When most people hear the phrase, “good work ethic,” they think of someone who works with extreme focus and diligence. This person often puts their job above everything else in their life, and they end up running themselves ragged.
But the truth is this: an ethic is a philosophy, and having a good work ethic means having a healthy understanding of what work is, why we do it, and how it plays into the rest of our lives.
Learning the Lesson
At one of my previous jobs, I was the go-to person. If anyone had a question, I would get a call at three in the morning. I never said no. I was the person who would run to the fire.
Eventually, I realized I needed a change. I was so off balance, my personal life was hurting. While I was deciding what to do, I realized I wouldn’t be able to transition down the ladder in my company after having been their go-to person for so long. I even had a conversation with the CEO, and I explained my situation. He told me I didn’t have to be that person. I could be anyone, but when I was truly honest with myself, I knew that couldn’t happen. Not at that company.
So I made a difficult choice—I did what was best for me, my personal life and my family, and I resigned. I took some time off and started looking for another job with a better—and healthier—idea of what I needed in a balanced work situation.
Since then, I have found better opportunities for me. I now set my own expectations and my own boundaries.
Balance Starts at the Top
If your boss has balance, it’ll be a lot easier for you to have it, as well. In my career today, I’ve found balance. In the companies I work with, it’s practiced by the CEO on down.
Now I look for companies that are more balanced. I find myself thinking it’s okay if the doctor runs late, or if I need to go get a haircut, or go to my daughter’s school to help out. I can’t blow off work or be late consistently, but I’ve learned that sometimes you can reschedule your day to find some balance. Make time for real life.
Previously, I never would have postponed a call, or rescheduled, or let someone else take the call. Now, I can do those things. In my life today, that balance is non-negotiable.
It’s Just Business
Identify what balance means to you at the start of your career and as your career progresses. Some companies may not allow for the right balance you need, and you’ll have to make a decision about whether or not that’s the right company for you. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not just about the company you work for. You have to enforce your own balance, even though it will be difficult.
No matter how much you give up for your work, or how good you are at it, remember, it’s just business. It’s not the only piece of who you are. It’s part of who you are, but it’s just business. Don’t be afraid, even in a new job, to say you aren’t available sometimes.
And remember this: you have the right to make real choices about your work-life balance!