W is for Work. Yes – you can have it all. (But you must do the work). 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.
The silver bullet
If you’ve clicked on this blog, or on my website – the chances are you are searching for something special. Perhaps you are a working parent struggling to find that elusive balance, or a career professional thinking about having children and wondering what’s the secret for making it work. Well I’m glad to say that you’ve come to the right place. I can most definitely help you in your quest to ‘have it all’ – I’m an absolute believer in the idea that working parents can achieve success and fulfilment in both their careers and family lives. What I can’t do however, is provide a magic solution or a ‘quick fix’ for dealing with the challenges of balancing work and family. There is no silver bullet – it’s not a magical secret that only a few people know. What it ultimately comes down to is a lot of preparation and a decent amount of effort. In other words, you’ve got to do the work!
The value of work
I first discovered the value of doing the work when I was a child. A family incident turned my life upside down and left me feeling acutely aware of how little control I had over what was happening around me. To compensate for the powerlessness I felt, I turned my focus towards something I knew I could control; my school work. I realised that it was entirely in my own hands to work as hard as I could to achieve the goals I had set for myself. That was my first experience of taking ownership of my life, and of doing the work I needed to do to get the results I wanted. I owe my academic and career success, as well as the motivation for founding Babyproof Your Life, to that philosophy of ownership and a willingness to do the work.
Do the work to make it work
I know that you’ve worked extremely hard at your education and career too. However – if work life balance is something you continue to struggle with, it’s time to ask ‘why?’ Is it possible that your brilliant work ethic towards your education and career isn’t extending into your personal life? Could it be that when it comes to the skill of making career and family work, you’re not putting in the effort?
If you feel you work every hour of the day and never have time for your family, yourself or the things you love, this suggestion can be unpleasant to hear. But sometimes being your champion and supporter means I have to ask you the hard questions. Such as:
- When you discover a new tool or technique for achieving balance, do you take deliberate steps to learn it?
- When you hear of a new mindset that could change the way you deal with guilt, do you make a conscious effort to adopt it?
- When you try a new strategy for finding time for ‘me time’, do you apply that strategy accurately and repeatedly until you get results? Or do you give up on that strategy the minute you hit an obstacle or because your life doesn’t change over night?
From my experience of balancing career and family, and helping others do the same, ‘doing the work’ needs to extend way beyond your professional world. A solid work ethic is equally as important in everyday life to solve the issues that life throws up and notably, to help overcome the challenges of working parenthood. There may be no magical solution to achieving work-life balance, but there is a straightforward principle to follow that with effort and persistence will yield results: ‘do the work to make it work.’
So whether you’re a hard-working high-achiever who’s secretly looking for their personal holy grail, or someone who gets frustrated and gives up when they don’t get instant results; read on. I’ll show you how to ditch the pursuit of the quick fix and knuckle down to some hard graft.
Here’s why you should ‘do the work’:
1. Balancing work and family and being happy and successful in both requires effort. Contrary to what many think, happiness, success and balance don’t just fall out of the sky and they aren’t just handed to you on a silver platter. Just like that big promotion, you need to work for them. Real solutions take time and effort. Think diet and exercise plans – the only real way to get results is to work at it.
2. It will help you combat some of the pitfalls of working parenthood (see my blog on the subject here)
- Overwhelm (working parent pitfall #2): when you put in the work to learn the skills and create the systems that make it easier to balance it all, you’ll feel more in control, and less overwhelmed.
- Low self confidence (working parent pitfall #3); when you put in the work and start to see results you start to believe in yourself and what you can achieve
- Lack of motivation (working parent pitfall #4) – you’ll be clearer about the work you have to do to get the results you want – you will find a purpose and direction.
3. Effecting change requires work. Your brain likes to do what is familiar. It likes to take the easiest route to solving a problem. But if we want to achieve different results (eg. better balance, less overwhelm) we need to take different action. Our brains need to do more work for an outcome to change than they do for an outcome to stay the same.
