One of the many challenges for women today is that they have so many options and choices. In my mother’s generation and all those before, working might have been a bit of a hobby or just a filler in the wee space after schooling and before marriage.In highly unusual circumstances, with enormous determination and elaborate manoeuvering, some found a way to make use of their brain power. Today, apparently, you can be anything. But, it seems, there is a societal expectation floating in the ether that you also need to be everything. Meeting these, often conflicting, expectations would be easy if like Harry Potter’s friend Hermione, you could step out of one time zone and go and do a whole bunch of other stuff, and pop back to the same moment when you done everything else. But that is fiction, and there are only 24 hours in a day and you do need to sleep. So, you must make choices.
There is enormous subliminal pressure for women to drive hard and relentlessly to fulfil their career potenial given the collosal efforts by women in the past and present, and by politicians and employers more recently. However, at the same time as being a great worker, you should be a great daughter, friend, partner or wife, (carrying the lioness’s share of the domestic necessities), mother, sister, colleague, boss, role model, and networker. You should dress well, have a trim figure, and be eternally youthful. You should have an active social life; have fascinating interests outside work and work out regularly. You should have 2.2 children, not skip a day of work, and breast feed them for 4 years each (apparently to avoid breast cancer, cervical cancer, and osteoporosis and to give your darlings their best start in life*). You should be positive, tireless, clam and assertive but never aggressive.
Who says you have to succeed at all these things?
The truth is you don’t. In the words of more than one of the women leaders I interviewed in creating The Women’s Sat Nav to Success™,
‘You can have it all. But not at the same time’
If you try to be great at all these things at the same time you will underachieve on all of them. You will then feel that you are constantly ‘failing’ or you will try even harder and you’ll become more tired and more frustrated.
So stop. Pause and take stock. You need to look at your life as a series of stages, not one block during which you have to achieve everything on your life-list.
Ask yourself, ‘what are the most important things for me to do well at right now, at this stage in my life, and, what needs to wait for another time?’
The fact is that you are the only person who will live your life so the only expectations of your life, that you should try to live up to, are the ones that you decide upon based on your values**, what is important to you and what will make you happy***.
If you’ve written down what’s important the next thing to do is ask yourself, ‘are these my ideas of what’s important or did they come from someone or somewhere else and, if so, how do I really feel about them?’
So, now you should have a slimmed down set of things that matter to you, that you want to do well in at this stage in your life.
The things that you’ve identified as less important you can also make choices about. Across my 45 interviews with leading women many pointed out that women have a habit of wanting to do things far better than necessary, whereas most guys seem have worked out (and got comfortable with) the fact that if 51% is good enough. Any more is wasted time and effort that could be put to better use.
So, challenge yourself with the things you have moved down the priority list, ‘how well do I really have to do this?’
And finally, you may need to let some people know where your focus now lies and what the benefits are of this new focus – to you, to your role, to others, to them – so they can make their own adjustments.
We’d love to hear about your changes, how it felt making them and what impact they make. Email us firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment.
If you’d like to reserve your copy of the book, The Women’s Sat Nav to Success™ email me at email@example.com.
* Myth alert. Research shows that infants need a consistent carer – and it doesn’t matter whether that is Mummy, Daddy, Nanny, childminder, nursery, grandpa or grandma. Gender is irrelevant; they just need consistency – to know who will be there and to know they care.
** It can be very hard to articulate your values – The Women’s Sat Nav to Success™ use a self assessment tool to help clients articulate what’s important, to prioritise those values and to start working out what to do differently to ensure their working life is aligned to those values. If you would like a free copy, please call or email.
*** Asking what makes you happy at work is also a tough one to answer without any options or structured way of thinking widely enough to make the output worthwhile –The Women’s Sat Nav to Success™ have a simple self assessment tool we use with clients to distil what’s important and to identify what needs to change to secure those things and off-load the things that get in the way. If you would like a free copy, please call or email