Balance is difficult to achieve since it's influenced by many issues. Our strengths, our values, our current and future goals all impact how we gauge when we are in balance or losing our equilibrium. My Top 5 strengths include Competition, Maximizer, Achiever, Activator and Significance, so it's not surprising that I'm a hard worker who puts her all into everything she has on her to-do list. Yes, I want to win, but that drive is fueled by my desire to be the best that I can be. As one of the first Gallup-Certified Strengths Coaches, I've relished recent opportunities to help organizations and individuals go from good to great. I've been able to flex my strengths in new ways that, in the past, I had only dreamed might be possible.
But, like most people, there have been times when I've felt overwhelmed and unsure if I can keep the many balls I'm juggling in the air. I wear many hats, including business owner, college professor, wife, mother of three children, community volunteer, daughter, sister, friend … the list goes on almost indefinitely. There have been too many days in my 46 years when I've worried that I am shortchanging someone or something.
It never occurred to me before marriage and motherhood that my high-driving traits -- themes I have relied on to help me shine in academics and work -- might also be my downfall when trying to balance the needs of work and home. In fact, during college I completely dismissed the idea that work-family balance was a pertinent topic for modern women. The year I graduated from college, I was sure that issues like work-family balance, the glass ceiling, and "the mommy wars," were relics from days past. If, for some strange reason, I encountered such issues, I was sure I could combat these problems much like one might rectify one's course after hitting a small bump in the road. I'd assess the possible impact from the bump, quickly readjust my internal GPS, and resume my journey.
Today, I am a living and breathing example that the issues I felt were dinosaur-like problems in 1989 are alive and well in 2014 -- and living in the suburbs (and everywhere else). And while many great strides have been taken, there is still more work to be done.
Recently, while coaching a successful real estate executive, I was struck by her concern that she lacked balance in her life. Like me, she had Competition in her Top 5, and like me, when she set her mind to do something, she did it. But unlike me, she had put all her eggs in one basket. Over the last 20 years, she had her foot firmly on the "work" accelerator and had forgone developing her interests outside of work. Her boss worried that she spent too many late nights and weekends at work. Despite having a terrific staff, she was hesitant to delegate. Her boss openly encouraged her to slow down at work and allow herself more freedom and down time. During our coaching sessions, the real estate executive and I strategized about how to best develop her unborn interests outside of work. She left each of our coaching sessions energized and excited to complete her weekly coaching homework and explore new challenges that would enrich her personally.
My balance issues are different from the example above because -- as an Activator -- I love to jump into new things that interest me. And as an Achiever with Competition, I soon want to lead whatever group I've just joined. After many years spent operating at a frantic pace, I was no longer feeling energized and empowered by my multitasking, I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. It was a fine line between the two, but once I crossed it, I knew.
My new motto is, "You can have it all … just not all at once."
As a coach it's always interesting to see how our traits drive us, regardless of the hat we might be wearing. Those who have strong Relationship Building themes will carry those traits into the boardroom and the bedroom. Similarly, my Influencing themes make me someone who wants to have an impact on every group I connect with. For me, the trick to feeling more balanced has been to limit the number of groups I choose to influence. For others, like my client noted here, a better balance can come from more intentionally flexing her strengths on the home front.
Sarah Robinson's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Competition, Maximizer, Achiever, Activator and Significance.
Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed: