Earlier this year there was a short-lived media storm around Indra K. Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo's when she stated her belief that "Women can't have it all."
My first reaction was to pause and wonder why the concept of "having it all" seems to be predominantly quoted in terms of women and their careers and lives. What about the men who aspire to "have it all" is this really a gender related discussion? Maybe I will leave that for another post. At least a 2012 Harvard Business School article considered both men and women's perspectives.
I have been working, a working woman, for more than 25 years. I have been a wife for 24 years, a mother (and sole breadwinner for my family) for 17 years, a friend for 35 years, a sister for 45 years, an entrepreneur for 8 years, a musician for 31 years. I have more "all" than my Grandparents (indoor plumbing for one), and yet, despite this long list of things, labels, years of experience and expectations (mine and others) I have yet to reach this mysterious level of "having it all". Nor have I met anyone who has, whether they are at the highest echelons of their corporate career, retired, or elsewhere on their life journey.
Yet the debate continues… this drive to achieve it all. We are encouraged to "Lean In", we are bombarded with advertisements for the things we should be buying, the activities we should be participating in. I am confident that if you peak behind the curtain of those who appear to have it all on the outside, you will discover that things are not quite as perfect behind the scenes. It goes like this
- You can have it all!
- You can't have it all!
- You can have some of it, some of the time!
- They have it all, why don't you?
- If you aren't driving to have it all you are not committed!
What "all" are we striving for? Whose "all" are we striving for?
Throughout the debate I am yet to understand what the "all" is that we are supposed to have, or not have. The one thing I am clear on, is that we all get one go at this life, and with an average lifespan (in the US) 78.74 years, or 944.88 months, or 22,677 hours, or 1,360,627 minutes. This time has to include work AND life, not Work or life.
The thing that strikes me about the whole debate is that many people seem quick to judge others as to whether or not they "have it". When the reality is, the only person who can decide if you have it or not is you.
It's about choice. Your choice.
In those finite hours you have you get to choose. You choose what is important to you. You choose what your priorities are (even though it may not always feel like it). You choose what to purchase (or not), which activities interest you (or don't). You.
Sometimes your choices may align with others. Sometimes they may conflict. Only you can choose what is right for you. Sometimes you may (choose to) put others' priorities ahead of your own, but unless you are clear about what it is that is important to you how can you possibly strive to achieve, or maintain balance?
There are 24 Hours in a Day.
Time management is a misnomer. We all get 24 hours per day. It's only the stuff we choose to pack into it that can be managed.
My life is not perfect. For those who peak behind my curtain you will find that I have the same worries, concerns and occasional soap opera moments that you have. However, for my "having it all" I choose family, running SkyeTeam, planning another book, time with friends, dancing and music. The areas I could pay more attention to are more time with friends, my fitness routine, reading, sailing across the Atlantic and learning another language. There is an opportunity cost, and these are mine. Maybe they will make it to my "having it all, today" list at some future time, but right now they don't.
What I do know is that most of the time, 99.9% of the time, I am happy. I am having fun. I am enjoying life and my "all". It seems to me that the secret to having it all, is knowing what all you want and knowing you already do have it.
Instead of striving for someone else's definition of "all" create your own.
- What "all" are you striving for?
- Where are you in balance, what should you be grateful for?
- Where are you out of balance, what needs to be prioritized?
- What are your next steps to achieve your "all"?