Nearly every day I talk with bright and caring women who feel they are running in place. They are working hard but not getting anywhere. Seeking more satisfaction or “work-life balance,” a term I’m not fond of, these women generally fall into one of three categories:
- Stay-at-home mothers who live with the nagging worry that they’ll never find a meaningful job that leaves them enough time and energy to remain connected to their children.
- Employed mothers who feel overwhelmed by career and family responsibilities and have no time or energy for themselves.
- Smart women who work tirelessly and endlessly yet can’t seem to advance in their careers.
Some have given up. Forget reaching their destination—they are treading water, just trying not to sink! Others have simply accepted their situation as a part of life. The following statements are examples of that attitude:
“No one will hire me; I’ve been out of the workforce too long.”
“I need more billable hours—cutting back at work would be career suicide.”
“My child gets upset when I miss a soccer practice, let alone a game.”
“I made a commitment to running this dreadful committee—I can’t get out of it.”
If you feel similarly, please don’t give up. There are options. Here are some suggestions based on my work with clients:
- Look for ways to slow the pace. Question your assumptions about what really needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and what the real deadline is. Regularly ask yourself, “What is the right thing for me to do right now?” Recognize the importance of rest and giving your brain a break.
- Remember that your thoughts and words shape your reality. Be aware of the things you say and what you tend to obsess about. Replace worried or negative thoughts and words with statements that are true but inspiring, or actions that are energizing. For example, instead of saying, “I’m so busy,” say, “I live an active, full life.” Instead of thinking, “My skills are becoming obsolete with each passing year,” make a list of the little, even obscure, things you learn every day.
- Pay close attention to what’s going right in your life. You may be moving forward without even realizing it. Because the human brain is wired to focus on what’s missing or going wrong, you may not be recognizing that your hard work is actually paying off.
- Find ways to do less while doing things better. Say no to obligations and people who leave you feeling drained. Wholeheartedly say yes to activities and people who energize you. (Need help? Check out this article.) Worry less about making everyone happy; concentrate on making key people happy. Skip extraneous details, focusing on the essential parts. (Want more? Check out this book.)
If you believe you’ve tried all the above and you still feel stuck, ask for help. Recognize that it’s very difficult to see your way out when you’re feeling stuck. If you’re caught in a maze, you see only walls. If you’re a worm, it’s hard to imagine the bird’s-eye view. What’s needed is to find a way to see the bigger picture. It helps to talk with someone who isn’t a part of your day-to-day life—someone who cares about you and your goals but doesn’t have a vested interest in what you do. If you’d like to talk to me to see how you can get unstuck and get some satisfaction, please click here.
Whatever you do, don’t give up.