Make Work-Life Balance Choices That Kick Guilt to the Curb

Saying "yes" to one thing means saying "no" or "not right now" to something else. And whatever choice we make often leads to a feeling of guilt about the thing we said "no" to.

With so many people and things vying for our attention, no wonder we seek work-life balance. As an achiever, the options for how to fill your time are plentiful. Time is like a bank account that feels like it's always in the red.

What do we achievers feel guilty about?

Everything. Anything. Pick your poison.

Our home life...

  • I wasn't there when my son got injured on the field. 
  • I wasn't there for my daughter when she was upset about being bullied.
  • I didn't get to see my kid hit his first home run.
  • I missed her solo in the chorus.
  • I'm not present at home in the evenings when they try to tell me about their day. I'm still wrapping up work issues.
  • I'm too busy to pay attention and give my focus to my kids/family/spouse.

Our health and vitality...

  • I never have time for me.
  • When do I get some self care time?
  • When can I go for a run?
  • I had to cancel on my trainer at the last minute to meet with an angry client.
  • I need to make a doctor's appointment to get that thing checked out but I don't have time right now.
  • I want to eat healthier but it's too much work. I'll just grab something on the fly today. Or skip lunch altogether.

Our work...

  • If I go to the gym at lunch then I'm not giving 100% to my work team. 
  • If I don't answer them right away (even though it's 8:00 at night) then I'm holding up progress.
  • I took too long to respond.
  • I didn't complete everything on my list today.
  • I left a task incomplete.
  • I didn't get it 100% right.
  • I can't seem to get caught up working a regular workday.
  • If I'm not in 1st place at work I need to do better.
  • I just don't feel like I'm on top of things. I'm not in control at work.

The common thread? "I let (someone) down."

Which translates to "I'm never good enough."

If that hits close to home for many achievers it's because they're constantly focused on where they came up short. Even though they've set impossible standards for themselves. 

Have you ever defined what a "successful" day looks like? I mean listed out EVERYTHING you expect from yourself in a day? And then stopped to ask yourself if that list is even remotely realistic?

For most of us...the answer is a resounding NO. It's not possible to do ALL of it EVERY DAY.

If that description fits you, where do you go from here?

Assuming you get ahold of your schedule (get clear on your outcomes, prioritize tasks that will get you there effectively and efficiently, and stick to your schedule) how do you kick the guilt to the curb? Because there will inevitably be tasks that get squeezed out. There will always be something or someone you had to say no to in order to get the priority tasks done.

It's still possible to feel you let someone down - even when you know, logically, you're up against an impossible standard and you've made a super-hero's attempt. 

Here are some questions I might ask a client who experiences guilt for the type of scenarios above:

  • Do you believe someone else thinks you've let them down? If yes, is that really true?
  • Do their expectations line up with yours?
  • Do you need boundaries in place?
  • What is your definition of a successful day? What would you need to focus on to feel uber successful each day?
  • Under what conditions (what has to happen) do you feel guilt? In other words, what's your rule book? I feel guilty when _______ happens.  If _____ happen then I feel _____. How could you change the rules so it becomes much harder to feel guilt?  
  • What is your your definition of guilt?
  • Are you focused on what DIDN'T happen versus what DID happen?
  • What acknowledged the choice on the table and celebrated the decision/choice you made?
  • Would you make the same choice again? If yes, great! Celebrate it. No? Decide to choose differently in the future.

Let's talk about letting people down.

What we're really talking about is not giving them the answer/response/outcome they were hoping for or that you thinkthey were hoping for. And the emotion you think they'll experience as a result.

"If I don't say/do x then they'll feel _____."

The truth is you can't control other people's expectations nor how they feel. You can, at best, influence their emotions with the emotions you bestow upon them.

How do you want them to feel? Loved? Appreciated? Supported?

Decide which emotions you want to share with them and formalize your intent with a declaration.

  • I will radiate the emotion of ____________.
  • I will convey I feel _______.
  • I'll show ________(emotion) by (doing) _____________.

Just because someone else expects something of you, it doesn't mean you have to say "yes" and agree to it. There are consequences either way. Which ones do you want to adopt?

YOU get to decide how you want to show up in each and every relationship - personal or professional. YOU get to decide which expectations you'll meet or pass on. YOU are in charge of the emotions you feel and portray.

When you make that connection and live and make decisions/choices in a way that are in alignment with who you most want to be, then you can let go of the guilt.

Today is the day to #GoForIt and #Live Deliberately.

Founder, Personal Evolution Co.