Paddling in a kayak through calm sunset waters

I spoke at an executive women’s conference recently where the program centered around the theme of  “Having it All.” Speakers and panelists offered perspectives on this topic that ranged from myth to miracle.

Often, when I hear people talk about “having it all,” the conversation is about volume…as in “super-size” me. I get this image of a caped super-human individual with the mystic powers to be a deeply devoted parent, put in 12-hours at the office, work out at the gym, manage the household, and get a full night’s rest. I don’t buy in to this steel facade of “I got this! I can do it all and have it all.” Maybe this can occur in the short-term, but it’s certainly not a sustainable nor fulfilling way to live.

What if this idea of “having it all” is instead about abundance and our making the choice to focus on what’s most important in our life? What if we paid more attention to managing our energy around what we most value, versus managing our time around our responsibilities and endless task lists. And that “I got this!” is about being an infinitely creative and resourceful human being, with both a deep internal well and rich connections and resources surrounding and supporting us.

Especially as women, it’s my sense is that we put this unrealistic expectation on ourselves to try and do it all, or worse yet, we must do it all to be successful. And we wait too long to raise our hand and ask for support. We wait until we’ve gone too far – we’ve burned ourselves out in our job, our relationships are beyond repair, we experience significant health issues, and we find ourselves completely exhausted. It’s often only then that we stop and wonder what happened.

Each of us has our own unique circumstances and resources in life. The key is to intentionally acknowledge and leverage them. I believe it comes down to three simple elements: choice, resonance, and flow.

Choice – Whether you consciously choose or not, you’re making a choice every moment. Each of us is in control of our personal choice. Why not take charge and own it? As an executive coach, I guide clients in personal visioning and planning similar to the way they typically approach this exercise within the workplace. In business, we plan – business plans, financial plans, strategic plans – but personally, we don’t often take time to reflect and think intentionally about our future.

For a moment, envision yourself five years from now, living the most fulfilled life you can imagine. What would it be like to create your vision, define your personal mission, and develop an action plan to get there? Whether you take this kind of approach or not, you are exercising choice. It takes conscious practice and commitment to choose a path of fulfillment.

Resonance – When I think of resonance, I think of depth and alignment. You know when you have it – resonance – and when you don’t – dissonance. It starts with knowing your core values. Values, like a keel, are the shape of your life beneath the surface that keeps you on course. Without it, you drift and shift directions with the wind. Another way to examine this is to ask, “What makes you tick? What are the must have’s in your life?” Mine are: connection, adventure, creativity, nature, wellness, spirituality, and independence. Know yours, and when you feel adrift it’s a place to look. 

Flow – Just like it sounds, flow is about energy and movement. Webster’s defines it “To proceed smoothly and readily, steadily and easily.” Flow is about taking each moment as it comes and being within it, allowing the energy and emotion to move through you. It is within this that we are provided our guidance. When things in your life feel “off,” usually there’s something interfering with this natural flow.

These three simple elements of choice, resonance, and flow can be quite challenging in actual practice. For example:

  • I get wrapped up in my day-to-day busyness and priorities and forget I have choice.
  • Business travel picks up, the schedule is intense, and I forget to honor my core values. Very quickly, I feel the dissonance – I’m in overdrive, I get tired, and I don’t make time for important things like getting enough rest and working out.
  • When I have a presentation to make, I sometimes gravitate to a podium where I feel safe relying on my note cards. Quickly, I get too focused on following my outline and fail to be open and connect with my audience. Goodbye flow.

The reality is that you don’t wake up one morning and say, “I need more choice, resonance, and flow in my life.” Instead, you wake up and you’re burned out, exhausted, unhappy, wandering, or stuck. This is how it shows up. Yet, when you peel back the layers, these outcomes often result from not exercising our choice, not being in resonance with what matters most, and failing to allow your true self to flow.

“Having it all” is about choice and knowing that we are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole human beings. Having it all is not shouldering it all yourself. It’s about knowing you have all you need to achieve everything you desire both within you and within your immediate grasp.


Read other related blog posts:

Whole Life Balance – Creating Flow and Alignment


brick closeAbout Jeanie Duncan: Jeanie is President of Raven Consulting Group, a business she founded that focuses on organizational change and leadership development in the nonprofit sector. She is a senior consultant for Raffa, a national firm working with nonprofit clients to lead efforts in sustainability and succession planning, executive transition and search. Additionally, Jeanie serves as adjunct faculty for the Center for Creative Leadership, a top-ranked, global provider of executive leadership education.

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