I have never seen “Working Girl” with Sigourney Weaver and Melanie Griffith. However, when I hear people complaining about “not having it all,” I see an image in my mind’s eye of two women with blue eyeshadow and big shoulder pads lamenting the state of the workforce.
(Cue the wind machine! Carly Simon singing, “Let the river run!“)
I don’t know much about life beyond my view as a human resources consultant, but I do know that nobody has it all. Not famous actresses, not management gurus, and certainly not talent advisors. And I also know that — from Istanbul to Omaha to Sydney — people around the world have tackled the issues of work-life balance and said, “Enough is enough.”
It is possible to have healthy boundaries and turn off the noise, the bright lights, and the distractions. Here are a few steps.
1. Have Someone’s Back.
Cadillac had a commercial for its SUV called “Stacy’s Mom.” If you haven’t seen it, a hot mom wearing a good suit drops off her kids in a carpool line.
All the dads are like, “Whoa, that mom has got her act together!”
I’m sure we can all agree that it’s nice to see a hot mom on TV. But that hot mom can drop her kids off at school because someone — a colleague, her assistant, her supervisor, or even her life partner — has her back. And if she’s doing it right, that hot mom will offer social support to others at the office. She will provide cover so that another mom, hot or not, can have a few extra minutes in the morning with her kids, too.
2. Be the Change.
So many of us are all talk and no action. Unless you are the ruler of a sovereign nation, turn off the phone and pay attention to the real world. Your job doesn’t require you to be on call in the middle of the night and on weekends. Start small and set up a device-free zone in your house. Turn off your mobile devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Don’t send emails on nights and weekends.
Think you can’t get away? You are delusional. No talent advisor has ever been fired for being competent, leading by example, and taking a vacation day with his kids. Change has to start somewhere. Why not with you?
3. Failure Means You’re Trying.
I recently had the privilege of listening to Gadadhara Pandit Dasa talk about incorporating meditation into the everyday lives of workers. He ran a nine-week mindfulness course for 30 executives at a very large company. Every week, he had 100 percent attendance in his class. However, nearly 100 percent of the class told him that they struggled to find time to incorporate five minutes of meditation into their lives outside of that class.
That doesn’t surprise me. But let’s give it some context. Thomas Edison once wrote, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
Maybe meditation and mindfulness aren’t for you — so fight like hell to find the one thing that gives you a sense of peace and calm in life. Maybe it’s running. Maybe it’s quilting. Maybe you need one night that’s dedicated to doing nothing but catching up on old magazines that are accumulating on your dining room table.
(I can’t be the only one.)
Whatever it is, do it.
One More Thing…
Don’t feel that accepting the noise and chaos of life is your only option. I was lucky enough to hear Shawn Achor speak at a human resources conference about happiness, and he emphasized that noise kills productivity and innovation. If you take a child with ADHD, remove her from a noisy situation, and give her mind an opportunity to rest (and learn) in a quiet environment, she will begin to thrive. Simply put, your brain processes noise first. Remove the noise, and you have better outcomes.
I truly believe that the only way to turn off the noise and end the chaos of life is to take a stand and turn it off. In my eyes, failure is not an option. I’ll keep trying, and I hope you will, too.
Throughout the month of July, our resident talent advisors are discussing issues around work-life balance. Subscribe to Talent Advisor to stay on top of the latest blog posts and discussions around unlimited PTO, modeling good work-life behaviors as an employer, working from home, gender differences and PTO, maternity and paternity leave, and much more.