Can we Lean In AND Thrive?
I'm not sure if it's a dichotomy, paradox or a conundrum, however I know it is an issue that I, and potentially many others, grapple with - can we actually both Lean In AND Thrive?
The summer before last I read the two aforementioned books back to back. I loved both of them, both Sandberg and Huffington "spoke to me". Or should that be, they "spoke to parts of me".
Sheryl Sandberg very much spoke to the career me, the one that has refused to acknowledge any glass ceilings or ever take no for an answer. It appealed to the side of me that genuinely believes I can do whatever I want to do and I can be anything I want be. This is the side of me I uphold as important not just for me but as a role model for my young daughters, the young people I teach and those that I work with. To me, this is about developing a kick arse sense of self-efficacy - a quality that I think is integral to success in the 21st century.
But then the other part of me chimes in, usually when I feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Who am I kidding trying to do everything? Is the success worthwhile if it comes at the expense of wellbeing? This is where Ariana Huffington seems so right. You are right Huffy, I do need to look after me! It was also at this point that I also got a bit pissed off at Huffington...it always seems a bit rich when people extol the value of balance and wellbeing AFTER they have reached the peak of their career and have accrued a fortune in the process. It's all well and good to sit back and bloody Thrive after a few decades of Leaning In.
I absolutely value my wellbeing and promoting the wellbeing of those around me, but it does beg the question - can we really Lean In and Thrive at the same time?
Well as I am not one to give up easily, I am giving it a bloody good go. Here's my plan for trying to achieve both. I like to think of it as a bit of a yin and yang approach - fives things I do that, for me, equate to "leaning in" and five things that I do that I believe might help me "thrive". Notice the use of me and my, I recognise this is deeply personal and whilst I guess I do write this as advice, I also acknowledge that this will look different for everyone.
My 'Lean In' top five
- Have a career plan and share it - from the first day on the job as a teacher I was clear about one thing, I was going to a Principal and I needed to know the best way to get there. I am a big believer that if you let people know where you want to go, they are more likely to point you in the right direction. All to often I see people get frustrated because they aren't being awarded with the positions they think they deserve - have you told people you want that position? Or did you expect them to pick it up my osmosis? I believe there is real value in articulating your goals and intended next steps. I also seek advice far and wide, if someone is in a role I hope to have some day, I ask them how they got there and what they learnt on the way.
- Share your passions and your practice - I believe many opportunities and invitations have come about because I do one thing regularly, I share. I share my ideas, my thinking and the work of those around me. I don't particularly worry if it's worthy, my theory is if people are interested they'll read it/watch it. If they aren't, they won't - this doesn't make the act of sharing any less valuable. When talking to students about the power of blogging I often highlight the status of "perceived expertise" you gain simply by writing about a topic on a public forum. Do it enough and you get invited to speak about what you write about and so the perception grows. I have been blown away by how often people appreciate what you share and that it often encourages others to share back.
- Ask to be included - don't wait for a freakin' gilded invitation. I have had the opportunity to serve on many educational reference/working groups. This is not a lucky coincidence. On many occasions I have contacted key people and key agencies and asked if I can be involved in some way. How can I help? Who should I contact? What do you need? Then what often happens is that one group leads to another, your capacity to join the dots and connect with key people increases with every group you participate in.
- Learn more stuff - one of the most unattractive qualities in a person is the belief that they have nothing more to learn or no interest in learning more. And this isn't about learning with a capital L, it's more about being curious and interested to learn more about anything. At present I am working my way through the world's longest Masters of Educational Leadership, it's slow and painful, but I am learning, learning stuff and developing resilience along the way. Learning also gives you more stuff to share, it's a win win really.
- Say yes (most of the time) - if you are asked to do something or see an opportunity that may lead to more opportunities, then say yes! Unless you should say no ;) - see below.
My 'Thrive' top five
- Do something for me everyday - this used to be going for a quiet coffee before work, recently this has become a daily yoga session with my YouTube girl crush Adriene. Basically my theory is that I am way nicer to everyone else, if I am nice to myself.
- Go to bed early - I given up trying to pretend I can work late into the night and be okay the next day. Now I go to bed and read a book at 9.00pm. It get's me offline and I don't seem any less productive (as a side note - I have also combined this with a magnesium supplement - Ultra Muscleze Night. The supplement has worked wonders for stopping my incessant worry list before I nod off - highly recommend it).
- Be unapologetic about putting family/self first outside work hours - I owe my beginning teacher mentor, Brian Lamb, for telling me very early on that a work/life balance will make you a better teacher - that the more rounded you can be, the more interesting you can be in the classroom. I relish my evenings, weekends and holidays as time for me, family and friends - I don't get the desire some teachers have to try and prove (particularly to non-teachers) that they work all hours/weekends/holidays. Of course I do work some of those times, but hell, I also cherish that a career in education means I can be both career focused and have time with my family - I encourage all of my non-education friends to consider the shift to education. It rocks. I definitely didn't get into teaching for the holidays, but I definitely appreciate them and intend to make the most of the flexibility they give me.
- Invest in date nights and entertaining with friends and family - I love good drink, food, movies and hanging out with my husband, my family and my friends. I love throwing myself head first into my career and am lucky enough to have a partner and family who supports me in teetering on over-committed at all times. My theory is you can never take this for granted, date night, family dinners and parties helps to ensure we don't all become passive-aggressive-passing-ships-in-the-night and also doubles as an opportunity to indulge in the things I love.
- Say no (some of the time) - one thing I have learned in recent years is that it is okay, on occasion, to say no. Whilst I firmly believe that if I can do something, then I will. However I have also realised that if saying yes is going to take me away from my family, make me begrudge the person who asked or is likely to push me over the edge, then it's more than okay to say no. I used to be convinced I would miss out opportunities, but I have discovered that if you usually say "hell yes" and sometimes say "no", the invites still come. It is okay to be selective about opportunities, choosing to say yes to things that serve you as well as serving others.
So there you go, definitely not rocket science and I am not sure it proves or disproves the ability the Lean In and Thrive at the same time - it's probably as close as I am ever going to get. Would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
One final bit advice for anyone navigating their way through some attempt at work/life or life/life balance is this - what ever path you choose, I suggest you own it. And I mean REALLY own it. I don't believe there is any "right choice" and think we often waste precious energy defending our life choices, whether it be to be a working parent, stay at home parent, married, unmarried, coupled, single, wanting kids, not wanting kids, wanting cats, dogs or capybaras (note I WANT a capybara) to keep you company. My only real advice is to own your own brand of awesome and appreciate the choices other may make or hand they may have been dealt.
And finally, be prepared to weather some flack for wearing your brand of awesomeness with pride, because as my husband so eloquently put it when I got a bit a flack - "some people are dicks" and quite frankly there is nothing you do about that.
Thrive: : The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder by Ariana Huffington