This month's blog post from our Key Skills Coach, Archana, is all about the 'tiresome effort of constantly trying'. Juggling work-life, job applications, calls, chase-ups and emails with childcare, chores and home-life can sometimes leave you asking - 'Why do I bother?'. Well, you're not alone and here's our take on that line of thought...
A few days ago, a friend excitedly informed me that after 10 years of being a stay at home mother, she was re-joining the workforce. The interview process from start to finish was completed in 2 weeks (that must be a world record!) and soon she had an offer in hand. To say that my friend was ecstatic would be an understatement and I was ecstatic for her. But her story threw up some conflicts for me, too. Let me explain.
My friend’s career trajectory and life journey was similar to mine. We started our careers at the same time, believed “we could have it all”, aspired for international assignments, dreamed of promotions, fought for recognition and….then we got married and…then we had a child! That’s where our paths completely diverged. She decided she was content to be a home maker and a mother while I decided I was going to continue to try and have it all.
In the last 9 years, I have lived in 4 different cities – Delhi, Shanghai, New York and Dubai and can honestly say that I have stretched myself physically, mentally and emotionally and moved out of my comfort zone to find meaningful work. This meant networking, learning to “toot my horn” – an expression that denotes boasting about one self and acquiring new skills – language and professional certifications. In my reflections, I concluded that I did have it all (in the way that I define having it all) but what was irking me is that often my successes had seemed disproportionately small to my efforts, whereas my friend's recent success seemed to fall into her lap!
To this I then asked “Then why do you try so hard?” and “What would happen if I didn’t strive?” As my mind drew a blank canvas, it was liberating to know that striving for what I define as “better” is so deeply ingrained in me that I don’t know how to do it any differently. The process of self-inquiry also helped articulate my reasons for striving even when the odds are stacked against me.
So here are three reasons why I believe 'striving' is so important. These are personal to me but perhaps you can identify with some of them, perhaps you have more to add...please feel free to do so below mine!
1. I want my “VOICE” back
When I had a full-time job, decisions on career changes and relocation required a consideration of both my husband and my work aspirations. But as my career took a back seat, such decisions were still made collaboratively but the focus shifted to us as a family (schooling, quality of housing, distance of home from office, travel times back to our country etc). The tide turned again when I started work as an independent HR Consultant and Coach and contributed to our financial prosperity. Once again, our discussions included the ease with which I would find flexible work, how advanced the job market practices were in relation to women and our collective network of contacts that I could leverage to find a professional foothold. I realized how much I enjoyed having my “voice” back. I not only wanted a seat at the table, which I’ve always had irrespective of my work status, but also wanted my professional aspirations to be given its due respect. For that, I would have to work and to work I would have to continue striving!
2. I want to be a role model
For my daughter but also for my husband. I want my daughter to understand that if she is passionate about something, it takes a lot of GRIT (courage, conscientiousness, resilience, endurance and excellence) to convert that passion into achievement. I want her to know that she will leave her own unique footprint on the universe and the space in which she creates that foot print belongs only to her. Many who love her will facilitate, contribute and help but she alone is responsible for creating a path to success (as defined by her).
I’m also happy when my husband sees me strive (and suffer!) to get to where I want to be. The networking, the calling, the emailing, the following up – all managed with supervising homework and playdates, visits to the school for important events, accompanying for after school activities and birthday parties and planning holidays and visits back home. I believe it makes him empathetic to the women in his workplace and helps him better understand their day to day struggles. It is one thing for men in positions of authority to “intellectually” get the importance of supporting women and treating them as equals but it is all together a different type of “getting it” when they experience our struggles vicariously i.e. watching a loved one pushing to go that extra mile to fulfill career aspirations while juggling multiple responsibilities at home.
3. Because I deserve “better”
Better, good and great mean different things to different people. Some of my friends have voluntarily chosen the path of domesticity and I respect that choice. But it is not one that will fulfill me. I’m a better mother, daughter, sister and partner when I’m working than when I’m not. Having seen my mother work all her life and standing shoulder to shoulder with my father in all important decisions (she is my role model), I believe I have to tread the path that is “better” for me – that means contributing to the professional community, seeking work that will challenge me and make me “learning agile” and being responsible for my work deliverables.
As I end my ruminations and this article, my thoughts go to my women friends and coachees who are on their individual journeys of “striving” and this is what I have to say to them: “Behold the turtle. It makes progress only when it sticks his neck out!”.
Archana Bhatia is Hopscotch's Key Skills Coach and regularly helps women both through our 121 Coaching service and at our Workshops and Events.