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Work life balance is like a visit to the cafeteria




Not long ago, someone in one of the many work life groups I belong to posed this question:

What's your #1 work life tip?

There have been great responses, but today, someone posted a response that I absolutely LOVE and had to share with you. 

Sheryl Nicholson writes:


 Recognize Life is a Buffet Table of Choices and always ask "What's the price?" and be willing to pay for any choice you make.


To me, Sheryl's advice is profound. How many times have you heard people groan about work life balance being a myth. It's not a myth. It's possible. But it takes making choices that have a price attached. Sometimes that price of a choice is high and can cost you a marriage, a promotion, a larger family, a lifestyle or even retirement savings. 

Sheryl's comment speaks directly to what Penelope Trunk said in her blog post earlier this week. She was addressing Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's new ban of remote working at her company.

Penelope writes:

The message here (that Mayer is sending) is that if you want to work at a company where people are doing big and important things, you have to give up everything. It’s okay to say that. Telecommuting is for people who don’t want to give up everything for their company. Mayer doesn’t want to work with people like that.

The workforce divides into two halves: people who try very hard to decrease the conflict in their life between work and home, and people who try very hard to get to the top of the work world. You can’t do both

The reality of today’s workforce is that if you want to have a big job where you have prestige and money and power, you probably need a stay-at-home spouse. Or two full-time nannies. Which means most people don’t have the option to go on the fast track, because most people have not set their lives up this way.

So let’s just admit that most of us are not on the fast-track. Stop bitching that people won’t let slow people on the fast track. Stop saying that it’s bad for family. It’s great for family. It means people will not continue operating under the delusion that you can be a hands-on parent and a top performer. People will make real choices and own those choices.

This is true for men and women. Today anyone can rise to the top if they give up their life to do it.

If you want to parent—really be there for your kids—then you need an alternative career track. You can telecommute, you can work part-time, you can freelance, you just can’t work with people who don’t need those same accommodations.

So today, people have choices, people have more control over their lives than ever, and people have good information to make intelligent decisions.


I think it's critical to take all information at your disposal and be realistic with yourself when you ask, "how much am I willing to pay?" for a choice you are about to make.  The balance "myth" comes when you underestimate the price and become surprised or disappointed at check out.

Have you ever felt you paid too high a price for a choice off the buffet? Do you think most of us are realistic about the cost of their choices?