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I was recently talking with a C-level executive about what are challenges that she herself still faces in the workplace.  The first topic that she raised was work life balance, and the persistent question about whether women can “have it all”.  She told a story about speaking recently to a group of about 50 of their company’s women leaders in India. They were surprised that even in the U.S. this issue of whether “women can have it all” is an on-going challenge. She spoke about some “teary eyed” stories she heard from the group there, the added pressure from family and in-laws to be a good wife and mother.  She also spoke about the guilt she feels when she travels, about being away from her child. She reflected about how her Dad traveled often for work, but perhaps didn’t feel the same guilt because he saw his role as “the provider” and how role definition for women in societies around the world as the primary family nurturer causes many of us to feel this guilt.

There is a great book on this topic called “Women Driven to Success: You can Have YOUR All” by Dr. Jane Goldner. In the book Dr. Goldner suggests, we’ve been having the wrong discussion. It is about “YOUR” all not “it” all. Over the last several years, there has been much discussion about “Can women have it all?”. It is as though there were some universal “it all” for all women, especially women leaders who are driven to success. Dr. Goldner wrote the book to start the real discussion on “What is YOUR All?” Here is a summary of her advice.

Advice from Dr. Goldner

Once you discover YOUR all, it should guide all your decisions in all your roles, that includes inside the workplace and out. Discovering YOUR All means creating a personal mission and purpose, and vision (what you could be at your best) as well as identifying the few key values that you would not compromise even for a million dollars. I call it your Core, reflecting your priorities, what’s really important to you.

It is about Role Integration not work life balance, which sets up unrealistic expectations. Work-life balance is achievable right after world peace! Work is a role we do in life so why have we separated it out? Living our priorities is more about how we integrate our multiple roles of professional, spouse, mother, friend, volunteer,

One choice is not to be Everything-to-Everybody. When we try to be everything, it has negative health consequences. You need to make choices, based on your priorities, and accept the associated trade-offs. Trying to be everything-to-everybody uses our time and energy to acquiesce to other people’s demands instead of our priorities.  The result is our staying in a constant state of stress that leads to ill-health effects. We need to make choices and trade-offs based on what is important to us, our all.

Role models are great. Learn from them. Decide what would work for you and adapt not adopt the learning. Don’t attempt to be them. I learned from experience that trying to be the role models has negative effects. When I was younger, I had two specific role models, one who excelled in the work world and one who excelled in the family world. As I was attempting to copy them both, my doctor informed me that I had a heart attack. As Dr. Phil asks, “How’s that working for you?” It wasn’t!

Once you are clear on YOUR all then you need to learn the essential tools to get it, especially negotiation and constructive confrontation. The other essential tools are: developing a support system, delegating, finding mentors & sponsors.

If this resonated for you, please comment, subscribe, and share with others.

Additional Resources

Seven Paradigm Shifts for the New 24/7 Normal

Leadership Practices for Work Life Sanity

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