“You can have it all.”

“You can prioritize your health and wellness, have a career, have a family, have a hobby, have a hairstyle, have a group of friends and still get 8 hours of sleep per night.”

“Stacy has 3 kids, works as a lawyer, and tucks her kids into bed every night. Amanda has 2 kids, has a regular skincare routine, and works out 3 times per week. It’s all about mindset.”

This is what “they” say. The unspecified but loud voice of public opinion- we’re not even sure who they are, but we’ve all heard their loud, unsolicited opinions so many times that it’s ingrained in our minds. We see others who seem to have all their ducks in a row and wonder how they do, and as an extension, what’s wrong with us if we don’t have the same order that they do. The infamous “they”.

This is relatable to me in a whole new way as of late. We just expanded our family and now have two boys under the age of 4. My husband and I both work full time jobs in careers that require attention, skill and mental bandwidth in order to be successful. I am a competitive triathlete who is not ready to hang it up yet- training many hours per week, mostly in the dark, searching desperately for fitness in the wee hours of the morning. We meal prep at home, do our own lawncare and try to make time for our friends so as to not drive each other insane. By the time I tumble into bed at night I feel like I haven’t checked all of my boxes, and even the ones that I did get to, I wasn’t at my best, giving my fullest to any one task. As a high-achieving person, that doesn’t sit well with me, and it leaves me feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and resentful.

I don’t have all the answers but in the last three months, here are some key points that have continued to surface for me again and again. Maybe you’ll find them relevant too.

Priorities are Fluid

The notion of having a work-life balance seems to be a complete misnomer to me. We are never going to land on a 50:50 ratio that leads to everyone being happy all the time. Not going to happen! We are forced to make choices, and if we’re wise intentional choices, in order to really move the needle forward. In different seasons, different things can be the priority. Sometimes family takes the focus: aging parents move in, a baby is born, an immediate family member is in crisis. In these instances, it is ok to put work on the back burner and turn our attention to those who need us most. Sometimes career can also be the priority: a business is started, a promotion is accepted, a new project is given on a strict deadline. Making this a focus does not mean that we don’t care about the other things in our lives; family, health, friends can still be important, but they may not be center stage. It’s ok to have an ebb and flow of focus. I have had to be really honest with myself, and my support team, about what I can give to training right now, and have to settle for less than ideal, because other things are taking precedence. When the time comes to double down and focus, I will. I haven’t signed in blood that these are my unwavering priorities now and forever more; it is the reality of now.


We Make Time for What’s Important to Us

My hairstylist is phenomenal- truly amazing. When I stand up from her chair, my hair looks radiant, smooth and lovely. As I drive away, I keep stealing glances at it in my mirrors, vowing to myself that I’m going to make this happen again. I tell myself that I can make the effort to get out of bed fifteen minutes earlier, have coffee fifteen minutes earlier, workout fifteen minutes earlier, so that I have an extra fifteen minutes when getting ready in the morning to blow dry and roll brush/ straighten/ tease and whatever other voodoo magic she does to it to make it look like this. And what happens the next day, it gets some dry shampoo and put in a ponytail (sorry, Megan!). It’s because when it comes down to it, my sleep is more important, my alone time with only a coffee cup to keep me company is more important and the duration of my workout is more important. My actions point to it nearly every day. Rather than apologizing for it or trying to deny it, it has been helpful to me to embrace my decisions, take accountability for my selections and devote myself to the things that are truly the most important to me. I had the thought earlier this year that I could give up training- I could be a person that just runs a few days per week, hops in the pool on occasion and sometimes rides my bike on the trail if it’s sunny outside. And that idea brought me to tears. If that’s you, hear me clearly: this isn’t about you! If that’s you and you’re fulfilled by that movement, then fantastic! But I realized for myself, I still needed that competitive drive, that carrot to chase and that goal to work towards to work my body and feed my soul. Being honest about that doesn’t mean I don’t love my family or devote myself to work; it simply means that I can prioritize what’s important to me amidst the other commitments of my life.


Generosity is Never a Bad Idea

I wish that I could claim this phrase as my own, but that would be a lie. I heard it on a podcast- the host was interviewing Jimmy Darts, a YouTube sensation that crowdfunds and donates huge amounts of money to people who are down on their luck but still willing to give. The stories were so heartwarming and the magnitude of impact of small amounts of generosity was enormous. I cannot think of a single time when I have been generous with my finances, resources, time or expertise and been regretful. Plus, when I am looking for opportunities to be generous, it puts my mindset and intentionality on others, which gives me a great sense of well-being and contribution to mankind on the whole. It sounds cliché to say that it puts things into perspective and focus, but it couldn’t be truer. Whether it’s giving a person on the street a gift card to a restaurant to get a good meal, overtipping a service person who is working hard to earn a living or giving my time to a member of my family when I would rather be doing something else, I am always a little more joyful. And this joy spills over into other areas of my life that may not have been directly impacted. When I am living to look for opportunities to be generous, I feel less anxious about my time, or lack thereof, what I have accomplished, or lack thereof, and it seems to reinforce the idea that if I’m helping others, that I’m doing just fine.

Life is busy. It’s unlikely that I will ever be like “them”, the ones that have it all. But right now, I’m happy with the way I have allotted the time I have and the perspective I have.

About the Author

Dr. Jackie Sanders is a licensed Physical Therapist. She graduated from Wright State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Biology. She then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Cincinnati. In addition to being a physical therapist, Jackie is also a Certified Running Coach, with a special interest in video gait analysis. Her favorite part of physical therapy is working with patients to find creative solutions to meet their goals. She is passionate about treating patients holistically and determining the root cause of their impairments.