this…

How do your circles look now? How do you want them to look (doesn’t have to be the same as above)? What, if anything, do you need to change to get them to look the way you want?

Here’s what I drew:

I have a lot of change ahead…


13 thoughts on “Balancing Life”

  1. These are things that I do actually think about but still find it hard to act on. Too much outside pressure and expectations which I sometimes care about and sometimes don’t.

    I am not sure if I would have the guts to make some of the changes I would actually like to make…

    That is awesome that your work actually sponsored something like this!!

  2. damn, you’re making me make a habit of this commenting thing. That wouldn’t be Ansilomar, just south of Monterey Bay and a bit north of Carmel and Point Lobos, would it?

    That is definitely a first class spot to do professional and personal development. I have yet to make it, but there is a great professional week long conference for my career down there as well, it is on my must-do list.

    PS If you want a wonderful clear-your-head spot for a hike/run take a shuttle down to Point Lobos State Park (less than 15 minutes) – it is small but a whole other world over there.

  3. I have to be honest, I find the little circle of “self” to be a bit over the top. Any time I spend working out, I put in that self bucket. As one who traveled and did management consulting for 8 years, I get it. It’s a hard lifestyle and it’s a perpetual challenge to do everything you want and meet life commitments too. That said, it is a choice and even though you may down shift careers down the road, don’t assume that the stress will lessen. Some things are just ingrained and professional services does pay you for that stress! Take the time to think about it but don’t expect to have a solution either. Learning to come at peace with where you are and where the journey will take you is huge. Hang in there – it gets better and acceptance can go a long way.

  4. Celia – YES to outside pressure and expectations. This week has been very eye-opening and scary for exactly the reasons you said – it takes guts to do whatever YOU want to do when society doesn’t support it.

    Danny – nope, we’re at Terranea. Pretty amazing place!

    Elizabeth – I think where I’m not grateful for that is because I feel like even workouts are not necessarily I want to do, but something society/etc pressures me to do. During the week, I work out twice a day (in an attempt to lose those “vanity pounds” that I know don’t make a difference to actual health). The big realization I’ve come to is that I really don’t put much value into having a high salary – if I knew I could take, say, a $20k pay cut in exchange for not having to travel, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, setting boundaries isn’t quite as cut and dry as that, so it’s tough to make those choices without having all the info.

  5. Have you considering examining what this “society” you refer to is? I’ve heard this chant for other very type A 20 somethings, even when I WAS a 20 something and I don’t get it. You live a huge, diverse city and have traveled fairly extensively. Figure out what you want and you will find a community to support it, don’t point the finger at societal expectations, because honestly we live in far too diverse a society for there to be one right path you’re forced down.

  6. Just to be a devil advocate, and I hate to say this because I am the same way, but you CHOSE this path. While I think the traveling of consulting is very daunting (and probably annoying at times), it’s something that you CHOSE.

    I often complain about my job (because it leaves me little time for the things I want to do), but at the end of the day, if I want to change, I can get a new job. It means making HUGE RISK…financially and also redefining what success means to me…but if its something you/I want you/I can do it.

  7. Meg – Mythical Society of High Achievers 😉 But no, you are exactly right – I’ll write some more about what I’m learning this week but as I mentioned, one thing in particular that’s been eye opening has been figuring out a definition of success (still working on that one).

    Jocelyn – you are ABSOLUTELY right, and that’s what the crazy part of all this is to me. I feel like I’ve gotten forced into doing what I’m doing just by societal pressures to succeed (get the best job, rack up the most achievements, etc), but really, I CHOSE this path, and I can choose another one any time. Goodness knows I’ve gotten plenty of other job offers for VERY different lifestyles, but I’ve been too scared to give up the perks of my current job – even though I’m now starting to recognize that those perks are fairly meaningless TO ME. Of course, the tricky part of all this is that I’m pretty much the most risk averse person ever!

  8. Also be careful with statements that you are a higher achiever than others. Many of us work hard, achieve and honestly are doing things with a far greater impact on society than consulting. As I’ve told a couple other people I know battling the “society” myth. You ain’t special, stop acting like it.

    Maybe part of maturing and becoming a true achiever is being comfortable enough with yourself not to stand there saying LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME.

  9. Meg – apparently I should not leave short comments because the sarcasm doesn’t come across; I meant that to be completely tongue-in-cheek. I sincerely hope I don’t come across as a “LOOK AT ME” type.

  10. Hey Laura, Megan is right.

    Congrats on being the youngest person to run marathons in 50 states, that’s truly an accomplishment. But don’t compromise your desire to enjoy and share this legacy with others by publishing a blog as one-dimensional and conceited as yours is.

    I think you have done something amazing and as such people look up to you. You owe it to them to be much less of a brat than you currently come across as.

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