Instead of Work-Life Balance, Learn to Live a Blended Life
Many career practitioners struggle to find a balance between their family and their career. Yikes! Even as I write that sentence, I cringe. What is this elusive “balance” that people refer to? Instead of balance, I have learned to live a “blended” life.
In his book Who’s Got Your Back, author Keith Ferrazzi writes about the idea of living a blended life, not a balanced one. “The elements you see in [your life] aren’t individual territories or fiefdoms. They should, and will, overlap!”
This got me thinking about how often I struggle to balance my own life. Whether it’s coaching a six-figure executive through a career transition, getting outside to run when it’s pouring rain, helping the kids with their homework, getting groceries, volunteering with CPC, scheduling a Zoom call with my running friends from Victoria, planning what’s for dinner, or finding the time I need to get out for a paddle, I have to stop looking at these things as separate from one another. They come together to create one key element — my life.
My take on Ferrazzi’s advice is this: stop trying to balance a myriad of unconnected goals from different areas of life, whether they involve family, finances, fitness, career, or love. Instead, learn to blend your goals into one incredibly fulfilling and rewarding life.
So that’s what I’ve been doing: finding ways to blend activities in my life to make it the best it can be!
The following are some of my cherished secrets — the things I’ve learned that make “blending” all components of my life a little easier.
Lose the Drama
Whatever it is that’s taking your focus away from the things you want to accomplish in life, drop it! Tough as it sounds, it’s time to let that annoying or frustrating person in your life — even if it’s you — know that you are tired of listening to the complaints about their boss, kids, spouse, and/or the supermarket cashier.
It’s time to choose happiness over drama. Making this choice may mean choosing to spend less time with the source (or sources) of your frustration. Dealing with drama takes energy, so when you lose the drama, you’ll have more energy to focus on living a blended life.
You might instead seek out the company of positive people who can motivate you, inspire you, or open you up to a whole new way of thinking. Choosing who will surround you is as important as being open to new people in your surroundings. When you encircle yourself with the best people, it almost works like osmosis; they can bring out the very best in you. Imagine how great that will feel!
Get the Support You Need
My colleague Linda Schnabel speaks about the importance of asking for help. She remarks about the significance of moral, referral, strategic, financial, and family support. We all need a little help from time to time; and having a strong support network encourages us to move well beyond our current situation, in pursuit of excellence.
People want to help. It’s true. If given the opportunity to help someone close to you, you would, wouldn’t you? You might be surprised at how often we could gain access to the things we want, from within our own networks (think: hockey tickets, job interview, introduction to the nice neighbour down the street), but because we don’t ask for them, we don’t receive them.
Similar to the law of attraction principle (you have to know what you’re after and “put it out there”), you have to get your message to the people closest to you — ask, guide, coach, explain, inform — and let your contacts know how they can help you.
Be Inspired By Others
As a runner, I know that if I want to improve, I need to challenge myself by running with people who are one or two levels (or more) above me. By watching, following, and imitating these runners, I learn so much. Doing this one small thing encourages me to push myself to go further and faster than if I were setting goals by myself. For example, my friend Carlea inspired me to try a Peloton workout with her and in return I suggested we sign up for a Vancouver Island race (where we would run 200km between June 1 and July 31). If I were doing it alone I might hesitate to sign up, but knowing we’d be together to keep each other accountable and offer mutual support was comforting and motivating.
A few years ago, I watched a YouTube video called “Altering Expectations.” After watching it, I was inspired. Kimberley Teshima’s journey inspired me to reach outside my comfort zone and strive for a big audacious goal! That summer, with Carlea by my side, we trained for the Oregon Coast 30K and that fall, we ran and completed the course together (my longest run to date).
Now switch gears and imagine yourself being the inspiration. It doesn’t matter if it’s running, hiking, or pursuing life or career dreams — you can be the one doing the inspiring. Look for opportunities to blend inspiration into your work and life.
Answer the Call
I strongly admire Lydia Fernandes. Lydia initially reached out to me through Twitter, using a direct message (DM) to make a personal connection. We arranged to meet over the phone and, later, she asked me to participate as a blog contributor. She asked that I write two articles and share my story with our community of career pros. Sure, I was busy (who isn’t?); however, Lydia asked! And I admire that, so I said, “YES, I’d love to participate — what do you need from me?”
Many of my closest strategic partnerships have started over a cup of coffee, a telephone call, or an email. I’ve learned that when someone wants to meet you — say yes! You never know how valuable this connection may become.
Sage Advice From Mom: You’re Responsible for Your Own Happiness
Just days before my wedding, my mother sat me down and told me, “Maureen, he’ll never make you happy.” My mom always knew how to get my attention and, that day, she had it! Shocked, I could feel my heart pounding. I was about to launch into a combination of defensive/offensive responses when she continued, “…because that’s not his job, it’s yours.”
Twenty one years later — and still married — that advice reminds me to continue to seek the things that make me happy. Being the master of my own happiness is empowering. Knowing it is my job to have a great life and be the kind of person I want to be means I keep myself accountable for the excuses I make when life gets difficult.
When my life is not working for me, there is only one person to blame: ME! I’m the common denominator in everything that happens in my life, and it’s disingenuous and pointless to point the finger outward.
It’s your job to make yourself happy. No one will do it for you – not your spouse, your kids, your best friend, or your boss. It’s you, just you.
In Summary: To Live a Blended Life…
1- Lose the drama.
2- Ask for and get the support you need.
3- Be inspired and motivated by others.
4- Answer the call when someone asks for your help or collaboration.
5- Remember that it’s up to you to make yourself happy!
Maureen McCann is a fierce advocate of career development, committed to preparing Canadians for the future of work. Founder of Promotion Career Solutions, she is one of Canada’s top executive résumé writers with 15-plus years’ experience teaching, mentoring, and facilitating career development. She is a senior board advisor to Career Professionals of Canada and an active member of both the Canadian Council for Career Development Outreach & Advocacy committee and the Canadian Career Development Foundation’s National Stakeholder Committee.