I’ve been thinking a lot this summer about taking breaks. Both my own personal experience and research point to how important it is to step back from work. But this isn’t always easy. It’s hard to know when work stops and life begins because, really, the two aren’t separate. Earlier in my career, I sought to have work-life balance. I wanted clear boundaries around work so that I had time for my life. Later, around the time I had my first little one, I wanted work-life integration. I liked the idea that I could flow from one focus to another as the spirit moved me. I so loved the work I was doing at the time – this was in the first few years of having launched Point Road – and it really felt like I was doing the work of my heart for the first time. This was a great feeling not unlike the honeymoon period of early marriage. And I was in similarly delightful spot as a new mom. But eventually this way of working/living got a little cloudy. I would spend so much time in one area that the other suffered and I ended up feeling like I couldn’t do either well. I wasn’t ready to give up on having it all, but I couldn’t ignore that I was feeling burned out.
To combat the burnout, I came back to boundary setting. This is a space I’m still in today. But here the focus isn’t on laying out boundaries between work and life so much as being clear about what I am and am not going to do at a given time in any part of my life. The change here is subtle, but I think for me the biggest difference is that I can attend to the thing that needs attending to at a given period of time. Sometimes this means I’m focusing more on work because I’m in the midst of launching a new course offering and working in a fast and furious burst feels right. Other times this means my attention skews towards my family because my kids are in a transitional moment and need more cuddles from their mama.
One of the things that has surprised me in this focus is that I may still split my time the same way and do the same kind of activities, but the energy I am devoting to one focus or another shifts. I’m literally just thinking about things differently and that makes a huge difference in my experience.
This emphasis on choosing my focus gives me space to change things up and it also holds me accountable to being clear about what I choose. I will never achieve this focus once and for all and and be done. It is a regular practice that I am in each and every day. When I start with this clarity there is an ease that shines through in everything else that I do. Boundary setting is actively part of the way I am living and leading today. And it works for me.
There is a podcaster and entrepreneur I admire who often says that consistency breeds legitimacy. She usually means this related to producing content – whether your blog or your podcast – at a set time each week. She espouses the trust this instills in your audience and I agree with her. Only for me, my own form of consistency isn’t about doing the same thing at a set time each week. (Though that discipline really works for me with Design Yourself!)
My consistency is more about choice and intention. I am 100% committed – is there any other kind of commitment?! – to choosing what I take on with thought and purpose. And I bring that same intentionality to what I choose NOT to do (#dontdolist).
I don’t always choose wisely. Sometimes I end up with so much on my plate that I feel overwhelmed. Sometimes I sit back for so long that I spin my wheels thinking about something and not actually taking steps to realize its existence. All the time I am imperfect. And that’s okay. Because to be human is to be imperfect. But if we can appreciate all those idiosyncrasies and not let it tear us down, there is huge potential for how we can be and what we can contribute. Build your foundation on your imperfections. Honor that you are both amazing and not amazing. Because just as there is power in choosing, there is power in owning what is true. The good and the bad. And if you can sit with both and honor and appreciate both. Well that is magic, my friends.
So here is my own personal commitment: To be consistent in how I show up (real, changing, imperfect), to be consistent in changing what I do to suit the needs of my tribe and myself, and to keep learning and growing in the process.
What are you committed to, I wonder?