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And I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to figure out what happened to–and perhaps recover from–the summer! Because for the past few months, I’ve often felt out-of-whack. I got out of my groove, the good habits I’ve been working on all year fell to the wayside, and my productivity tanked.
But that’s not to say it was a bad summer—far from it! We had an amazing two months in Washington State, and then a fantastic family trip to Ireland and the UK, followed by an insanely incredible ACTIVATE: EBA Live event in Orlando. All good things.
Because what I am learning is that sometimes life is a tradeoff.
In fact, the older (and hopefully wiser) I get, the more I am beginning to realize that balance doesn’t always mean dividing my time equally between worthy endeavors, but instead learning how to focus all my attention on the top priority at any given time.
Not long ago, I read an excerpt from an interview with Jennifer Garner, where in reference to her ex-husband, Ben Affleck, she said “When his sun shines on you, you feel it. But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it’s cold. He can cast quite a shadow.”
And while she was speaking specifically about her marriage, it struck me that in a way, this is just the nature of life. When our sun is shining in one area, there will be a shadow somewhere else.
A couple of years ago, in a commencement address at Dartmouth University, Shonda Rhimes spoke to this phenomenon as well. In response to the question, ‘how do you do it all,’ she said:
“The answer is this: I don’t.
Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means I am failing in another area of my life. If I am killing it on a script for work, I am probably missing bath and story time at home. If I am at home sewing my kids’ Halloween costumes, I’m probably blowing off a rewrite I was supposed to turn in….If I am succeeding at one, I am inevitably failing at the other. That is the tradeoff….
You never feel a hundred percent OK; you never get your sea legs; you are always a little nauseous. Something is always lost. Something is always missing.”
Regardless of how you feel about Shonda Rimes, she makes a good point.
And I’ll be honest—I used to feel pretty guilty for not being able to successfully juggle everything all at once. It felt like no matter how well I was doing in one area of my life, there was something else that was falling behind, some other ball that was being dropped. It was so frustrating!
Because I think as women we have this idea that we are supposed to be able to do it all, that we should have it all together all the time, and that if we aren’t somehow managing to do all the things we want to be doing or think we should be doing at any given time, then we are failing.
But we’re not.
The truth is that no one can do it all, and the ones who say they can are almost certainly lying. There is always a shadow somewhere. There is always a ball that will be dropped.
If we are busy working to put food on the table, chances are there is a pile of laundry in the corner that never quite goes away. If we are busy trying to shuttle three kids between four different sport, then chances are an organic, made-from-scratch meal is simply not going to happen. If we are focused on trying to get out of debt, then perhaps we haven’t had much time to keep up with our friends. If we are busy trying to build a business or finish a big project, there are other projects that get left behind.
And that’s okay. Ultimately, I think sometimes balance is just knowing where the balls landed so that you can pick them up again later.
The reality is that nobody can do it all, and the ones who pretend they can are probably lying. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. We all get the same 24 hours, which means that no matter what we do in life, we will be faced with choices.
So how do we make sure we have chosen the right path? How do we know our priorities are in order? Ultimately, I think we are all a work in progress, subject to continual re-assessment and self-reflection, but there are a few things that have really helped me along the way. They might just help you too:
BE CLEAR ABOUT YOUR WHY
It always comes down to this doesn’t it? It’s not enough to set big goals, we have to know WHY they are important to us. Because truthfully? If you don’t know your why, your reason might not justify the sacrifices you need to make to get there.
REDEEM YOUR TIME
Because pursuing a dream may mean more time away from your family than you’d like it is that much more important to make sure that your time together counts. Give your husband and children the gift of fully engaging when you are together. Turn off your phone or computer or whatever other distraction has captured your focus and give them all of you. Be intentional about setting aside time that is just for them.
It is easy to look at our friends and think their life is somehow better or more worthwhile. We watch our career-minded friends rushing off to work each day, looking all stylish and put together
in their tailored suits and high heels. While they move right on up the corporate ladder we’re still wearing yesterday’s cheerio-encrusted yoga pants. They, on the other hand, would do
anything to be able to stay at home with their little ones and worry constantly that they are missing out on the most important things in life.
Comparing your situation to someone else’s situation serves no purpose except to make you crazy with self doubt, so just don’t do it. Your path is your path and no one else’s.
OWN YOUR CHOICES
Every action has it’s own set of consequences, and every time we select one thing it means we are not choosing something else. So own it. If in your heart of hearts you believe that you have been called to a certain path, don’t waste time on regretting the things you can’t do. Understand that when you make a choice to pursue a dream, you are also making the decision to leave something else behind.
And that’s okay.
Because none of is can do it all, but we can make peace with the choices that we’ve made. And in the end, that needs to be good enough.
And so, my challenge for you is to stop feeling guilty about the things you’re not doing, and instead make sure your sun is shining on the things that are MOST important to you right now. If you are going to cast a shadow—and you are—make sure that shadow is where you want it to be.
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