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Jim Karas on the realities of finding a work-life balance



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Updated: February 19, 2013 8:54PM

I give speeches all over the country, sometimes all over the world. I blather to everyone from CEO groups to attendees of Oprah’s O You! events, generally to people who are looking to take better care of themselves and make changes. And they constantly say to me, “I just want a better work-life balance.”

Let’s explore that.

I know from my own experience, when I was building my business in my 30s and part of my 40s, that it was “work, work, work,” and not a whole lot of life balance. Oh, sure, I spent certain weeks and every weekend at home and was very hands-on with my kids (with the exception of changing poopy diapers — my bad!).

I look back at those years and it’s all a blur. But would I do it over again? Aha, that’s the $64,000 question. Yes and no.

Now, as a result of those 15 or so “blur” years, I have a really nice work-life balance. My kids are sane and succeeding. I have a great team at my firm, I write, I speak, I do TV appearances when the wind blows in my direction. Would this have happened without a time in my life when it was simply “work, work, work?” I don’t think so.

Now, how does this relate to you? Well, that all depends on what you want. You have to set the goals that resonate with you. I bet you haven’t done that. Here’s your quiz:

1. Do I REALLY want to make beaucoup bucks? If so, get ready to work, and wait for the eventual balance.

2. Do I REALLY want to have the balance now? Parent my kids and be there for soccer games, horrible school performances, the occasional tears and the wonderful, memorable laughter? Then work may have to take the passenger seat from time to time, and it might take a little longer to get that promotion.

3. Do I REALLY have to watch “American Idol,” ALL the “Housewives” and “Downton Abbey” (my personal favorite), or could I use some of that time a little more productively, for balance?

4. Do I REALLY have to work this many hours or am I just avoiding “getting a life?”

These are just a few questions. You REALLY need to decide what speaks to you.

Have you noticed my use of the word “REALLY?” That’s because to me, it stands for:

R — Real: This is your life, not a dress rehearsal. Trite but true.

E — End: Yep, you don’t get to live forever. Crappy fact and it goes fast.

A — Always: You can always make changes, some big, some small.

L — Love: What you do, who you touch, these precious minutes.

L — Leave: A lasting impression. It’s truly your legacy.

Y — Yell: When necessary. Ask my kids. I do, and when I’m done, I feel SO MUCH BETTER.

Don’t be someone who REALLY regrets your decisions. Buck up and make them with authenticity, with intelligence, with emotion and with conviction.

And feel free to stop by my studio and yell …

Jim Karas donated his fee for this column to Northwestern Integrative Medicine.

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