We live in a time of the most rapid change the world has ever experienced. It feels like everything is changing constantly. Families are under many pressures; both externally and internally. Have you ever felt like your world is charging so quickly that you just can’t keep up with it?
At times, it probably feels like you are constantly chasing a moving target; and it’s totally unreachable. Like a greyhound chasing a mechanical rabbit that just keeps going faster. The speed of these changes is making it even harder to maintain the balance between your family and business life.
We are now connected to the virtual world 24/7. The family life is not as clearly separated from the business world as it used to be. Social media has changed the way we build relationships and how we spend our family time.
Let’s add another layer to this. The reality is that your own personal world is changing as well. Over the next few years, things will change in your family life. You may get married, you may get divorced. Maybe your family will grow—perhaps you will have your first child, or your fourth; or your first-born may leave home.
It’s even possible that you could lose your current job or start a new business. You may become a millionaire or you might even go bankrupt. Maybe your parents will pass or you lose a child. How about you finally write that book you’ve always been planning to write? You may just take up yoga or decide to eat healthier and lose weight. On top of all of this, there are the things that other people do or don’t that you cannot control, that can certainly put your world in a spin.
It is true that the world is changing, but more importantly your own world is changing. Some of these changes are by your choice while others are beyond your control. All these factors impact the daily balance in your family and work life.
The danger is that the urgent things tend to get in the way of the important things. Every day, you make decisions about your priorities. We can free fall through the days or we can make conscious decisions that decide how we spend our days.
You may feel like you have a handle on this. You’ve got the business; you have a plan, the education, the family, the cash, you are “the man” or “the woman”. You are ready for everything, you have the life. But what does your family think? Does your partner agree? What about your son or daughter? Or, have you still not gotten around to having that first child you’ve both always wanted? What about your own “other” goals, the book or your own health?
Oops, just take a few minutes to check yourself. Are all the balls still in the air or have you dropped a couple? Seriously, just do it, before something or someone external rocks your world and that makes you revaluate your family/work balance.
As humans, we have a true desire to have meaningful relationships with other humans; we are a herd animal by nature. Solitary confinement is the worst punishment you can do to a human. So, when we are out of balance with the key relationships in our lives, it rocks us on many levels. You must actively manage this balance in this world of constant change.
The real secret to this is having a handle on your own personal ethics. Those things that are really, truly important to you in the long run. Then always act within your personal ethics. This is not about what others expect of you, but about what you expect of yourself. The rules which you have decided to live your life. It’s very easy to get caught up in the need to make a living; you do after all, still have a responsibility to feed yourself and your family.
The first place to start to actively evaluate your current position. Is it congruent with your long-term plans for your family and work life? Decide what needs to change. Then you need to make a definite decision on where you plan to end the journey. And finally, take consistent daily action that is congruent with the long-term outcomes you want to achieve.
This sounds very simple, right? It is, each day you will be faced with choices on where you put your energy. Most of these are small, every day decisions that determine your direction over every aspect of your life, progressively heading towards your long-term outcome. You decide these decisions, they are within your control.
The toughest challenges will come when the outside world hits you from left field with the “knock out” punch that you never could have seen coming. How will you react when your world gets turned upside down?
Martha is an excellent example of how to actively recalibrate the family/work balance in a constantly moving world. Martha was born and raised in South Africa; and grew up during a time of rapid change in her homeland. She was raised primarily by her mother—a teacher with a passion for science who also did quite a bit of charity work for her local community.
Martha describes her mom as, “The most amazing, strong, loving woman I have ever known.” For the most part, her father was “absent” while she was growing up. Something she doesn’t really feel impacted her all that much.
“My mother was such a strong woman that I never even noticed he wasn’t around until I was much older, and you can’t miss what you don’t know.” she recently told me.
Life was very good for Marth and her mother, despite the political unrest. Martha got her degree in engineering, and met a wonderful man while she was at University who also became an engineer. After school, they both started their careers and then got married. A little later, along came their son and daughter. Her own world had changed for the better but South Africa was becoming a very unstable environment to live in.
