A lot of us aspire for a balanced life. But I am resigned to the fact that spending quality time for both work and personal life is a constant struggle and a result of day-to-day decisions we make based on what we hold dear in our hearts and our minds.
A balanced life for me is having to work so I can live a life of purpose, and not just to live for the sake of working. It stems from knowing my potential as a person, my priorities, my aspirations, and my limitations. Trying to strike a balance while all these parts are moving has become a work of art, a constant opportunity to know myself better while helping others cope with their own challenges in life.
For a sickly child like me, it meant having to read up about my physical condition, acquaint myself with the lifestyle that adequately suited it, and accepted the fact that I had to temper my ambitions and my personal goals, especially while I was recovering. It also meant looking for the right doctor. I had very bad experiences with a few doctors enough for me to advise especially parents to not treat them like benevolent beings; hence watch over their children when undergoing treatment. Like life, some are good; some are filled with evil intentions.
There were many things I wanted to do as I was starting my career. But choosing the best option meant listening and being sensitive to the people and situations around me. They often gave both strong and subtle signals about which route to take whenever I faced crossroads. During the bearish years in stockbroking, I felt it was time to leave the industry. My body gave me signals because I was getting seriously sick again. I sought advise from people in the know. In 2002, I said goodbye to a very rewarding career in equities and searched for the best option that allowed me to still use my technical skills while facing much less of the highly stressful environment, the massive intrigues, and the uncertainties that stockbroking hurled towards everyone in it. I reinvented myself and focused on investor relations where I still am.
There is a certain fear factor when making transitions. That’s very normal, especially when people depend on you financially. But sometimes, taking that leap of faith has its own lessons to teach. I had to make several transitions along the way. Nine to be exact. Each transition was full of scary scenarios and illusions that I had to drive away from my mind. Each time, I landed on my own two feet with a well-paying and fulfilling job. There were more positive surprises than negative, an important lesson learned in trusting oneself and one’s internal guidance. We all need to find courage inside of us, the knowing that we can lift ourselves out of challenging situations.
We also need advise from people who can bring light to the situation–those outside the bottle who see things from a larger perspective. This stems from our normal tendency to become rather myopic when faced with making tough decisions. Realizing that we need help is a very positive step towards growing up.
The best advisers are those who have vision, integrity and understanding. They know that everyone is different. They know that in the crossroads of life, there are no cut and dried measures, nor crystal balls that will tell us where the end of the rainbow is. Nor will they make false promises. The best advisers are those who will give us the mental, social and psychological tools we need to find our way, invoke the values we hold dear in our hearts, make us appreciate our giftedness while tactfully pointing out our weaknesses. They help us see the horizon more clearly, and let us go our way toward the paths we choose regardless of the seeming difficulties and dangers we may meet along the way. Lucky are those who seek, find and listen to people of wisdom and understanding. I am one of those who sought and found excellent life coaches and I am forever grateful for their advice.
Situations too, are great teachers, but only if we learn from them. The dangers and difficulties in the paths we take are hurdles meant to make us stronger, wiser, more compassionate, and more purposeful in life. And unless we learn from them, we will face these same situations over and over. For the more stubborn ones, situations get worse, at times, even fatal. We all naturally go through some vicious cycles in our lives not by coincidence but by purpose. What can propel us toward a progressive cycle are the lessons learned, the humility to accept who we truly are, the ability to cope and set new goals.
Then, there is a matter of destiny and vocation that no matter how much we try to insist, or how far we have strayed from a certain path, we are still somehow led to a place that calls us from within. I wanted to be a doctor, but my health years ago prevented me from taking that path. Somehow, I was led into alternative healing called Reiki and I have become a Reiki master. This is a non-invasive form of energy healing which is widely used these days in many countries because it works very well with traditional medicine. It was founded by a Japanese doctor who sought to understand the healing ways of Jesus Christ. You can read about Reiki in the internet where its methodology and various testimonies are actively discussed.
This leads me to the next element of greater self discovery. Try to engage in extra curricular activities or hobbies that will make you whole as a person. Work can get very boring after awhile. It is also limiting doing singular tasks because people are born to be multi-dimensional. We all have the capacity to express our thoughts and feelings in a myriad of ways. They add spice and color to our lives. Cooking, baking, playing the guitar, swimming, scuba diving, photography, powerlifting, traveling, writing, energy healing, dream interpretation, and intuitive reading have all become essential bits and pieces of my journey into becoming the person that I am today. God only knows what other skills could emerge in my life. Suffice it to say that I am open to new things that can broaden my horizon and deepen my perspective.
What do all these have to do with work-life balance? In my nearly 40 years of working with various institutions, I found that the best work-life balance is being able to live out one’s purpose—the secret door to internal peace, happiness and contentment. Contentment is not about being in a comfort zone nor drinking a refreshing cocktail by the beach. Nor is it about quantifying the hours we spend for work and personal matters. It’s about finding that road that allows us to thrive as a person, a family, a community.
I know a lot of senior citizens who are very happy working and still thriving. And why not? They possess the knowledge, the values, the wisdom, the understanding that can guide the young, the ambitious and the sometimes foolhardy start-ups find fulfillment in their careers. If you’re finding your way into a lucrative job, go look for a growing company that still values their old employees, no matter the rank. You can be assured that it is a place where you will learn the life lessons that can take you to other places and thrive. This I can say with confidence, because I’m in one such company where people way beyond retirement enjoy what they do best. With my current employer, I also know I will grow much older and be valued not just for the time I spend in the office, but also for the perspectives I can share; otherwise I would’t be writing for this space.
(Cora Guidote is a senior vice president for investor relations and corporate communications at SM Investments Corporation.)