Having It All vs. Having Enough

Article Contributed by Guest Author Hope Eaton

For years Kyle was dedicated to a career he loved, and was almost happy with his work/life imbalance.  That is, until he had a family.  Once this happened, it was no longer okay to work 16 hour days.  There were other things that were important to Kyle, and he wanted to do everything as perfectly as he did his job.  He wanted it all, and why not, everyone else seemed to be doing it.

And yet, Kyle began to experience a great deal of frustration because he wanted to spend more time with his wife, his kids and his friends.  He wanted to keep up his exercise program, and he also wanted to keep doing the work he loved.

However, when he was at work, he did not feel fully engaged because he was thinking about the T-ball game his son was playing that he was missing; and when he was with his family, he was stressed and frustrated about the presentation he was not getting done.   When he was out with friends, he did not fully enjoy their company because he was thinking about the laps he should be swimming.

Kyle finally got to the point where he was not fully enjoying anything.   Everything he read about work-life balance, about being more productive and how to squeeze more in his days was not helping him, and his stress levels rose.

This is when he reached out for coaching.  We worked together to design his life through the lens of the emotional intelligence competency of realistic optimism rather than the “I can have it all” perfectionism he had been pursuing.  Starting with this optimal life exercise from Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, Kyle:

1. Identified the most important domains in his life.  For him these were:

  • Professional / career
  • Parenting / family
  • Romantic / spouse
  • Personal health / exercise
  • Economic / financial security

2. Created a two-column chart of what each of these domains would look like in a “perfect” world and what they would look like if they were “good enough.”

Domain Perfect Good Enough
Professional 8 hours of solid work per day 3 hours of “real” work per day with no interruptions
Parenting Spend all weekend with the kids as well as all mornings and evenings Have dinner and/or breakfast with his family 4 times/week
Romantic A date night 3 times per week A date night 1 night every two weeks
Personal Health 2 hours of exercise per day and 30 minutes of meditation 2 times per day 1 hour of exercise a day  (with weekends off) and two 10-minute meditations daily
Economic Tuition pre-paid for all 3 children by the time they are 3, $500,000 in savings by 40. Open a 529 and put away what they can and contribute to 401K up to employer match

Kyle identified the best possible scenarios for each domain given the realities of his life.  He accepted that he, like most of us, cannot have it all and that life is not “perfect.”  As a result, he is now fully engaged in each major domain of his life, and he is happier and less stressed.  Life is good !

How have you helped your clients work realistic optimism into their lives?

2 Responses to “Having It All vs. Having Enough”

  • I forgot to give you credit of this amazing article, Hope! Great post and really savored. Kudos!

  • That is a great article and spot on. I also work with such a scheme adding one more column about the current situation. Just by creating self awareness of how the client currently spend his/her time can be very valuable and a motivator for making a change.