Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

The Secret To Work Life Balance Starts With Identity

Chapter 1: My Corporate Idolatry Part 9

When I started my next job (after my two month “paid vacation” described in the last post), I worked hard to avoid identifying myself with the company.  I was a professional.  My work was high quality but transactional, and no longer a mission.  I didn’t mind that I was no longer working on the most cutting-edge, high profile project, because I could see the price people on that team were paying.  Also, I consciously put some of my energy into building community outside of the workplace.

So in 2009, when I found myself unhappy at work, I was able to walk away.  I didn’t like the company, some of the people, or the product I was managing.  I needed to do something different, and that was never going to happen as long as I was in that job.

My wife and I talked about it for two months before I pulled the trigger.  It was crazy at home, with two of us in high-powered careers.  And my two-month paid vacation a few years earlier showed us how much easier life could be. We looked at the budget, and figured out how long we could go on just her salary.  We’ve gone much longer, because we don’t spend as much on stuff.  I think I bought stuff as a palliative for stress.

And I got to see things I would never have seen. One afternoon, I walked past the door of the living room, and stopped to watch my six year old daughter play with a friend.  They were sitting on the floor cross-legged, talking quietly to each other.  I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they were so intense and serious.  I had seen them play before, but it was always rambunctious and wild.  If I hadn’t been home, I would have missed this ordinary but irreplaceable moment.

My life was better.  Much better.

I rediscovered the great joys of life that I hadn’t even noticed were missing.  I now enjoyed my meals instead of pounding them down or eating mechanically while my mind whirled around the work day that hadn’t ended.  I was well rested, and found that sex is even better when I wasn’t stressed.  And because I wasn’t stressed, I could be there, in the moment, for my wife and kids.  They became less stressed too.

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