One day, that political unrest changed everything. Martha’s mother had worked for many years in a soup kitchen for the homeless. On this fateful day, a man from the soup kitchen followed her home, broke into her house, and took her life. A stranger who her mother had helped just hours earlier, senselessly murdered this caring woman. Martha’s world was turned completely upside down.
As the months passed, it become clear to Martha and her husband that their future was not in South Africa. It was time to find a home to give her children a safer future. They applied to emigrate to Australia and were accepted. They packed up their young family and headed to the other side of the world; a brave new start leaving their heartache behind them.
Major events can instigate major changes for all of us. These changes are happening to people all around us every day. How you react to the changes will decide if you can regain your balance.
The engineering careers of Martha and her husband were the key asset that gave them the opportunity to emigrate to Australia. The opportunity to rebuild in Australia was on the back of their skills and work history. Not long after arriving they both got new jobs. Then Martha’s career took off and she really found her place in Australia.
Unfortunately, her husband did not settle into the new life as comfortably. His first engineering job didn’t even last 6 months. He struggled and couldn’t find full-time work in his field. He was the children’s primary caregiver while he searched for his new direction.
As the year’s passed, their balance never really recovered. Martha was carrying the financial load for the entire family. Now in a senior leadership role in her field, she had a good income and they could live comfortably. The impact of the change however, became a major struggle for her husband. He tried various career paths, but nothing really worked out for him. His mental health was suffering, his behaviour difficult, aggressive and irrational. Their own home has now become the “volatile” environment that they left behind in South Africa.
Martha found herself working later and later, and even finding work-related excuses to avoid being at home. Work became her escape from the harsh reality of what her home life had become. It was much easier to be working than to be dealing with a husband whose mental health was deteriorating more and more each day.
Her husband had become emotionally and verbally abusive. When she did arrive home, he resented her working. He would go out and not come home until the early the next morning. One morning, she found the car in the driveway with damage all down one side and he couldn’t even recall how it got there.
Martha was missing time with her children to avoid time with her husband. She came to the realization that the marriage had become completely dysfunctional. For the good of the whole family, it was time to finish the marriage. “The day I told him was a very tough. I must admit I have a problem dealing with conflict” she said. “I knew I had to do it, when I did he fell to the floor grabbed my leg and begged me not to go. But, I had to get my freedom.”
The principal goals for Martha had always been to supply a safe environment for her children to grow up in and to have a rewarding career. They left their homeland and found Australia to be a safe place, full of opportunities. Her career had reached heights not possible in South Africa. Her children were now 14 and 12 and both were doing well in a good school.
Martha adapted to the changes, and with each step she rebalanced and stayed focused on the long-term outcome. In the turmoil of everyday drama, it can be very easy to rationalize a way to not have to deal with an issue, such as ending a long-term relationship. She could not control the actions and responses of her husband. She often bought into his rationalisations and stayed comfortable by not confronting him regarding his unacceptable behaviour. Her husband struggled with each and every step of the changes; pressure changes some people for the better, others not so much. “He was not the man I married, he changed!”
It takes pragmatism to deal with these high-level changes. Many people struggle and everyone is affected to varying degrees. It also so takes pragmatism to mend the bridges and to move forward. Once the heat of the separation was done, her family found a newer, much more comfortable balance. The children are living in a shared parenting arrangement. Her ex-husband has found a new partner, and Martha even attended the wedding and shared a dance with him.
The violent death of her mother triggered the journey to a new country. The changes presented great opportunities but also created instability in their home. Martha had to actively deal with the change. Her ability to stay clear on the long-term outcome got her there. When she avoided dealing the unacceptable behaviour of her husband, the problems at home just got more out of control. The balance of her family went into a spin.
In the short term, it can be easier to immigrate to a new country than it is to deal with the unacceptable behaviour of someone close to you. Our own comfort zones can be the biggest blocks when it comes to a true family/work-life balance. You have to get uncomfortable to deal with issues that have an emotional charge to move forward. Sometimes, it can be easier to work longer hours than it is to go home and deal with a family member.
