Can women have it all?

By on November 19, 2014

Modern women have more choice than women have ever had before. They can pursue careers, have families, and marry. Or stay single. They can have it all, writes Marlene de Lange, Director at Grow Consulting.

Even though women presumably today have more freedom and autonomy, not all seem to be benefiting from it psychologically. Women report unprecedented levels of stress, depression and lack of fulfilment.

Is it possible for women to have it all – to have a successful career, a happy family and be healthy and happy? In speaking to women about their experience of juggling different roles, they often refer to a sense of being overwhelmed by responsibilities in the different spheres of life and a sense of fragmentation. Women talk about a constant sense of being torn in different directions, feeling guilty and seldom being in the moment. They feel they have too little time to do what is really important.

When they are at home with their family, they have a nagging awareness of a growing to-do list. When they are at work, they feel guilty and worried about family responsibilities. They feel overwhelmed by task, but even more so by responsibility. Even if they enlist support plavix side effects and delegate at work and at home, they often still retain responsibility and are managing all the other stakeholders. Many women talk about heart-breaking choices, painful sacrifices and ongoing self-neglect.

Inside this chaos, is the potential to live a full, multi-facetted and dynamic life, but there is no easy solution. The journey from a feeling of overwhelmed by tasks to gratitude for a rounded life is not easy, but definitely worth pursuing. It requires high levels of self-awareness, self-knowledge and advanced self-management skills.

Nobody gets it right all the time. But there are women who get it right some of the time by embracing the following 6 principles.

The starting point is to clarify your definition of success.

This definition may change over time. It will probably be different for the young ambitious 20 something than for the busy mid-30 year old mother with young children. It will again look very different for a woman in her 50s with an empty nest who moves her focus back to her own needs.

Traditional male measures of success are money and status. Women do not have to buy into this narrow definition of success. Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, talks about a third metric. Thriving needs to be added to the traditional male definition of success. Money and power alone do not equate to success. Success comes by living a thriving life in line with own definition of success.

Consciously make decisions about lifestyle and day to day habits based on your definition of success.

Women often feel guilty because they feel judged regardless of what they do. If they leave work early, they fear judgement for lack of commitment. If they arrive late at the school meeting, they judge themselves and feel judged by others. Women who find happiness and peace clarify their own operating values and principles and focus on that rather than on the perceived judgements of plavix clopidogrel others. Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, defines success as “…making the best choices we can and accepting them.”

Accept that you will never achieve perfection in all domains of life.

Thriving women have very high standards, but accept that they will never achieve perfection. They do the best they can in every context. Barry Schwarz refers to them as optimisers in his book “The paradox of choice”. The optimiser deals with the constraints of reality—they know that NOTHING will ever be perfect. In contrast, maximisers pursuit perfection. This often goes hand in hand with a sense of regret and guilt.

Flourishing women accept that they will never attain a level of perfection in everything they do. They identify what they need to let go off and where “good enough” is enough.

Remain connected to all your life dimensions

In between work and family, women tend to put themselves last on the list. They neglect parts of themselves and eventually disconnect (give up) on a dimension of the self. They stop investing physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually in themselves. Thriving women are:

  • Physically healthy and energised
  • Intellectually living a life of learning and curiosity
  • Socially investing in meaningful relationships, nurturing family connections and friendships
  • Spiritually investing in what gives a sense of purpose and meaning, and
  • Emotionally making the choice to nurture happiness and joy, but also creating the space to feel and express negative emotions.

Recognise that there is no such thing as work-life balance. The challenge is to be fully present to quality, priority experiences.

We only have one life. Thriving women focus their energy on their priorities. They give themselves permission to be brutal about cutting out the many time-drains. They say “no” when they need to. They also say “yes” to the right things.

When they are busy with their priorities, they make the most of every moment. It is about being present in the moment rather than constantly being distracted.

Accept that life unfolds as a process over time. Flourishing women live their lives as chapters that together create a meaningful whole.

A state of integration and flourishing is an ongoing movement. There will be times of balance and flow. There will also be times of chaos and pressure. Women cannot always have it all at the same time, but they can have it all over time. The philosopher Seneca said: “Life is long if you know how to use it.” There is enough time to have enough experiences to live a rich and meaningful life in a lifetime.

Women today have choices. They also have complexity and fragmentation. They have a deep hunger for integration. Thriving women go on a journey to consciously create a life in which they can have it all. Joseph Campbell once said, “If you want to help this world, what you will have to teach is how to live in it”. Women living whole lives can teach other women and men how to live in this world.

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