The other day I was catching up with a very accomplished technology executive who was at a loss in forming her next professional moves because everything she prioritized right now pointed to her personal fulfillment – getting back into shape, focusing on family, travel. It made sense in a way since she had been working in the high-growth start-up space for the last few years and had overly focused on the professional side. Shifting her attention to personal fulfillment would bring her back into equilibrium. However, trading a single-minded focus on professional goals for a single-minded focus on personal ones is just one way to achieve both. Here are three other ways to balance between professional and personal fulfillment:
Take a sabbatical from professional to personal fulfillment (or vice versa)
Like what the tech executive is considering, my recent Forbes profile of poet Deborah Kahan Kolb is an example of someone who has already alternated between professional and personal fulfillment. In Kolb’s case, she juggles both the professional and personal – it’s just the focus that shifts. At one time, her family was front and center with writing on the side. Now, she still has a family but with a new book out, she’s making a push there. If your career, finances, and family obligations allow, you might consider an outright sabbatical where you stop working for a period of time to focus exclusively on something else. Or you might give up the lead role in the family to focus on career. One dual-career couple with two young kids coordinates when each of the two makes a big job move so that the other takes over at home.
Blend your career for both professional and personal fulfillment
If starting and stopping sabbatical-style is too extreme, you can blend your career choice to include both professional and personal fulfillment. I once coached a financial services executive who wanted a more mission-driven industry so she moved into education. After a few years, she realized she missed finance so she moved back into a financial services firm but in a role that focused on education and non-profit clients – the perfect blend of her professional and personal priorities. As a recruiter, I once hired a an accomplished finance and operations candidate who cut her teeth in brand-name private sector firms and now worked the same role but for a historical society (a passion of hers).
Compartmentalize your day-to-day to include both professional and personal fulfillment
Trevor Shane, hedge fund lawyer by day and author of the Children of Paranoia thriller trilogy, is my favorite example of how much you can do day-to-day. In Trevor’s case, he kept his demanding day job (it actually helps him write) and reserves specific evening hours for the writing. I’ve profiled several authors who manage to fulfill that dream of publishing while holding down different day jobs. Other strategies include using the help of support groups to keep you going or breaking down a side project into smaller steps that can fit with the other obligations in your life.
I’ve tried all of the above, and different methods work better at different times. There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for finding both professional and personal fulfillment. Sometimes you alternate, sometimes you blend, and sometimes you mix up your daily activities to get a taste of both. As our company turns 10 this year, the immense amount of energy we needed before to get the company going can now be funneled into other things. Professionally, I’ve been able to write more and I’m working on different types of coaching offerings – after all, the nature of work is changing dramatically. Personally, I’m focused on travel (Philippines, Costa Rica, England, India and Greece are on the calendar this year alone). What about you? How do you balance professional and personal fulfillment?