When my kids were born (3 within 19 months), one thing became very clear: there was only one way that I could possibly accomplish all of my goals. I wanted a fulfilling, successful career, with big aspirations. I also wanted to be really happy and present in my personal life. I didn’t want to sacrifice my career and didn’t want to sacrifice my personal life. I wanted success and fulfillment in both.
It’s easy to sacrifice one or the other. We can spend our lives working hard to accomplish our career goals at the expense of our relationships and health. Or we can work hard to be present with loved ones and end up neglecting the part of ourselves that desires to achieve, create, and build something great (outside of our homes). It’s possible to have both. It’s possible to have a career that completely lights you up, where you wake up on Monday mornings actually looking forward to your work, and balance that with a happy personal life.
How do you actually do that? How do you do work you enjoy and balance it with a great personal life, a life that feels so much better than the daily grind? You do it by streamlining your life. Streamlining your life is the key to fulfillment, both personally and professionally. It’s the key to being able to truly balance your priorities.
Here are three ways to start streamlining your life:
1. Be honest with yourself about your true priorities.
2. Create space for the best “yes.”
3. Control the controllable.
Be honest with yourself about your true priorities. Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, surveyed people who were dying. She discovered that the number one regret of people who were dying was, “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself – not the life that others expected of me.” After spending 19 years working in health care, and also coaching hundreds of driven achievers, I can confidently say that one of the hardest things we can do is to be honest with ourselves about our true priorities. It’s easy to get caught up in living a life you feel expected to live. Freedom and fulfillment come from being honest with ourselves about what matters most to us, and giving ourselves the permission to decrease (or eliminate) activities that don’t align with our true priorities.
Create space for the best “yes.” By nature, many health care professionals are caregivers and nurturers. It can be easy for people like us to become people-pleasers and over-givers, at the expense of our own health and happiness. We can easily live ‘reactive’ lives – where we continually say yes to other people’s agendas for us. Fulfillment happens when we get into proactive mode instead of reactive mode. Proactive mode requires us to decide who we want to be – and what we desire to spend our time on. In proactive mode, we are intentional. We decide what we desire for our future – and then make our decisions based on what our future selves would want us to do. We become very mindful about what we say yes to – and we learn to say no to some things in order to create the space for the best yesses.
Control the controllable. In recent years, health care professionals have faced unprecedented levels of stress and exhaustion. How do you build a satisfying health care career in the midst of turbulent times and things feeling out of control?
We can do this by being very intentional about what we put into our minds. We can decrease the time spent ruminating over what we can’t control and instead focus on controlling the controllable.
While you can’t control other people’s words or actions, you get to control yourself. You get to choose your life’s priorities, when you walk away from activities that don’t align with what matters most to you, and what you focus your time on.
Focus your life on optimizing what you can control – yourself. You can live a streamlined life, a life focused on your true mission. You can do what matters most to you, and build a career and life of purpose and fulfillment without long-lasting burnout. And that’s pretty awesome.
Kerry Petsinger is a physical therapist and can be reached at her self-titled site, Kerry Petsinger.