A major ongoing puzzle that many working professionals try to solve on a daily basis is work-life balance. It seems that most people struggle to achieve work-life balance due to the nature of their careers. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, teacher or working in the sports and entertainment industry (like myself), it’s an ongoing battle. People push themselves to be successful but sacrifice their health and well-being, personal time with their families and even their own sanity to get there. Granted, these people may be successful in the workplace… but are they really happy?
Said Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, “There’s this illusion that burnout and sleep deprivation is the way to success.” In our society, a mentality of working yourself into the ground so you can be successful in your career has emerged, but at what cost?
I caught a glimpse of this in college. As a freshman at UMass, I attended the Sport Management Awards Banquet as a scholarship recipient. The banquet was held at the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. The first part of the event included a networking hour, followed by dinner and then the awards. Besides the exquisite chocolate lava cake, I vividly remember seeing one alum being honored for his career achievements and successes. This man was humbled to receive the award and, during his acceptance speech, thanked his mentors who had helped him along the way.
As his speech went on, it started to get personal. He thanked his wife and his family for putting up with all of his traveling and working late. He then went on to apologize to them for not being there all the time and missing out on his kids’ lives. He got so emotional that he actually began to cry. At not even 20 years old, I sat there in the audience thinking, “Is this going to be me one day?” Before my eyes, this grown man is crying because he wasn’t there for his kids and missed out on a good portion of their lives. I didn’t even have a family of my own and this was already hitting me. What did I sign up for?
As I went on in my college career, I came to realize what this guy was talking about. I found myself doing unpaid internships and having to work two jobs every summer, and got used to working weekends, holidays, and not seeing my family. I turned myself into a machine. Pulling all-nighters meant I had the entire night to do work, instead of wasting time doing the things that everyone else was doing… like sleeping. Being super busy made me a master of managing my time, but I was missing out some extremely important things like, say, eating, sleeping and having a social life.
It wasn’t until recently that I decided to face the facts, stop the madness, and buy in to Huffington’s philosophy that “Empowering yourself and putting yourself in the center isn’t being selfish, it’s being wise.” If you find yourself being swallowed by your work, don’t be afraid to hit the off button. Stop worrying – it doesn’t solve anything and just causes stress. Take time for yourself, exercise, take up a hobby… Do the things that make you happy. Life is too short for you not to prioritize your own happiness and values.