Life has natural moments of growth and decline, excitement and despair, love and loss. Even though any negativity in life is hard to manage, we understand and accept it as a part of living. A career has these phases as well, and often it affects us in a much different way. Regardless of whether you work for yourself, freelance or work in a more traditional setting, you expect your career path to continue on an up an up trajectory. You expect to master ‘work-life balance’ because it’s talked about endlessly as the holy grail of life success, and so you juggle your career with your relationship, your social lives, your volunteer commitments, your fitness goals, and your children. You are told to say ‘YES’ to career and social options so that you can meet the right guy, connect to the right person, have the right opportunity.
But sometimes, it all happens at once.
In my life and career I have come to understand the phase of ‘yes’ vs. the phase of ‘no’, and how it affects my self-worth and confidence level. The phases move like this:
I say YES to any opportunity that comes my way, even if not paid. I set up events and get togethers with friends or other industry professionals. I focus more on fitness. I embark on a new project, maybe a new social media platform or give myself a huge sewing/project goal or all of the above. –> I start to get busy, exciting others and myself with everything I have going on. I lose weight. Ideas start to brew. Social calendar gets booked. Everything is going up! –> Begin to get overloaded on obligations. Get behind on my emails. Less time so everything I do I’m not doing as well. I don’t sleep, don’t have time to work out. I don’t want to post any of the work I’m doing because it’s not good enough. –> Mental breakdown because I don’t have enough family time. Gaining weight because not working out enough and man I need that glass of wine. Skip out on a few work or friend obligations. Start saying NO to a lot of opportunities and responsibilities. –> I stop receiving invites because I’m always too busy to attend. Things start to wind down again and I regain my sense of control over my life. Personal time and family time comes back and feels rewarding. –> Realize I have nothing new scheduled on the calendar, no work opportunities, no social life. Start to feel despair because work and life are going nowhere. –> I start saying YES again, and the cycle continues.
The full cycle probably takes about 4 months before it repeats itself, but it always will. No amount of self-help books or podcasts can help get me out of this routine because no matter where I am in the cycle, I hear what I want to hear. Sometimes it’s ‘Say YES’, sometimes it’s ‘Say NO’, sometimes it’s ‘make some personal time’, sometimes it’s ‘do the work’. There is so much conflicting career and life advice out there, but all of it perpetuates the phase of ‘yes’ vs. the phase of ‘no’, instead of creating a solution for it.
So I ask you, do you experience these phases in life as well? Do you find yourself overwhelmed with opportunity one month just to find yourself in despair for lack of it the next? Is this the life we live in now where we are told to ‘lean in’ so much to each opportunity that we burn out before we’ve really had the chance to really make a connection?
I’m sure the solution would be along the lines of ‘do less, better’, which makes sense in theory, but not in practice. This day in age where every blogger is a YouTuber, every creator is a blogger, every mom is a beauty queen, and every wife is a chef (ok I guess that one has always been there), it’s become increasingly harder to excel at one role without having an arsenal of other skills to back that one up.
So maybe I should accept the phases but change my mindset? Instead of being upset that my calendar is either overloaded or empty, I should just embrace it as another one of the natural phases of life? This seems to be the path I am taking now, accepting that ‘this too shall pass’, and know that with every NO I give, there will eventually be a YES in a few months that I will be happy to accept.