Seasons of life and work: It’s not about having it all; it’s about having what matters!

change happiness having what matters self-care work/life balance

Navigate the seasons of work and life for optimum well-being and success!


I’m always watching for themes and patterns, and one thing that’s been coming up this last week in questions following the presentations I’m giving and in my private coaching is the theme of “seasons.” (And I don’t mean meteorological seasons, even though it is an oddly balmy 53 degrees in Minnesota today!)

I’m talking about seasons of life and work, and maybe I’m noticing it because it’s a theme in my own life right now, too, as we are in the final semester of high school with our two high school seniors. 

As legal professionals, we often find ourselves juggling multiple responsibilities and commitments, striving to give our best in every area of our careers and our personal lives. But what I’m seeing people struggling with is the idea that we should be optimally performing and giving 100% in every area of our lives at all times. 

Of course, this is impossible. It’s been helping me to remember the reality of "the tail end" and focus on what truly matters in each season of our lives.

Tim Urban's powerful article, "The Tail End," starkly shows the limited time we have with our loved ones and the importance of prioritizing our energy and attention toward things that matter. (Be careful reading this one, parents: it’s powerful and a bit breath-taking.) 

In a nutshell, by the time our kids graduate from high school, we’ve experienced 93% of the in-person parent time we will have with them in our lives. So, by the time they walk across that high school graduation stage, it’s the tail end.

(There are also other examples in the article that are related to other things that matter - things you think, “Oh, I’ll catch that next time. No biggie.” Literal changing of seasons, Superbowls, visits to the ocean, books you’ll read, opportunities to vote, etc.)

Here are five tips for choosing where to focus our energy and how to excel at work while still showing up personally for those we cherish:

Prioritize Your Goals: Take some time to reflect on your long-term goals and values. Identify what matters most to you in both your professional and personal life. This will help you prioritize where to focus your energy and time.

Set Boundaries: Wherever possible, establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Determine specific times for work-related tasks and dedicate uninterrupted quality time for your loved ones. Communicate these boundaries with your colleagues and family members to ensure mutual understanding and respect.

Practice Time Management: Efficient time management is key to balancing work and personal commitments. Use tools such as calendars, to-do lists, and time-blocking techniques to prioritize tasks and allocate sufficient time for both work and personal activities.

Combine Goals: Look for opportunities to integrate your professional and personal goals. For example, consider volunteering with your family or participating in community events that align with your values. Finding ways to serve two kinds of goals simultaneously can be fulfilling and time-saving.

Talk with Others in the Same Season: Sometimes, we forget that others are similarly situated and might have wisdom to share or at least an empathizing ear. Find those people. Share tips, hacks, and ideas. Share “war stories.” Laugh at the absurdity of it all. Cry together when needed. But we are rarely alone if we are emotionally brave enough to connect with others instead of feeling like we need to go it alone and be impermeable. 

Practice Self-Compassion: Understand that you can't give 100% to everything all the time. Be kind to yourself and prioritize self-care. Allow yourself to set realistic expectations and accept that it's okay to ask for help when needed. Remember, perfection is unattainable, and striving for it can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction.

And it’s critical that you avoid comparing yourself to others. Each person's journey is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Focus on your own goals, values, and progress rather than measuring yourself against others' achievements and how they choose to spend their time and energy. They are likely in a different season, and while we get to respect their choices, we also get to make our own. 

As the old adage goes, “Comparison is the thief of joy” (attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt). Comparison often leads to unnecessary stress and undermines our ability to appreciate our own accomplishments and the precious moments in our own lives.

In the early years of legal practice, it's common to feel pressure to excel professionally while sacrificing personal time. However, it's critical to recognize that this is just one season of life, and there are even different seasons to our professional lives. 

This is exactly what came up for an associate I was coaching last week. You know me: always trying to be as honest as possible (“Clear is kind”, as Brene Brown would say.) He’s in his second year of practice, and he was challenged by the intensity and asked if there was any way around it. I shared what a law professor friend and I were chatting about earlier last week (note the recurring theme) - that the early years of practice can be a bit of a grind, but they set you up for success later. So find ways to make them tolerable without totally sacrificing your well-being and relationships, and accept the grind for a while rather than fighting it. There will be seasons of grind and seasons of, well, slightly less grind. 

There are also seasons personally that are intense (caring for young children, the busyness of activities in the middle and high school years, tending to aging parents, etc.). Let those seasons be what they are; try not to resist them, but lean into the seasonality of it all. 

As we progress in our careers, we must learn to adjust our priorities and find a balance that allows us to thrive both at work and in our personal lives.

By embracing the concept of seasons and focusing our energy on what truly matters, we can excel professionally while still showing up personally for those we love and the things we care about in the way we want to. 

For me, this means a little less LinkedIn posting time. I still try to stay in touch there, but right now, I’m not posting about every presentation I give, every article I write, and every idea I have. That time will come, but it’s not right now. There are things like LinkedIn that I’ll lean back into when this season is complete. Breakfast with my kids is more important, and those images from the “Tail End” article are burned in my mind. I don’t have endless breakfasts left with my kids; in fact, I don’t really have that many at all.

And this also means you might lean into a season professionally - a huge professional opportunity that means you might miss one of 25 baseball games this year. Maybe you lean into the professional opportunity because that’s also a part of this season of career building. Just be intentional about your choice and like your reasons for making the decisions you make.

What can you lean out from (for now) so you can lean into other priorities, personally and professionally, in this season? 

So, let's prioritize our goals, set boundaries, manage our time effectively, combine our goals where possible, practice self-compassion, and refrain from comparing ourselves to others. As I’ve often said, it’s not about having it all; it’s about having what matters. 

I’m here for you, whatever stage you are in. Let me know how I can help or support you.