4. Because it’s not about talent. Those we know and identify as high achievers work a lot harder than we think. We love to assume that those who excel or are exceptional in their field have a God-given talent. We say they are ‘gifted’, as if success were handed to them in a beautifully packaged box on their birthday. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Outliers’, he unravels the myth of talent, and shows how much of success is down to hard graft. His formula for success is opportunity + 10,000 hours or practice!
5. Because it’s not only about opportunity. It’s not enough to be given the opportunity to succeed or to improve, you need to do something with that opportunity. You might even need to create that opportunity for yourself. Opportunity on its own does not equal success – you need to take action, put in the work and make the most of it.
As Richard Bach says in one of his incredibly powerful books, ‘Illusions’,
“You are never given a wish without being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it however.”
Doing the work. Do:
1. Change your mindset – it takes work! This blog will hopefully challenge your beliefs around the amount of effort and work it takes to be happy and successful. This is your starting point. Think differently.
2. Pick one goal to work on – and see it through from start to finish. It’s easier to focus and you are likely to get results more quickly if you are not dividing your attention between different tools and strategies. Why not try a week of getting up early? Or a month of planning your free time.
3. Create a roadmap of your route to success – there’s so much advice available on how to make changes in your life that are going to improve your work life balance. Take advice from books, podcasts or consider working with a coach. It doesn’t have to be expensive! I give away content and strategies for free every week in this blog, and you can use my free downloads (accessible from inside many of my blogs) as step by step guides to follow.
4. Make a firm commitment – Decide on a deadline for achieving your goal. Tell others around you what you are going to do and when you are going to do it by.
5. Dance in the discomfort – it’s going to be hard and uncomfortable, there will be things you won’t want to do because they are challenging the way you think or involve changing an old habit. Know that the discomfort is a sign that you’re progressing, that your brain is working to change your habits and behaviours and that you are on the right track.
6. Put in the hours – it doesn’t have to be the 10,000 hours Gladwell tells us is necessary to be exceptional, but it should be a proper time investment. If you even dedicate just one hour a week to the work of improving your life, you will see huge results over time.
7. Be accountable – get a buddy or a coach invested in the process. Sometimes we don’t mind letting ourselves down, but it is harder to give up if we have someone we respect and admire fighting our corner.
8. Get support from those around you – ask your friends and family for support. Our loved ones are often our most loyal and passionate champions. If you find it difficult to ask for help – have a look at my blog with tips on how to go about it.
9. Stick at it – it’s not just about putting in the work, it’s about continuing to put in the work. Even if you don’t manage to achieve your goal first time round, keep going. Use failures as a learning process on the way to success (see my blog on the subject here) and practise resilience.
Doing the work. Don’t:
1. Think life was meant to be easy. Sure we all wish that, but nobody ever said it would be. If you have the notion that life should be easy, that you are entitled to success and happiness and that these should come to you without effort – ask yourself where these views come from. Challenge your beliefs. If you imagine successful people have had an easy route to their achievements – do some research. Chances are those people have worked insanely hard to get where they are and have had to overcome many setbacks along the way.
2. Be put off by failure or the fear of failure. Psychologically we are programmed to avoid adverse outcomes so we often avoid situations where me might fail, or things that might cause us hurt or embarrassment. But failure can have positive effects on our development. Failure helps us build resilience, learn, reflect and grow – all of which will ultimately help us achieve our goals. As Thomas Edison said about his 1000 attempts to make the lightbulb,
“I didn’t fail 1,000 times, the light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
Are you ready to do the work? If so, reflect on the balance tips and strategies you have read in this blog series, or picked up elsewhere and choose one tool or strategy that you are willing to work hard to implement in your life right now. Make a commitment, tell someone (you can write and tell me!) and then set aside time each week in your calendar to do the work. Let us know how you get on in our closed Facebook group.
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 email@example.com