Former lawyer says work life balance is not impossible

Today my guest blogger is Yuliya I. LaRoe, founder of Confident Entrepreneur Business & Leadership Coaching. LaRoe is originally from Vladivostok, Russia. She immigrated to the US in 1997 and quickly set her sights on becoming a lawyer. After graduating from the University of Southern California Law School, she spent about 8 years working as a business and international law attorney in a large law firm in Los Angeles. I found her perspective on work life balance interesting and wanted to share it with all of you.

 

YuliyaMy pursuit for the "perfect" balance between work and life started with my first job as a lawyer. The realization of how hard it was to juggle work assignments with family obligations and still wanting to spend time with friends, on hobbies and to travel (which I love) was a bit of shock to me. School was much easier in that sense – show up to classes, do your homework, and pass the exams. But work was much more demanding. It required long hours, work on the weekends, and at times felt all consuming. I spent about 8 years working as a business and international law attorney in a large law firm in Los Angeles. 

 

And then in 2011, I came to a (quite shocking!) realization that the practice of law was no longer satisfying. I decided to shift gears completely and become a business and leadership coach. I wanted to help women business owners and professionals grow their business or career, while becoming more focused and confident about they really wanted, connecting with their purpose, and infusing more balance, and happiness into their daily lives.

 

To be frank, it took me months to make the transition happen, during which I experienced my own version of "Eat, Prey, Love" (I spent 2 months volunteering in Costa Rica, traveled to South Korea and Russia, completed a 4-month yoga teacher certification course, back-packed around India for a month, and attended a 10-day SILENT meditation retreat). 

 

Recently, I bought Sharon Lechter's book "Think and Grow Rich for Women: Using Your Power to Create Success and Significance and found one particular passage to strike a cord with me. In it the author says:

 

"For years, women have been taught that they should be able to have it all. They should be able to choose to work full-time or part-time, or work from home while still getting married, having children, and managing a household. But there were no rules or guidebooks on how to have it all and keep your sanity in the process. 

 

Think and Grow Rich for Women debunks the work/ life balance guilt trip that women struggle with. I personally believe the word “balance” was created by a group of old male psychologists who saw the rise of women in the workplace and wanted to make sure they had a steady stream of female patients— women tormented with guilt and frustration with their inability to achieve the psychologists’ definition of balance.”

 

This resonated with me because many of my clients deal with this issue on a daily basis, and my own failed search for that proverbial "perfect balance" was one of the reasons I struggled in my past career as an attorney.

 

At some point, I had resigned myself to the idea that I couldn't "have it all" and that I just had to choose one thing, my work. But as we all know, all work and no play make anyone a dull person. Slowly I began to get that feeling that my soul was being crushed. Sounds dramatic, I know, but that's how it felt.

 

Now, years later, I realize that balance itself was not impossible. The secret that no one tells you about is in how we define "balance". Most of my clients, when we first begin working together, place such high demands on themselves – to be the perfect professional, the perfect spouse or partner, the perfect parent, the perfect friend, the perfect child, etc. All of that while achieving the "perfect balance." 

 

We drive ourselves into exhaustion by trying to achieve and overachieve. Plus, add the guilt that comes when we realize that we are "failing." I recently had one of my clients apologize to me for not creating and mailing her family photo Christmas card to me because she had so much on her plate that she "was going nuts" (hardly necessary to lose one's sanity over a postcard!).

 

What I tell my clients is what I had to tell myself: carve out some time and get clear on your true priorities in life. Start by asking these questions: "How much of what I am trying to accomplish is what I truly want and how much of it is driven by societal and cultural pressures? What would my life look like if I relaxed at least some of my standards? At what point does trying to "have it all" while having "the perfect balance" begin to work against me?" 

 

The answers will set you in the right direction.

 

Join Yuliya at Any of These Upcoming Events! 

  • January 22, 2015: Thelma Gibson Awards hosted by the Women's Chamber of Commerce of Miami-Dade County
  • January 29, 2015: SCORE Miami workshop – Featured Presenter, “'You Said What?' Boost Your Business Etiquette Skills to Ensure Success of Your Business" @ 2000 Ponce Business Center
  • February 4, 2015: WIFS (Women in Insurance & Financial Services) South Florida's Annual Kickoff Meeting  – Featured Presenter, "Plan to Win & Make It Happen! 3 Key Strategies For Success"

The Work/Life Balancing Act

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