Work-life balance: can you have your cake an eat it too?

Having it all is a subjective thing. Everyone measures success in different ways, and through their own filter of what it actually means. Same goes for work-life balance. In fact, I’d argue that, for society’s high achievers, the notion of work-life balance falls by the wayside in pursuit of the upper echelons of success.

If I’m completely honest in asking the question, can you really have it all? I’d say probably not, particularly with a young family. It’s a clichéd thing to say, but your priorities definitely shift when kids come into the picture. And I say that in the most positive way.

Like anything in life, something typically has to give. If you are hellbent on achieving work-life balance to fit in more time with the family, the real question you need to ask is this: what am I prepared to sacrifice to get the balance right? I can only speak for myself, but that’s precisely the crossroads I arrived at a few years back. And you know what? I’m glad did.

Looking back

Prior to starting a family and launching Guardian Wealth Partners, here’s what success meant for me:

  • I measured what I was earning against everyone else and thought I needed everyone to think I was great at my job
  • I was driven by a fear of failure
  • I worked all the time – often at the office, I was first in and last to leave – and work was never far from my mind.
  • I used my work status as a barometer for how I felt I was doing in life

Want to know how this left me feeling? To be completely honest, I felt perpetually dissatisfied and I wouldn’t say I was particularly happy, work wise. I was often stressed and exhausted, which, speaking from experience, really does impact on the rest of your life.

My life right now

Over a year into ditching my career to start Guardian Wealth Partners, I feel I’m well on the way to achieving a semblance of work-life balance. In fact, I now feel like I’m focusing my energy on the right things and I’d put that down to a couple of key considerations:

  • With a young child, I’ve realised that I can’t do everything, so I’ve had to reprioritise what’s important and what I can actually get done
  • My attitude to work’s changed completely
  • I no longer place earning the most money I possibly can above everything else in my life

Here a few pointers that worked for me

Be prepared to break the mould

For me, thinking that my success was ultimately tied to money was a huge barrier to break through. So much so that it took a good while to reign in the ego I’d built up around my career. Sometimes it takes a humbling experience, which, in my instance, was starting a business from scratch. Once you start to accept that change will cause a bit of upfront pain – and genuinely feel comfortable with that – things start to become a little easier.

Write yourself a list

Have a good think around what you think truly makes you happy and write them down. Now choose three. What would they be? I know, tough, right?

To give you some idea, this was my list a couple of years back:

  • Wealth, finance and money
  • Family
  • Social
  • Health and fitness
  • Career and business
  • Personal and intellectual development
  • Recreation, hobbies and having fun

And here’s what that looks like now:

  • Family
  • Business
  • Health and fitness

Meaning, here’s what I’m prepared to sacrifice in order to focus on these:

  • Income
  • Social status
  • Wanting more, more, more

Make a few small changes right away

Take your top-three priorities and identify three small, incremental changes you can make right now – and give them a go. That said, if you’re struggling here, it might be worth considering getting some professional advice, particularly if it’s around money.

Give yourself time

Change doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, I’d argue that it took a good three to four years to start achieving a comfortable work-life balance. In saying that, it’s not something you arrive at and never have to do anything again – it’s something you need to constantly work at.

Form a mental picture of where you want to be

I’m talking in four to five years. Having a clear idea of what you’re working towards will definitely help you along the way. As a guide, here’s where I’ve arrived at, which ticks most of the boxes I’ve been working towards over the past few years:

  • I’ve got the flexibility to design my day around me – be it kids, work or fitness
  • My family and I get away for at least one week every three months
  • I’m now completely present when I’m with my wife and kids
  • Work’s only 25 minutes from home now, which is fantastic
  • I constantly feel challenged and engaged (in a positive way) as I’m learning and growing our business
  • My income is relatively low compared to my previous career, but I’m infinitely happier
  • The only time I think about work at home is if I’m really excited about something
  • I do personal training three to four times a week, during work hours now

The real outtake, for me, is finding out what’s really important to you and wholeheartedly committing to what you’re prepared to sacrifice to make that happen.