Can Anyone Have it All?


In my last article, Can Women Have it All?  I shared the story of Anne-Marie Slaughter who makes some pretty dramatic career (and life) decisions as she reflected more deeply about her life, priorities and values.

I also think men can learn from her example.  They too are subject to social and peer pressures that cause them to put personal and family priorities to the background.  (In my personal case, I was deeply career driven, as CEO of my own company.   While I achieved a level of career success, I see now that it came with a cost.  I did a poor job of balancing my home/work life and often wish I could go back and live that part of my life over again.   Unfortunately, there are no do-overs.)

So I think the Slaughter story raises a broader question, not only about women seeking to balance work and family but for all of us trying to make key life decisions, managing career, personal life, family and community service.

Personal Leadership Lessons

I believe that whether you are a man or woman, you can’t have it all.  Not if you live your life according to the standards and expectations of others.   You can have it all if you think deeply about what matters to you in life, and act according to your internal voice.

The notion of acting in ways that are healthy for you is a fundamental premise in the Personal Leadership work we do at Xavier.   There is no such thing as a work life separate from a home life, separate from a personal life.   We think these three all must integrate with each other.   Having any one of the three missing for you, imparts an imbalance in your life that often adversely impacts the other two dimensions. Most of us know that burdens that make you miserable at work will surely be carried home with you.  Many managers also know from experience that an employee going through problems at home often underperforms at work.

We need to look at our lives in a holistic way, looking at what we feel, value and want.  For many of us, work is an important part of it, but not the whole.  We can’t compartmentalize, but need to find a reasonable balance between all three areas.  Here are some points to contemplate.

Life Goals: What’s Important to You?

Start thinking about what you feel is most important in our life.  Make a list.  Push yourself to consider things related to money, work, family, friend relationships, community involvement and personal development.  Be strategic, learning Tai-Chi, for most of us, is not likely a life’s goal.   Once these are listed, try to put them in order of importance both today, and in the future.   (Sometimes our short and long-term priorities are different).   Next, do a self-assessment against each of these (at least the most important ones).  Rank them on a scale from 1-10 indicating your satisfaction with each item.   You may have listed for example, that you wanted to be financially successful such that you could retire when you turn 60. So rate how satisfied you are with whether you are currently on track toward that goal.

Work life: Setting the realistic goal.   Getting ahead at work takes some level of commitment.  Each company has a different culture and the success requirements may be very different depending on where you work.   What is your aspiration?   Think about what it would take in time commitment to reach your desired goal, whether you aspire to be a department head, VP or even CEO.  Think about how many hours per week are left to apply to the following goal areas.

Family Life: What does success look like, and take?  Ask anyone who is a parent or spouse, marriages and parenting take time.    What do you look like if you are a great parent, or spouse? How much emotional energy and time do you feel you want to be able to devote to your kids, parents, siblings, relatives and spouse? Going to soccer games, dance recitals, band concerts or just playing games with your kids takes an effort.  Reminding and showing your spouse how much you care about them is also worth considering.  Think about the circumstances when family trumps work, and vise-versa.

Personal Life: What do I need to feed ME?   Here is the one that most usually suffers – especially earlier in our adult lives.   What are the things you need to do solely to care for you?  Golf? Working out? Quiet time for reading?  Time with your buds? Girls’ night out?  Vegging out in front of the TV or PC? Working at your church? A personal hobby?  What will help feed you over your lifetime?

Try to imagine how many hours per week you feel it is reasonable to assign your time across all these things.   Think about 14 hours per day or 98 hours per week as available to fill.   How does it look?  Are you close to balancing desired with available hours when you get all done?   If so, you have a plan.   If not, you have some soul-searching to do.

I strongly encourage you to discuss your goals with our spouse, (or a close personal friend).  It helps to have someone who will speak openly with you about your dreams and ambitions and even challenge you.

We do have some tools and templates at XLC to use for this exercise.   We would be happy to share them with you if you email me at brzozowskil@xavier.edu.

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