Let me introduce you to Jane, a very successful executive lawyer. Jane went to a top Ivy League school, followed by an even better law school. This is a woman who grosses well into the six figures. Seems like the kind of person we all admire, right?
Well, maybe not. Although Jane is positive, friendly, and obviously successful, she is miserable. It didn’t take me very long to study Jane’s ways and come to a conclusion about her misery: she has absolutely no work/life balance.
She worked hard her entire life, and finally woke up 48 years later to realize she was unhappy and unfulfilled. The problem is, she put all of her focus into becoming the most successful and accomplished woman that she could be, and she put all the rest on the back burner. Well I have news for you Jane, it’s never too late to realize you can be successful and enjoy life—you just have to learn how to find some balance.
Jane’s staff, having lives outside of work, began to feel Jane’s passive aggressive and judgmental attitude towards them whenever they shared their personal lives with their coworkers, discussing what they did the night before, over the weekend, and during a holiday. Since Jane never did anything besides work, hearing these stories started to make her realize what she was missing—a life!
It was very simple identifying what was missing in Jane’s life. The fact that her work was her life was no secret. When she came to me for help, I introduced to her my 5 bucket list:
Of course Jane isn’t having any trouble in this aspect of her life. However, it is a common factor for most people. It is extremely important, no matter what you income may be, to stay on top of your finances. Make sure of what’s coming in every month and pay for what’s being spent. Do not spend money that you don’t have, and get those credit card bills down! To make up for the two percent payroll tax deduction that I will feel soon, I called my cable and cell phone companies to reduce my bills, I turned my heat down, and used the lights less. It is important that you do whatever is necessary to ensure that you are comfortable with what you have in the bank. Being in debt or feeling broke is directly related to our confidence and happiness.
Another area that doesn’t apply to Jane but definitely applies to most people. Make sure you are doing what you love to do. And if that is not possible at the moment—maybe you got laid off or you are working a job to pay the bills—find a way to work towards getting the job that allows you to love what you do. Take night classes and go back to school, get referrals, ask around, network. I knew what I wanted to do and after many years of hard work I finally achieved it. It is possible.
This was one of the first things that Jane did that started to actually turn her misery in to happiness. There is something to be said about helping others who are in need, and it has been proven to make you feel better about yourself. Even if you’re volunteering just because you want to feel good about volunteering, that’s fine. It doesn’t matter what the reason is, all that matters if you are spending time doing some good in the world and in return it will brighten your world a little as well. Simply going down to the local homeless shelter or volunteering to walk and play with shelter dogs, find your cause and support it!
This is a big one. There is no way we can be happy if we do not feel good. We can’t all be model-sized, but we can all feel good about ourselves. Go to the gym, cut out the fast food and soda, take a stroll with your partner, friends, or dog. Staying active, as we all know, is a golden ticket to being happy. That pain in your back that has been causing you discomfort during the workweek? That headache that won’t seem to go away? Get to the bottom of it—go to a doctor, get a massage, whatever you need to do to get yourself feeling good again.
5. Family and Friends
The people your surround yourself with in life can really make a difference, positive and negative. To those in your life that cause negative emotions and unnecessary stress, distance yourself. Don’t let that negativity in. For those amazing friends and family who are loving and loyal, make plans! Take your mom on a nice weekend vacation, go on a romantic getaway with your husband, have a weekly lunch with your favorite friends. These are the memories that make us happy, the times that bring love into our lives. Leave behind the drama, and enjoy the people around you who you care about.
Practicing the 5 bucket list takes work. You can’t wake up one day and have all 5 of these important life changing contributions be perfect. But you can work towards strengthening those sections that are weaker than others.
For Jane it was obvious. She had strengthened her finances and her career so much that she forgot to pay attention to the others. Six months later, Jane is happier than she was before. Her life is still not perfect, as no one’s ever is, but she was going on daily walks with her daughter, she was volunteering on the weekends, and she was enjoying the company of those she cares most about—and they were thrilled to have her back.
Wendy Kaufman is the President and Founder of Balancing Life’s Issues, a national corporate training company. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.