With reports of the unemployment rate dropping to 7 percent, lower than it was even five years ago and down from a peak of 10 percent in October 2009, many are breathing a sigh of relief. But the effects of a long bout of high unemployment are sure to have thrown off the balance of employee well-being, says former Exxon executive Bob Epperly.
“Of course, the rate does not take into account those who are underemployed, including over-skilled workers in menial jobs and those with too few hours. For those lucky enough to have decent employment, many feel insecure and are willing to skew their work-life balance into a tailspin, with exaggerated emphasis on their career,” says Epperly, a CEO who realized at age 55 that even a very successful career cannot fulfill every aspect of life.
“Most people cannot afford to simply refuse the demands of their job, so what’s a worker to do?”
Epperly, author of “Growing Up After Fifty: From Exxon Executive to Spiritual Seeker,” (www.bobepperly.com), offers tips for correcting lifestyle imbalance.
• It’s never enough. Ambition is admirable, but if it’s all that drives you, no matter how much you accomplish, it will never be enough. If professional ambition is more important to you than anything else in your life, that’s a red flag that your life is dangerously unbalanced. The consequences will be painful feelings of emptiness, lack of fulfillment, and having missed out. Take steps now to restore balance, beginning with personal, non-work relationships.
• No one ever says, at the end of their life, that they should have worked longer and spent less time with family. When it’s all said and done, life is short, and many realize that time is life’s most precious resource. Intense focus on work tends to deprive professionals of opportunities with their loved ones – moments and memories that cannot be replaced. Set goals for how much time you’ll spend giving your family 100 percent of your attention each day and week, and stick to them!
• Make communication a top priority! The importance and value of real communication cannot be overemphasized. “More important than speaking is listening,” Epperly says. “My relationships immediately improved when I began listening very carefully to what was being said.”
• Only you are responsible for your life. The Serenity Prayer goes a long way in work-life balance; it reads: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Epperly says that recognizing he is responsible for his life and focusing on the aspects of it over which he has influence while recognizing those he needs to let go has been pivotal.
• Accept who you are. This can be challenging; it demands courageous self-reflection and letting go of the need for external approval. “When a friend asked me, ‘Do you think the world is ready to accept Bob Epperly just as he is?’ I suddenly saw that I had always felt I had to accommodate; that I wasn’t okay as I am,” he says. “I started to give myself permission to be me.”