A lot of people have asked me with shocked and puzzled look when I would tell them that I am retired and have been for a few years. I am not sure if its because I don’t look like I have reached the acceptable age of retirement or if it’s because I am so comfortable with the word “retired”.
I should start with the definition of the word “retire”. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, one of the definition is “to stop a job or career because you have reached the age when you are not allowed to work any more or do not need or want to work any more.” The next word to define is “work”. Work to me sounds a look like labour and toil. Therefore my definition of “retire” is to stop work (labour and toil) because I can and I want to pursue my passion which aligns with my purpose. I knew that I wanted a change when work became more toiling than enjoyable. I knew that if I did not make a change when I did, I would end up being someone I didn’t want to be, just drudging along life as life is short and precious. I made the move in the traditional sense and wanted to see what the next stage of life has to offer. So now I am in the midst of aligning and re-creating my vocation – I am a coach. I am a coach because I want to inspire growth in others, to help them achieve their goals, to put into practical steps what they can do to break through barriers and to fulfil their potential. So yes to me I am retired. Retired from the labour and toil to aligning with my passion and purpose.
One of the tricky if not hardest question to answer when you are not “working” is “What do you do?”. This is because for such a long time, I had defined who I was by what I was doing. So I would say I am the Marketing and Business Operation Director at Microsoft. Wow, sounds really fanciful and maybe even important. But really what did it mean? What do you do? I am responsible for all the marketing activities and blah blah blah. All of which made me think about a more important question that I needed to answer and be clear about which was “Who AM I?”.
The “Who AM I?” question is one that goes to the heart of knowing and being confident and comfortable about being you, not being defined by what you do but for just being you. To know the answer requires that one be honest about yourself, your strengths, your dreams, your passions and your goals in life. To get to know yourself in a deeper way and imagine if everything is stripped away, who are you? If you don’t define yourself with what you are doing, with what job title you hold, and how much things you possess, how would you answer the question.
I have the great blessings of having a number of Christian friends and one of the common attribute that they have is they would answer the question “Who are you?” with the first sentence as “I am a child of God.” followed by their personalities or what they are passionate about and so on. That’s a great way to be rooted in belief.
- What am I passionate about?
- What are my values?
- What’s my life purpose? Can I describe in one or two words?
- Is my work aligned my values and life purpose?
Just remember we are human beings and not human doings. The heart of Human Being vs. Human Doing is to answer the question “Who Am I?”.
I was reading an article this morning by Jared Lynch on the Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Work-life balance? Take condoms , says Southern Cross Austereo radio boss.” I thought it was interesting and funny and that got me thinking. When did this term work-life balance start? Why did anyone even come up with it? What has happened since this term became a vital vocabulary?
Balance in anything is in the eye of the beholder. To some it’s all about spending time at “work” and that’s because work is their life. To others, it’s about a 50:50 split of your time (literally). The key to what we perceive balance to be is how we define and feel is our balance point. Trying to put everyone into the same category is near impossible especially in the workplace where the pressures of deadline, performance and competition are in full throttle. Trying to make everyone around you “happy” with you is even harder as each has a different set of expectations.
Balance is about alignment with your purpose and priorities. I believe that the challenge lies when we are not clear on what our purpose or priorities are. If we aren’t sure what our purpose is, we can’t really define what our priorities will be and that leads to feeling unbalanced. The people who feel that they are not having work-life balance are those that feel that they are not spending enough time with what they consider to be their true priorities. It’s normal that mothers who work will always feel a sense of guilt that they are not spending enough time with their children because they know that’s their No. 1 priority. However, the pressures of life, making money, making sure that everyone is fed and clean and the list goes on, will lead to a lack of alignment between priorities and realities. What can you do? Accept that’s life and move on or make changes that will help bring a greater degree of alignment. What can you do?
- Discover what you love to do, who you want to spend time with and what you are doing today. Ask yourself:
- When do you feel most satisfied?
- What activities or tasks do you enjoy doing that you don’t even think about spending the time to do it?
- What do you need to absolutely do?
- Where are you currently spending time on?
- How much time are you spending on activities you love, have to and optional or “waste of time” activities?
- At the end of the day, what would you look back and be proud of or grateful for?
- Define your definition of balance. Once you have outline some of the above areas, then decide on how you want to allocate your time. Time is the only commodity that all of us have in equal amounts. You may decide that balance for you is majority work as that’s where your passion and love lies. You may decide that balance is really about how you spend time between what you love to do vs. what you “have to do”. Let’s face it, there are things that we just have to do e.g clean the house, attend long and boring meetings and play candy crush.
- Be flexible and adjust along the way. This is a journey and a process of figuring out what works for you. Trying to compare or follow what someone else is doing almost never works. Set your own course and know that it’s not going to be perfect. Be prepared to make changes when you have to.
I do belong in the camp that believes that work-life balance is a myth. To think that we can separate what we do (work) with what we do (life) is kind of funny. To me, it’s all about how we want to live out our lives based on a sense of purpose which creates the priorities that we then live out in real-time. Are you feeling like you are living a balance life? If you are not, what changes do you need to make?