This year I’ve committed to practising work/life balance. Yes, yes, I did think I’d made that commitment for each of the seven years since I set up a business working from home, but it turned out I’d only made a commitment to worrying about it. In my defence, this commitment was backed up by a comprehensive action plan, where I attempted to work full time as a book coach and editor, as well as working full time as a mum and award winning homemaker, settle two families into a new blended household, run a not-for-profit organisation for over 800 women entrepreneurs, and be at the gym before dawn at least three days per week.
Needless to say I now have a lot more grey hair, am carrying a few extra kilos and the floor is littered with dropped juggling balls.
I knew I was doing it wrong, but couldn’t put my finger on just which part of my goal-based, outcome-oriented action plan needed tweaking. Go figure.
Then my kids and I went to East Africa last December, and it all seemed to fall into place. Of course it’s pretty easy to get everything on your to-do list done each day when you are on the adventure of a lifetime, have a personal driver and all meals and accommodation are presented ready to go and then cleaned up afterwards, by persons other than yourself.
But somewhere in there, somewhere in three weeks of no school, work or internet, the penny dropped. I just had to stop trying so hard, and do what was actually important instead of what was physically possible.
Even writing this kind of crazy pie in the sky ideal is pretty hard for a manic overachiever who has spent so many years pushing to overcome adversity, to rebuild, to be successful, to provide opportunities for a family that sat at the bottom of the social heap. There’s pretty powerful motivation in leaving a toxic marriage and living beyond a tsunami, but I was running so fast to overcome the deep dark past, aiming for higher and higher goals, that I didn’t realise I’d long passed the finish line and was not showing any signs of slowing down. I’d swapped being a harried single mother for a harried business woman and called it progress.
I’m lucky enough along the way to have built a business doing what I love, and I certainly won’t be stopping that. Helping people write books that make a difference, is work I truly believe in. It makes tiny little ripples in the big puddle of life, and I am grateful every day for being a part of the change I want to see in the world. That said, balancing my work against the greater goal of making a difference in the lives of my extended family, is easier said than done.
Loving your business and having great ideas for making it bigger and better is both a blessing and a curse. This year, what is possible will be assessed against what serves my life goals. I suspect many of my business achievements are ever so shiny and clever, but not necessary.
So here I stand, on the threshold of something new. In all honesty I don’t know how I’m going to pull this off, this slower version of me that stops and smells the roses. But I remember standing in my living room ten years ago, surrounded by piles of other people’s ironing while my babies slept, having no idea how I was going to build the new life I wanted but knowing without a doubt that I would do it anyway. So I feel some small comfort in knowing I can do absolutely anything I set my mind to, I can even do nothing once in a while. Oh, maybe that last bit was over the top. Maybe I’ll leave doing nothing till I’ve had a bit of practice at the slow thing.