work-life balance

Why It's Good to Grow Small

As I type this, there are two little boys pillow fighting in back of me. Occasionally, one screams, and I’m pretty sure another just went flying through the air ninja style in order to avoid a death blow from his brother.  When I think of life as a full-time writer and speaker—my dream career—this is not the scenario I picture. Then again, neither is taking a nearly two month hiatus from writing.

But that’s what I’ve just done…

There’s been almost two months of silence on here. We live in a world that values noise. She who speaks loudly and speaks often gets the most attention. Two months of silence gets you, well, more silence.

I didn’t write anything these past two months because I needed to be present in my current season of life: young (often sick) kids, a husband with a demanding career, and a busy teaching job of my own leave me with little time for passion projects right now. There are seasons to speak and teach and write and there are seasons to turn inwards and reflect and listen. There are seasons to push and pursue and do all the things, and there are seasons when simply showing up and taking care of your people each day are enough.

I’m learning to recognize the season I’m in and welcome rather than resist it. It’s all part of the process of life, not just of writing.

 I’ve noticed a pattern among women my age, especially those of us who engage on social media. We see other women working harder, doing something (we perceive as) better or getting more attention and we feel the need to do more and try harder ourselves. If SHE can “have it all,” why can’t we? This leads to another trend I’ve observed among women my age: BURN OUT.

We’re tired. We’re frazzled. We’re running ourselves ragged; and we’re over it. At the end of the day, we have nothing left to give but we can’t tell you what it is we’ve given everything to—or at least what we have to show for it.

Here’s a secret: IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY. 

Right before I had my oldest son, I read an article in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter on why women can’t have it all. Seven years later, the article still holds so much truth.

Slaughter was the first female director of policy planning at the State Department. In the article she states VERY matter-of-factly that women who have achieved high levels of success in their career and in motherhood are superhuman, rich or self-employed. She also dispels some “half-truths” that women tell themselves about success and work-life balance. These include misconceptions like: “It’s possible if you’re just committed enough” or “It’s possible if you marry the right person.”

March 2nd will mark one year since I committed to pursuing my dream of a full time writing and speaking career. In the last 12 months, I’ve given up TV and free time and sleep and social events and all manner of other things to pursue my dream. If we’re talking about commitment to dreams, I’m all in. As far as marriage is concerned, I married the exact right person. My husband is incredibly supportive of my writing endeavors. He’s never said “no” to me investing in myself. He ALWAYS agrees to stay with the boys when I need to get things done; and if he can’t do it, we have enough money to pay for babysitters.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the last year:

You cannot give 100% of yourself in every area of your life. Something will slip. You will burn out.  

This is where knowing yourself and the season you’re in is important. If you know who and what are important to you as well as what’s realistic for you to accomplish in the season of life that you’re in, then you’re more likely to say “no” to the wrong opportunities—the things that will stress you out and put a strain on other areas of your life--and “yes” to the right ones. You’re also less likely to guilt yourself over the things you’re not doing or the opportunities you’re passing up.

For those of us hard-charging, goal oriented enneagram threes and eights, let me say it this way:

There’s nothing wrong with growing slow and growing small.

 Success is never achieved overnight and success at the expense of your mental or physical health or relationships isn’t the type of success you want to achieve in the first place. Stop comparing your achievements to others and start pursuing your dreams on your own terms.

Here are five resources that have helped me grow at my own pace—both personally and professionally—over the past twelve months:

1.) Christy Wright’s Business Boutique- Whether you have one business idea or just lots of ideas and hobbies, this book will help you narrow your focus to figure out whether that dream you’ve always had is worth pursuing.

2.) Cultivate What Matters Intentional Goal Planner- You don’t have to have a career or a business or even a side hustle to get a lot out of this planner. The Cultivate What Matters Goal Planner is perfect for anyone who has a vision for what you want your life to look like in the next year and is (somewhat) motivated to stay on track to realizing that vision.

3.) Personal Capital Finance App- Admittedly, I don’t use this app as much as I should. However, my husband does and he is slowly turning me on to the awesomeness that is solid financial management and growing your bank account in a small, yet steady way.

4.) Day Designer Daily Planner- It is honestly the best daily planner I’ve ever had. The “Today’s Top Three” list helps me to focus on what’s most important that particular day, and the to-do list that sits side by side with the daily schedule helps me see where I can fit in various tasks throughout my day.

5.) Actionable Core Values Worksheet- Full disclosure: this is something I created. Knowing my core values—who I am, what I stand for and what’s important to me—has served as a basis for my decision making over the past year. Sign up for the email list below and get the core values guide sent straight to your inbox!