Yesterday, we kicked off the “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” how-to series of highlights from the Work+Life Fit™ process. The goal is to give you the tools to take control and manage your work+life fit in a way that meets your personal needs and the needs of your job in 2010.
Day 1 we defined “What is Work+Life Fit?” and how to “See the Possibilities.”
At this point people usually say, “Okay, show me how to create my work+life fit.” Hold up. There’s one interim step to complete BEFORE we get to the roadmap to create your plan. But almost everyone omits this critical exercise, and it’s the reason so many efforts to manage work and life creatively and flexibly unnecessarily fail. We get tripped up, and don’t even know it until we’ve thrown in the towel.
The trick is to know how to see, avoid and challenge the common work+life fit roadblocks that will inevitably pop up along the way before you begin. Today, Day 2, we identify and challenge Success Roadblocks.
Success Roadblocks—Money and Prestige (Day 2)
When I’m asked, “What’s the most important tip for successfully managing your work+life fit?” My answer is always the same…you have to flexibly and constantly redefine success so that your definition matches the fit you are trying to achieve. If you don’t, you will feel dissatisfied, frustrated and give up.
For all the countless ways to flexibly manage your work+life fit day-to-day and at major career and life transitions, there have to be as many definitions of success. Unfortunately, we (as individuals and as a culture) still hold onto very linear, rigid limits around what success can look like. Unless you consciously challenge these boundaries, you won’t be able to adjust your fit as your work and personal circumstances change and feel good about it.
The aspects of success that give people the most trouble are money, prestige, advancement and care giving. (I cover money and prestige in this post. Click here to go to my Fast Company blog for more on advancement and caregiving).
Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You:
“We start with money because, in my opinion, it’s the chief obstacle standing between most people and a better work+life fit. Money is something over which many people feel they have very little control. As a result, they often feel trapped not only in a job situation where they are financially successful, but trapped in a lifestyle that success enables. So as their work and/or personal realities change, they feel incapable of changing their successful lifestyles in order to adjust their work+life fit.
The truth is not only do you have control over the choices you make with your money, but you can change those choices at any time. This is the primary strategy for moving beyond a money-related success roadblock…” (Click here for more and to print or download PDF)
Takeaway Action Steps for Challenging Money-Related Success:
Test the flexibility of your definition of success related to money so that you are prepared. The recession confirmed (painfully in many cases) that non-linear career paths are now the norm. Ongoing rapid change is part the global market in which we operate. It requires organizations to nimbly adapt the way they do business, and in turn, individuals to flexibly manage their work+life fit. Whether by choice or by force, you may find you have to substitute money in your definition of success by placing greater value on other aspects of your job and/or life.
For example, during the downturn, I’ve watched how differently individuals responded to their employer’s use of strategic flexibility (e.g. reduced schedules, furloughs and sabbaticals) to minimize the number of layoffs, while cutting labor costs. Many people were able to flexibly redefine success to match their change in circumstances. To make up for less money, they substituted having more time for their personal lives and gratitude for having a job in their definition of success. The result was a commitment to partner with their employer to turn things around.
But others responded quite differently. In the face of flexible downsizing, they were unable to redefine success related to money. It didn’t matter that they and their colleagues were still employed, and that they had more time for their personal lives. They felt undervalued and immediately began looking for another job even though many worked in industries with widespread layoffs and few job prospects. They weren’t able to redefine success related to money and make the most of their new work+life fit reality. Their commitment and sense of well-being suffered as a result.
A flexible definition of success related to money gives you access to more work+life fit options throughout your career and lifetime. The Baby Boomers who are choosing lower-paying, but more satisfying Encore Careers as an alternative to traditional retirement are great examples. This transition wouldn’t be possible unless they redefined success related to money.
Plan, budget, and make better, albeit sometimes difficult, money choices that support greater flexibility. There are a number of terrific resources online that provide personal finance information to get you started. Here are couple of my favorites:
- Manisha Thakor, co-author of “On My Own Two Feet” targeting women, and “Get Financially Naked,” to help couples talk about money.
- Jean Chatzky, Make Money Make Sense Blog
- Rick Kahler, series of books and advice about our perceptions and mindsets related to money
Don’t wait until everyone else shares your commitment to a more flexible definition of success related to money before you start. While the recession has caused a fundamental resetting of our collective cultural relationship to money and debt in the U.S., financial rewards are still a very primary metric of success. But you can’t wait until everyone else around you begins the process of broadening the rigid limits they put around success. In the excerpt above, read how Clark started to redefine success related to money in order to adjust his work+life fit even though everyone else in his law firm kept financial rewards as their primary success metric.
Excerpt from Work+Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You:
“Having a better work+life fit means making trade-offs. Sometimes the trade-off is between having more time and flexibility for your personal life or working for a prestigious organization or holding a prestigious position.
Does that mean you can’t work for a well-known company and hold a high-profile position and have more flexibility? No, not necessarily. There are well-known, prestigious companies that embrace employee efforts to address work/life conflict. If your current or prospective employer falls into this category, they may support your proposal. And there are people in positions that others would define as prestigious who have creatively found ways to fit work into their lives. Hopefully, if you have achieved such a position, you will leverage your value and experience to do the same.
But what if you can’t? What do you do if your prestigious company doesn’t support your arrangement or your prestigious position simply requires more time and energy than your desired work+life fit would allow? You hit a prestige-related roadblock and are derailed…” (Click here for more and to print or download PDF)
Takeaway Action Steps for Challenging Prestige-Related Success:
Work for a less well known, but perhaps smaller, more flexible organization. You don’t always have to work for Goldman Sachs. Maybe you work for the no-name financial group, doing work you enjoy (albeit less prestigious) but getting the work+life fit you need given your current circumstances. This may require redefining success related to money as well. See Cindy and Alexandra’s stories in above excerpt.
Take a less high-profile position with tasks and responsibilities that accommodate the time and energy available in your work+life fit. The mere thought of giving up responsibilities or a title can cause people to shudder. But it’s not only possible at certain points in your life, it may be necessary and desirable. Replace the prestige of your position and type work you do with other aspects of your life. In the chapter excerpt above, read how Glen redefined success related to the prestige of the level he held and found the perfect post-retirement consulting project.
Challenge the more subtle, yet insidious prestige-related definitions of success that can undermine your work+life fit. Clarify true expectations. These subtle expectations are the pressures we put on ourselves about what we “should” do. They relate to participation in certain meetings, the response times for emails after hours, or face time expectations in the office. For example, do you put pressure on yourself to answer every email rapidly day or night without clarifying your managers’ expectations? Do you put unnecessary pressure on yourself to always be the first one in or the last one out at night, even though it’s not vital for your job?
What are some of the money and prestige roadblocks you’ve encountered as you flexibly manage your work+life fit? How did you avoid or challenge them? Share your tips!
Click here for more “Success Roadblocks: Advancement and Caregiving (Day 2)” on my Fast Company blog.
Entire “Work+Life Fit in 5 Days” Series:
Day 1: What is Work+Life Fit? / Seeing the Possibilities
Day 2: Challenge Roadblocks — Redefine Success: Money and Prestige / Advancement and Caregiving
Day 3: Challenge Roadblocks — Fear
Day 4: What Do You Want? / Your Internal Guidance and My Story
Day 5: Creating Your Work+Life Fit Plan–Making It a Win-Win
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