This post is part of our blog series, The A to Z of Being Babyproof, a celebration of the attitudes and behaviours it takes to balance career and family – because “babyproof” is not a destination, it’s a blueprint for having it all and making it work.
This week, we’re following on from our series of posts on Ambition by moving on to B for belief; the belief that you can have it all – and enjoy it.
‘Having it all’ has become a contentious phrase for women lately. But what does it really mean? Does it mean achieving the superhuman feat of balancing a top flight career with raising the perfect family? Well, not any more. Not many of us have superpowers and striving for idealised perfection is a stressful way to live our lives. Having it all should be about identifying what makes YOU happy and fulfilled, and creating your own personal goals. What one woman wants can be very different from another’s. It’s about setting your own standards and defining a set of values and principles by which you can live your best life. You can ‘have it all’ if you decide what you want and take control of your own destiny. You have skills to use and choices to make. Don’t let external circumstances dictate where you end up.
Once you believe that it’s you who is in the driving seat, you can take your life anywhere you choose. But how do you harness that powerful inner belief?
Here are my top tips.
How to Believe.
- Identify your limiting beliefs about parenting and having it all. What’s your current internal narrative? Do you think the only way to be a good mum is to “always be there”? Do you remember a happy childhood with a stay at home mum? Do you feel that kids of working mums are neglected, and that those of stay at home mums are somehow happier, cleverer, more likely to succeed in life? Do you often think to yourself, “you can’t have it all?” Our beliefs about parenting and having it all are shaped by our culture (what we are told and see around us growing up), our personal experience and the media. The first step to believing is understanding and identifying our current attitudes and feelings about being a working parent.
- Understand that these are beliefs, and not facts. How? Firstly, try to overcome your confirmation bias (we all tend to notice and focus on information that reinforces what we already believe to be true) and secondly, consciously seek out evidence to the contrary. For example, if you think only kids of stay at home mums have happy childhoods, find someone you know who had a working mum and a fantastic childhood and talk to them about it. If you keep thinking you can’t possibly have a successful career and a contented family life, find a role model who is already ‘having it all’. (I look further at the importance of role models in this blog). Use their qualities and successes to inspire your belief. Look up reports that show positive outcomes for children with working parents. (This major study by Harvard Business School in 2015 is an inspiring read).
- Learn to question everything. When you hear that familiar inner voice whispering negative messages, or people around you or the media putting out negative stories, start by questioning (I’ll talk more about questioning later in this series – Q is for Questioning): Is this completely true? What and where is the evidence for this? How can I find out more? What is my/the speaker’s/the article’s agenda? If you’re someone who is easily swayed by headlines and rumour, read Bad Science by Ben Goldacre to help you get a better perspective on what you are hearing or reading.
- Understand the power of positive beliefs and how they impact and influence your experience. Don’t just take my word for it – the science proves it. Renowned social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s ground-breaking work studies the broaden and build theory of positive emotions. Her findings suggest that positive thinking broadens and expands your mind and sense of possibility, which in turn leads to more adventurous behaviour. Over time, more exploratory and adventurous actions lead to the growth of meaningful, long-term skills, which in turn foster more positive emotions. Check out her book on Positivity.
- Create affirmations. Make a choice to have positive beliefs about parenting and having it all by creating and repeating (preferably out loud, every day) powerful affirmations – short positive statements written in the first person and present tense that express your goal as if it were already true. Here are some of mine (feel free to use them!): “I am living the dream of having and enjoying it all.” “The happier and more fulfilled I am, the more I have to give to my family.” “There is no right or wrong way to have it all. There is only my way.”
I hope these tips will help you dig deep and start to nurture a positive mindset.
In my own experience, the whole time I was working I thought nothing about questioning my beliefs. I never thought about whether what I believed was in fact true or was actually just something I’d been told or heard repeatedly from others or the media. It was my subsequent training as a coach that taught me to evaluate the difference between belief and fact, showed me the impact my beliefs (whether good or bad) were having on my emotions and actions, and gave me the tools to replace negative beliefs that were holding me back with positive beliefs that would empower and motivate me. With a bit of practice, it will work for you too. With positive belief, you can direct the path of your own future – and, yes, you can absolutely ‘have it all’ if you want!
This topic and many more will be covered in depth on our forthcoming Babyproof Your Career online course. Click here to register your interest.
Caroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org