When you get a good handle on what is important to you, it gives you clarity in your decision-making process; with the big decisions and the little, daily ones. Like a compass on a ship at sea, even when you can’t see the shore, it will guide you to keep you on your course. Take the time to get this clear in your mind and that of your life partner. Hopefully, you share the same “True North”. If not, it’s probably time to sit down and talk about it.
No one can tell you what your personal “True North” is. It is based around your own personal ethics. Only you can make that decision. When you do make it a “definite” decision that will drive you, it’s very important to take your ethics into consideration.
Each day, you are faced with decisions about where and how you will spend your time. The key relationships in our life are the areas that have the most impact on you. It takes a conscience effort to invest in your key relationships. Evaluate whether or not you are investing the right ratio of your time. This is an ever-changing ratio: your 12-month-old son needs a different investment of your time than your 27-year-old son does. They both still need you and you need them, but the balance is very different.
Remember, you are also someone’s son or daughter. Your parent’s still need you and you still need them. As they age the roles will reverse, if you are fortunate enough to have parents live into old age. You will find them in the position to need you in a different way.
If you have a VIP life partner, then invest daily in communicating to keep you both heading on the same course. Without open, honest communication you won’t both stay on the same course.
Key relationships include the people in your work environment. The caution is that these are commercial relationships and understand that no matter how great the relationships are with work colleagues, it is still based on a “financial arrangement.” Employees will take the better job offer or your boss could lay you off next month, without giving it a second thought.
If something in your life is out of balance, take action today. Sometimes it is huge action like emigrating to Australia or just telling your partner what you are really thinking and feeling? Maybe not staying the extra hour at work.
When the “Emotional Storm” hits, the danger is learning the wrong lesson. Stuff happens to all families. It is not fair; the world is not fair. Bad things happen to good people all the time. For some, it becomes a weight they carry forward. What it was like before … happened. The weight of the sadness can be a lifelong burden, or it can be a lesson to appreciate the moment and the people around you.
People in your life are going to do the “wrong thing” by you. People close to you may “break your heart.” A stranger may take someone or something of great value away from you. It may be wrong and totally unjustified.
A stranger violently took Martha’s mother from her. I asked how she moved on from such a heart-breaking loss at the hands of a stranger. She said, “I have found that forgiving people makes it so much easier to move on. When you ‘hold on’ to a grudge, no matter how justified, you are effectively holding on to a person too. I prefer to live my life free of the people and circumstances that cause me grief, and to be happy in each and every moment. It sounds a bit cheesy written down like that, but that is my philosophy and it seems to have worked ok so far.”
Martha’s are words to live by—accept what happened and move on.
When the “weather” changes, you do need to recalibrate and readjust. We can get caught up in the external changes in our world. Our world is changing on all levels: the new US President, global warming, and even the terrorists threating our world peace.
Social media changes the way we perceive this world as well; people living their lives in a virtual world. It’s all about how your life appears on social media. Having the most “likes” and how many Facebook friends you have seem to be distracting us all from the real world.
We now even see tribute pages for people who have passed away. I do often wonder if in 10 years will we be doing “Facebook Live” at our funerals. Are we going to value people’s lives by how many followers, likes, comments, or shares they had? The real key, I think, is to quickly adapt to the changes while managing to stay true to your own direction.
The race is long and in the end, it is only with yourself. The challenge of “getting it right” when balancing the family and business life struggle is a work in progress. If you keep working on it then you will progress. When you get it right, you will be living the life you’ve always dreamed of.
At Balance Enterprises, our goal is to empower business owners to get their businesses to work for their families. We believe if the balance is right the business will fly. Nothing is more rewarding than getting it right, but to achieve that balance of family and work life it does take consistent, determined action on your part.
If you are struggling and are looking to get the direction right, read:
Balance—How to make your business and family life work together
Find out more at https://balance.enterprises or the book at