Like so many professionals around the world, I know what it means to juggle multiple priorities at one time. With two kids and a demanding yet fulfilling career running a global corporate communications practice, completing the incredible number of things that need to be done each day at work and at home sometimes feels impossible.
Talking with colleagues and friends with similar situations, I know I’m not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of working parents say it is difficult to balance the responsibilities of both work and family. The push and pull of the juggle is constant, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that we have limits; that we are human with skin in the game.
However, we have a responsibility to ourselves, to our children, and to our communities beyond doing our jobs and spending quality time at home with our families. I believe that an important piece in today’s dialogue about our societal quest for balance is missing: Purpose.
Purpose is what defines us, what gets us out of bed in the morning and what makes all the struggles we go through to keep so many balls in the air worthwhile. Defining a purpose for myself has been key to my personal fulfillment at work and at home, and has helped me prioritize and set clear direction for myself.
I’ve been gratified there is a new wave of dialogue on this topic, as evidenced by Arianna Huffington and her concept of "Thrive" that challenges us to redefine success to include some of the softer touchpoints in a person’s life, such as well-being and our capacity for compassion and giving. As Arianna notes, our eulogies will not celebrate our long hours in the office or promotions, but rather our passions, adventures, and acts of kindness.
Pinpointing what mark you want to leave on the world can be a complicated question for some of us, but there are some essential principles that have helped me find purpose and balance in my life.
Decide how you want to be defined. We so often get swept up in the intense, chaotic, pressured everyday of our careers and not only accept too many responsibilities but also pile on projects without consideration to where we want to leave our mark on the world. Key to my personal fulfillment at work and at home has been focusing on the things that I want to define me. A huge part of my purpose is "doing good," which includes my work with inspiring corporations and nonprofit organizations. When I feel overloaded, I take a step back and ask if it is something that supports the definition that I have for myself on who I am. And while it may sound basic, finding ways to prioritize, better define priorities, and team with colleagues has also helped me focus on what’s important, while creating boundaries that give me more quality time outside work.
Channel what you’re good at into things that are meaningful to you. It can be intoxicating to be good at something, and easy to take on assignments we know we can excel at. But why not channel what you’re good at to causes and topics that matter and that are personally meaningful to you? At Ruder Finn, we recently expanded our cause marketing practice RF Effect. We have the privilege of consulting with clients who are making a difference in so many areas. This has been so fulfilling that I’ve also brought this idea home. For instance, every year my family partners with another family to host a Team Fox fundraiser for our client the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Never underestimate the value of a real-life community. While the Internet has transformed countless aspects of our society from how we do business to how we find information, it has also changed how we interact with one another. No matter what technology brings us next, nothing can replace the value of face-to-face interactions and the vibrancy of a real-life community. Although the Internet can help us in our quest to find balance and purpose by connecting us to information, I believe spending quality time with colleagues, friends, and family cannot be replaced by Facebook and LinkedIn. We need to create time for those important moments that are hard to replicate online, which help us realize and implement our purpose, such as mentorship, idea sharing, and dialogue on issues that matter.
Rachel Spielman is EVP and global head of corporate communications at Ruder Finn.