As I talk with more and more people who have “survived” their many years in the agency world, I’m constantly reminded of why we view it as having survived – it wasn’t in alignment with what we wanted for our lives. I loved the work I did and I often loved the people I did it with, but I had no control over which clients I could take on and which ones I could turn away. When you work 80+ hours a week to help brands and products that are not in line with your personal passions (or are, in fact, in direct opposition to them), you quickly lose the joy for work, the joy for life.
I eventually left agency life to start my own boutique firm and found that though I worked far more than 80+ hours a week (and often do still), the ability to choose work that aligns with my particular worldview and work with clients that I believe in 100% has made all the difference. Instead of leading separate lives where I’m one way at work and one way at home, one way in social media (my clients are watching!) and one way after-hours, I have found that all the angst around finding that balance was worth it – I can finally be me everywhere I go. That sounds so simple, but it is so powerful and bears repeating: I can finally be me wherever I go. Online or off.
Two recent items of note that reinforced this concept of alignment for me:
- Productive Flourishing Work-Life Balance – Waking Up to the Real Problem – This guest post by Michael Van Osch over at Productive Flourishing hits it squarely on the head: “
“So if lack of fulfillment is the major culprit that leads to the very real pressure we mistakenly attribute to work-life balance, then what is the answer? In other words, if it’s not a question of ‘balance’, then what is it? How do we obtain this elusive fulfillment from our work and life in general?
The answer is alignment. It’s about aligning what you do for a living more closely with who you are as a person (meaning your strengths, preferences and goals). It’s about aligning your work with what you’ve been put on earth to do…”
- Amy Jo Martin of Digital Royalty recently asked an extremely pertinent question on Twitter – “Is there a difference between the professional you and the personal you? If so, why?” For so many years, my answer to this was a resounding “yes.” Why? Because the professional me was divorced entirely from the personal me. My work in no way reflected what I believed in, what I cared about, the difference I wanted to make in this world. My answer now is a delicious “no” because I found a way to organize my life so I get to be me wherever I go, online or off. I get to do work I care about, work I believe is changing the world and I don’t have to hide that from anyone.
I know how lucky I am that I’ve been able to make this transition. It wasn’t easy. And I wasn’t able to make a perfectly clean, storybook kind of break from agency life. I left and went back. I left and went back. Then I left again. It was scary. There were very lean months and I’m sure there will be again. But I cannot fully express what it’s like to replace that sick-to-your-stomach on a Sunday night feeling with…excitement for what Monday will bring. This is something I heard people talk of and simply assumed they were all being their fake professional selves when they said it. Who is excited about Monday? Ever? Turns out, I am. Often. All because of alignment.