In the past two weeks, I’ve attended the American Society for Training and Development International Conference and Expo in Denver and presented at the Greater Madison Society for Human Resource Management here locally. Both events provided me with wonderful opportunities to connect with new people, learn about valuable ideas, practices, and trends in a myriad organizational development environments, and reinvigorate my love for this field.
This afternoon, having watched another remarkable keynote address by Paul Wesselmann, a.k.a., The Ripples Guy, I was conversing with a colleague who similarly opted to leave the corporate world in exchange for a consulting lifestyle. If you’ve never made that leap, trust me when I tell you it can be both unbelievably exhilarating and simultaneously nerve-wracking. And certainly, it’s not for everyone.
For those of you who know me personally, I made that leap five months ago, trading the security of a corporate salary for the flexibility, and yes, uncertainty of a consultant’s life. The way I like to think of it, I looked at my work-life balance, and chose life.
I’ve written before about the problems with buying into the “work-life” philosophy. It creates a tension between one’s personal and professional lives, emphasizing the delicate balance (and sometimes incompatibility) of the two. It’s an unhealthy perspective that ignores the passion that ought to weave a natural bond between all one’s pursuits (personal and professional).
In the course of my conversations after my session today, this colleague was excitedly (passionately, one might argue) explaining how for years, she deliberately maintained professional and personal silos. She left her work at the office. She steadfastly refused to check work email in the evening or on weekends. She was careful to maintain her “work-life” balance. But something was missing…..passion.
Since leaping into the consulting world, her life has transformed itself. To the horror of some, she sends emails in the middle of the night, even on the weekends. She prepares training sessions when her energy levels are at their maximum (for her, this is in the morning hours), and she opts for others activities (some professional, others not) during her least productive “energy hours” of the day.
“You know,” she confided in me. “It’s been surprising how ‘in-balance’ I feel now….how passionate I am about the work I am doing and the way I’m living my life.”
Trust me, I know the feeling. She and I, although our paths are quite different and our work focuses on our own areas of consulting, have both rejected the notion of a work-life balance. Instead, we’ve discovered a work-passion intensifier that interjects excitement, enthusiasm, engagement, and, yes, BALANCE into everything we’re doing.
So, whether you opt to loose the shackles of a corporate life (sorry for the interjected bias here) or not, I urge you to reject the concept of work-life balance. Stop siloing your lives and sapping yourself of energy and enthusiasm in both aspects. Instead, seek out those opportunities and career directions that allow your passion for life in general to emerge. Let that passion illuminate both your career direction and your personal and familial pursuits. Let passion be your focus….and stop perpetuating the unhealthy tension between your work life and your personal life. Embrace a passionate life….in every aspect of your life!