In Search of Work/Life Balance

At my college commencement, the keynote speaker was attorney Gloria Allred. I was excited to hear an accomplished woman talk about my and my classmates’ great achievement and how the rest of our lives were in front of us. She did not disappoint; her talk was as congratulatory as I hoped it would be. She told us we should feel proud of graduating from college and should take the rest of the day to celebrate with our family and friends.

But then she told us if we didn’t hit the ground running and get on with whatever it was we were going to do, that the world would pass us by. She told us to work hard and to expect everything to be hard work. She repeated over and over that work and life are HARD. Really, really hard.

She’s right, of course, but I wish she’d also shared some insight as to how to find some balance, and the value of not compromising what’s most important to us in our quest for success. Looking back, one of the things I realize is that when I entered the workforce in the early 1990s no one was talking about work-life balance. Companies weren’t promoting it and employees weren’t asking for it.

In my view, one of the results that came from the bust and the 2008 recession is the perspective that life is LONG. And the ladder to success isn’t worth climbing unless you are

  • working on being the person you want to be in all the roles you take on (wife/husband, parent, friend)
  • living in sync with your values and what’s important to you

That’s what work/life balance is really about. It isn’t about having flexibility to leave work to watch your child’s little league game. It’s about leaving work to support and fuel and enjoy one of the most important relationships you have in your life. I know a lot of executives who clawed their way to the top in the 90s and 2000s only to look around and ask themselves “is this it?”

Finding balance, purpose, and joy is the true meaning to work/life balance. If you’re not already enjoying a productive work/life balance, I hope you spend time at the start of the new year to identify the most important relationships you have with people and with purposes. See how you can include activities to deepen those relationships in the upcoming year.

  • Make a list of what’s most important to you, including people and purposes
  • Make a list of the activities you want to do that year
  • Put each of these lists in a place where you will see them frequently
  • Set some goals for the year to ensure you honor what’s on your lists
  • Put an event on your calendar for one year from now where you will celebrate creating a more fulfilling work/life balance

Life is about relationships. It’s well documented that when people reach old age they think most about the people and activities they loved over the years.


Julia is a Career Strategist and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at,, (@JuliaHolian) and

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