There’s always talk about finding a work-life balance. I think in some Utopian life that may exist but for the vast majority of us that’s not the case. Everyday life can be stressful. Work can be stressful. Supporting your family can be stressful. And depending on how things are faring out in home or work areas the scales are tipped decidedly in one direction or the other. Usually it’s never balanced. Travel is one of the best ways to re-evaluate what’s important in life and to re-assess how to best find that balance, are at least get it as close to what matters within your life. I was lucky enough to take a substantial break from work to travel with my family recently and introduce my parents to another grandchild.
I’ve been guilty in the past of putting my work in front of my home life, to the detriment of family relationships. Once we started to have children things changed but work still took preference. My ambition to succeed in my career was put ahead of most other aspects of my life. I had an issue of not wanting to let anyone down and not being able to say no and be assertive to ensure my family needs and that of my employer could both be fulfilled. I had put myself into that position by largely starting out eager to prove my worth and then getting caught out as a power-dynamic then existed that I was unable to get out of. The lesson was learnt the hard way. I’m happy to say that now I’m in a role where the correct power-dynamic exists and I have managed to hit the nice work/life balance which is something I truly believed didn’t exist before.
I read an article recently on Pulse by Stephen Merrill which looked at people in old age and the advice they can provide to younger generations. This largely centered around spending time with family, travel to see different places and experience different cultures and also to not put work before family. The article struck a chord with me due to what I’ve mentioned above about putting work before family life and vacations in particular. It’s a light read and worth scanning over if you have 5 spare minutes. Another interesting article I read which I can’t find the link to was about Pat Gelsinger, the CEO of VMware, who has managed to put a rule in place where he has family time from 6pm to 9pm. This is the leader of one of the foremost technology companies and he has managed to carve out the time he needs to spend with his family. I have huge admiration for someone so successful that has that managed to get such a great balance. Maybe that’s why he’s been so successful! Gelsinger has even written a book called The Juggling Act which may be worth checking out. I haven’t read it so I can’t recommendation but I’m sure it would have some interesting information in there.
Getting away allows time to get outside of the normal routine and to think about what role you want to take both in life and in career and what path you need to take to get there. Spending quality uninterrupted with friends and family makes you reassess the important things in life. Travelling long distances (30 hours +) with two very young children also puts everything in perspective although your mind can wander due to delirium. I agree with Stephen Merrill and Pat Gelsinger, travel is important and ensuring you have a preference (albeit only a few hours at times) towards family life can greatly increase your happiness and I also believe this leads to being a better employee. Finding fulfilment in all aspects of life is key. It’s not easy but it is key. If you get the chance for some downtime, whether that be with your family or not, I’d highly recommend it. Take stock of your achievements, celebrate them, and look for new challenges. Get out, see the world, enjoy life. And in turn you’ll enjoy work.