Having it All without Losing it All

Can you have it all?  Well, the answer to this question depends on the material you’re reading because ‘having it all’ is written as either the greatest achievement or the biggest myth.

But you’re asking the wrong question, and you’re asking the wrong person.

The question you should be asking and asking of yourself is, “What does ‘having it all’ mean to me?”

How are you currently defining ‘having it all’?  Is it based upon the definition given by your community, your friends, your spouse, your coworkers, your parents or the media?  If so, then the answer is ‘no’, you can’t have it all.

If I defined ‘having it all’ by someone else’s standards, then I would be an absolute failure.

I’m not shattering the glass ceiling, holding an office on my children’s school PTA board, cooking gourmet meals every night and attending community events.  However, my definition doesn’t include these activities.  My definition is unique to me just as it’s unique to you.

So before you continue reading, I recommend you pause to create your personal definition.  Treat this as a business plan for your life.  Invest time thinking and writing down what you really want.  What would your life look like if you ‘had it all’?

Warning:  once you have this definition, it will change in the future.  That’s okay.  Get comfortable with it.  It may change as you transition into a new stage of life, as your priorities shift or as you realize your definition was unrealistic based upon the effort you want to invest.  But you have to start somewhere.  So let’s begin with your current definition and three things you can start doing so you may have your all without losing it all.

It’s as simple as three words:  Stop. Pass. Do.

Stop

For nearly five years I participated in an executive women’s network that was specific to the industry of my employer at the time.  The network offered several good learning and leadership opportunities and I enjoyed the women in the group.  But as my aspirations changed and my priorities shifted, I wasn’t willing to settle for ‘good’.  So I stopped participating in this network and explored other opportunities that aligned with my new definition of ‘having it all’.

Stopping or saying no can be challenging, specifically in the workplace for fear of appearing defiant or demonstrating an unwillingness to be a team player. However, when you constantly say yes, you appear weak.  Saying no demonstrates strength, power and decisiveness.

If you’re uncomfortable saying no immediately or stopping altogether, try stating that you need to evaluate your schedule and priorities.  This provides you with time to think about how saying yes might benefit you, and if it doesn’t, then be confident with your decision to decline.

Pass

Having it all does not mean doing it all.  I’m going to be straight with you – you are not an expert at everything and there’s no such thing as perfect.  Stop trying to do everything.  You’ll burn out, hit the wall, choose whichever idiom you want, that’s what’s going to happen to you.

Instead, pass along those tasks which don’t align with what you really want.  And by delegating to someone else, this provides them with an opportunity to excel and potentially aligns with their definition of ‘having it all’.

Do

Now that you’ve stopped and passed along what doesn’t align to your definition, you have a true, clean list to work from.  Now I want to throw that list away!

Instead of a list, you’re going to put everything you need to do onto your calendar.  Actually schedule the time when you’re going to complete it.

Every day I make it a practice to look ahead at the week and arrange (or even rearrange) my to-do list as already recorded events on my calendar.  If it’s urgent and aligns to my definition of having it all, it must be scheduled early in the week and at the beginning of the designated day.  If it’s not a priority, it will either fall off the calendar (because I chose to ‘Stop’ or ‘Pass’) or it will move to a later time.

By scheduling it on the calendar, it no longer because a simple list but an action plan that you’re committing to and you’ll better prioritize based on your ‘have it all’ definition.

Final Thoughts

The next time you hear someone discussing this topic, throw them a curve by asking to share their personal definition and then share how you’ve learned to ‘have it all without losing it all’.

I’d love to read your personal definition of ‘having it all’.  Please share in the comments below.