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As the debate about work-life balance, and having it all, rages on, many of my clients, and students, come to me wondering if they really can have fulfilling relationships, better finances, good health, and a modicum of sanity all at the same time.

My personal opinion, as a mother of five, someone who was diagnosed with MS seventeen years ago, and a woman on a quest to constantly improve herself is a resounding ‘yes.’

It isn’t going to happen however if we make either one of the following three fatal errors and basically annihilate any hope of achieving it.

1 – Comparing Ourselves to Anyone Else.

We all know someone who appears to effortlessly be a size two, always looks impeccable, has children who seem to have never met with finger paint, or mud for that matter, has a to-die-for partner, lives in a home that was likely featured on HGTV, and has boundless effusive energy for life.

What we do not likely see is the stylist, nanny, chef, decorator, top notch dermatologist, sweaty Pilates sessions, and the near starvation diet that keeps the muffin top away.

Granted, that may seem extreme however the truth is that we tend to only focus on what we see when it comes to other people and not the work that goes into it.

Comparing ourselves to others is a fatal mistake in the quest for work-life balance.

People who appear to have more balanced lives may however be a storehouse of great tips on how to achieve greater balance ourselves.

It is definitely worth asking how they do it, though comparing will only serve to create feelings of frustration.

2 – Failing to Create a Personal Definition of What Work-Life Balance Looks Like.

How would we ever reach a destination unless we defined it?

Work-life balance is personal.

For some people a balanced life is a very social one whereas for others, it may be more monastic.

For example, we have friends who love to entertain and have a big family.

They feel the most balanced when the house if full of people and there are children running around.

For Chris, and myself, we love entertaining once in awhile, however we relish the joy of solitude with the kids.

In French, there is a saying, ‘À chacun son gout,’ meaning, ‘to each his own taste.

When it comes to work-life balance, the same is true – it is entirely up to us to define our ideal and work to live into it.


3 – Living in the Past.

When I ask my clients about their goals, I frequently hear things like, ‘I just want to get back to the weight I was before I had kids, or I want to get my finances back on track.’

By focusing on where we were before, we close the door to the possibility that things can be better.

If you want to achieve work-life balance, you must focus forward.

Life changes and with new circumstances there can be no ‘back.’

Chris and I fondly reminisce about our days in Toronto living in a high rise near the corner of Yonge and Eglinton.

Many Sundays were lazy. We woke up, had some coffee, and ran for two hours, meandering back to our apartment and then spent the rest of the day reading the paper, cooking and relaxing.

We didn’t have five children then so although we can live components of this, it is a fool’s errand to consider that balance at this point in our lives.

Instead, we can choose to focus forward with the knowledge that there is no going back, there is only progress toward a new definition.

Make a conscious decision to stop trying to go backward and look only to the present and the future.

Work-life balance is not an urban myth; it is real and you can achieve it.

Avoid these mistakes and dare to create a life that is richer, and more fulfilling, than anything you have ever experienced.

Susan Sly is a best-selling author, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur.  She specializes in helping individuals, and organizations, become more productive.  She resides in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband, Chris.  Susan is the mother of five children and loves her life! To connect with Susan, visit




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