If you’re in the game, play to win.
That was the advice I received from a mentor when, at mid-career, I was trying to figure out that elusive work-life balance. Fully in the game, I was working full-blast as a human resources professional. I negotiated union contracts, dealt with grievances, and managed staffing, salaries, and budgets. My career was demanding and exhilarating.
But it wasn’t what I wanted to do, not really. Like so many of you, I dreamed of becoming a writer, but sublimated that dream in pursuit of a profession. Had to pay the bills, you know!
Then, after 30 years, I retired, and was finally able to pursue my dream. Guess which question persisted?
You’re right: how to balance work and life. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? You’d think it should be easy—as a retiree, I can choose to play all day, dabble in my writing, and take naps.
Wrong. Writing isn’t a hobby-job for me. It involves nothing less than the fulfillment of my life’s dream, reaching the top of the mountain, achieving the peak of Maslow’s Hierarchy. In a more practical sense, the publishing world is more competitive than ever, requiring lots of work and time. it involves building a customer base, producing product, and publicizing that product. The pursuit of those goals requires constant study and skill-sharpening. So, on the one hand, we have a lot of work to do.
But on the other hand, there’s self-doubt. Nobody lives forever. More than ever before, there are consequences to how I choose to spend my time.
I have a wonderful husband, kids, and grandkids. In addition, I’m blessed to have my 90-year-old mom living five minutes away, and she’s active and as sharp as a tack. How can I give up my time with them in favor of my writing career? I’m 60, for God’s sake. What more do I need? And the ageist corollary: aren’t you too old to be working this hard?
None of us knows how long we’re going to live or be healthy, and no one will hand us the answer to work/life balance on a silver tray. All we can do is guess, and hope we’re making the right decision. There’s risk either way.
Funny: at a time when I expected to be able to write to my heart’s content, I’m still juggling priorities. The only difference is that by this time of life, I’ve learned a couple of valuable strategies:
1. Know what your goal is.
If you want to relax after working hard for so many years, do it without guilt! Savor and treasure every blissful moment. You’ve earned it. But if you want to pursue a new profession, take it seriously. The world will not cut you slack because you’re older. Quite the reverse.
2. Make a plan and stick to it.
Get the To-Do List back out, dust off the calendar, and start budgeting your time again. Bonus points for adapting to your biorhythms, if possible. For example, I do my best thinking in the morning. In the afternoons and evenings, I exercise, meditate, and socialize.
3. Be aware of where your resources are going.
Time is as critical as money, especially now. Avoid tasks and commitments that don’t move you toward your goal.
4. Always reassess. Weigh and reevaluate everything constantly. Keep your eyes open, recalibrate, and cross your fingers.
5.Find a mentor.
My husband is a retired businessman, and I often seek his counsel in making course corrections. Getting a second opinion can be extremely helpful.
I thrived in the corporate jungle for thirty years. At the top of my game, I walked away, chasing my lifelong dream. At fifty-eight, I published my first novel, which won an award. Two years later, I published a collection of short stories. I’m a blogger, writer, teacher, and public speaker, and in my spare time I travel, golf, read, and play with my grandkids. Some days are harder than others, but it has ever been this way. The only difference in retirement is that I have more say in how my days unfold.
I wish you the greatest happiness as you embark on the second half of your own life. May you experience success in whatever course you choose.