Balancing work and life is a struggle most of us are all too familiar with. How do we find purpose in our every day lives, majority of which is spent working? Rashik Parmar MBE, an IBM Distinguished Engineer, shares with us his experiences and insights on finding the right balance and how he was able to benefit from every experience in his life.
By Rashik Parmar
Modern jobs seem to have no natural boundary between work and life. Mathematically your job should only occupy approximately 21% of the time you have each week, if we assume a 35-hour work week. The reality is that your mind is constantly thinking about what happened at work. When we get home the first question we get asked is “How was work today?” As we are likely to spend over 40 years in “working life”, choosing the right job should be a task we take very seriously.
The process of career selection is one that is intriguing. The most common approaches seem to be:
• Follow the path their parents defined (i.e. live the life their parents wished for)
• Emulate a role model that they had encountered either real or fictional
• Hope that the one day the right job will magically appear
These approaches might have worked well when there were clearly defined careers that would have occupied a lifetime. However, in the current marketplace, it is not unusual to expect to change careers 3-4 times in a lifetime. Also, the expectation from employers is that an individual is able to achieve “optimal performance” in a much shorter time than before. Even graduate or early career jobs demand previous work experience. The pressure to perform is intense.
To be able to find the path of success in a hyper competitive job marketplace requires a different perspective. Firstly, we have to realise that this is our life and not someone else’s. Secondly, the career is a journey and not a destination. We need to enjoy the journey and rewards need to be sufficient to create the satisfaction and happiness that invoke the motivation required to continue to perform. The outcomes created from your endeavours have to be meaningful to you. Your pride in sharing the stories of accomplishments needs to be authentic.
Having spent 34 years working at IBM as a technical professional and leader, I realised that I need to regularly review my activities and prioritise those that I find meaningful. Sure, I have to do things that I wish I did not. However, doing tasks that have an enduring meaning to me are the ones that inspire me to progress and perform. As an example, two years ago I observed an air of unhappiness at work, with relatives and friends. Wanting to reignite the latent happiness in people’s lives, I decided to write a short thought on happiness each week as a Facebook status update. Little did I know how difficult a task this was going to be. After 10 weeks, I was ready to give up. The response to each message gave me the motivation to continue. I managed to write 53 status updates and wrote a message inviting someone else to take on the challenge of writing a thought on happiness. However, everyone wanted me to continue writing these messages. This led me to create a new blog – Sunday Sprinkles – “In search of the sweetness in life”. Whilst this is probably the most challenging of projects I have decided to progress, it is the one that provides a unique meaning.
Through this journey, I have learned that we all perform multiple roles and we need to define the right suite of goals for each of these roles. Having clear goals for each role allows us to decide which projects or tasks we should accept into our worklist. This list of goals allows us to be sincere with our employers, colleagues, friends and loved ones. No one can predict the future, but this approach provides the framework for making the right decisions as the reality of life unfolds every second. More importantly you are able to be truly present in every moment and completely benefit from every experience in your life. You too can have a meaningful life and career.
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