Is Taking A Vacation More Stressful Than It’s Worth?

Is Taking A Vacaction More Stressful Than It's Worth?

Kathleen Byars | November 14, 2017

Back in 2000, I was a frequent flier. I clocked enough miles each year that my favored airline, British Airlines, awarded me a first-class trip anywhere in the world BA serviced.

I chose Hawaii. Maui to be exact.

As an international marketer, I frequented countries all across Europe, Asia, and the former Soviet Union.

An archipelago of extinct volcanoes seemed to be just the reprieve necessary for a stressed-out, overworked, and “always-on” executive.

Sleeping on a beach immune to the constant din of emails, conference calls, and multi-lingual presentations sounded absolutely sublime.

I set my departure date for Thanksgiving week in order to minimize the impact on my work schedule.

In corporate America, the only thing worse than not having time off, is, well, actually taking time off.

To manage the impending “vacation-inbox-multiplier” that typically accompanied most time away from the office, I decided Thanksgiving week would be slightly less chaotic, even if half of my team didn’t celebrate this particular holiday.

I booked the trip in August.

By September, I should have been beachwear shopping. I put it off another month.

By October, I should have called the dog sitter and confirmed the dates. I delayed.

By November, I should have arranged for the house sitter and held the mail. I never did.

The Monday of Thanksgiving week, I was not headed to Hawaii. As British Airways took off from DFW airport with what I am sure was a very full flight, I was not on board.

I was sitting on the floor of my TV room, dressed in pajamas, petting my dog.

I was simply too exhausted to get on that plane.

Can you relate?

I didn’t care about ancient volcanoes. I didn’t care about 5-star resort hotels. I didn’t even care about the thousands of dollars of free travel I had just flushed down the drain.

I missed my home, I missed my dog, I missed my daughter. I didn’t want to fly. I wanted to sleep.

So that’s what I did.

I spent the entire first day in my PJs watching TV.

The next day, I went grocery shopping without feeling rushed.

Every morning I walked my dog without checking my wristwatch or worrying I was late.

I baked pumpkin pies and sugar cookies and curled up with my daughter on the couch watching old movies way past bedtime.

I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and for one glorious week, I had a reprieve from the stressed out life I was living.

I wish back then I had known that I was burning myself out.

I thought I had to keep up this breakneck speed in order to survive at work. I thought my company required my absolute commitment. I thought if I kept pushing harder and harder, I would eventually “arrive” and be able to relax and sit down.

I bought into the Corporate America myth because I thought that’s what I had to do to be a success.

I didn’t understand that I could be ambitious and successful AND live a calm, comfortable life that where I could connect deeply with my children, enjoy quality time with my spouse, and most of all care for myself and my own needs.

I thought a trade-off was required and I was scared to death that if I let up off the gas in my career, I would have to give up everything I worked so hard for.

I was wrong.

And once I made the decision that a successful career and a calm, carefree life were POSSIBLE… I started to make it so.

It was a hell of a lot easier than I thought.

Once I made my mind up, the rest was learning how to get out of my own way. Quiet my mind. Turn off the stress and worry. And learn how to manage my career in such a way that I delivered powerful value at the office without having to give up space and time I wanted for myself and my family.

Do you know what I mean?

So aloha from Hawaii! Thanks as always for allowing me to share the journey.

And remember…anything is possible. You can’t have it all…but you can have what you want!

Why Your Perfect-On-Paper Life No Longer Feels Perfect

Why Your Perfect-on-Paper Life No Longer Feels Perfect

Kathleen Byars | September 26, 2017

Ten years into my career I had a “perfect-on-paper” life.

* International marketing executive

* Single mom to a beautiful, healthy, vivacious daughter

* Spacious house and people to help me care for it

* Salary and savings that allowed me to spend as I wished

* Family that loved me and friends who supported me

Yet, deep inside I was unhappy.

I didn’t know why…

I SHOULD have been grateful…

I SHOULD have been ecstatic…

I SHOULD have appreciated that I had MORE than what most people will ever have

Yet, I couldn’t shake my discontent.

Every morning it became harder and harder to get out of bed…

Every evening I went to bed earlier and earlier and slept restlessly all night long…

** At work, I was distracted and becoming resentful…

** At home, I was distracted and guilty for not tuning into my daughter and beautiful life…

I FINALLY went to see a psychologist for answers

I told her my beautiful life was similar to summiting the top of a mountain…

You work so hard to get there…

Years of preparation in fact…

You hone your skills, keep your head down through the challenges, and finally arrive at the peak…

Yet, instead of looking out over a stunning landscape, there is cloud cover blocking your view…

You get a glimpse at the beauty before you, yet the clouds create a blind spot that doesn’t allow you to fully bask in the moment…

You want to smell the fresh air, yet you smell nothing…

You want to feel the warm sun on your face, yet you feel nothing…

You want to jump up and down for joy that you have finally arrived, yet you feel devoid of emotion and simply tired…

My psychologist nodded her head in compassion. She told me to practice gratitude. She told me my life was fine and fed into all the cultural myths that chided me for not being content.

I trucked along in this unhappy haze for a few more years.

Then I pulled the ripcord and moved to an island.

And started realizing the problem wasn’t my life, my job, the psychologist, my boss, my company, or anything else external to me.

The answer to a fulfilling life…

To a life that was calm and content…

To a lifestyle that I could live with confidence, anticipation, and abundance…

Was lying there all along right before me.

I HAD THE POWER to move those clouds out of the way all along. I didn’t know it.

And either does most corporate women…

Who are doing what they think they should in order to “have it all”

And instead, professional women are stacking more and more pressure on themselves as they grow disconnected from their lives, their family, and themselves.

Just like I did.

One of the more powerful OUTCOMES we see in our coaching program, Corporate Women Unleashed, is the transformation of a woman from discontent and disconnected…to alive and excited about the redesigned life she’s created.

Every woman begins to recognize an amazing power resides within her that is different than the power she channels at the office…or with her family…it’s a power she has that serves herself.

And once that power is rediscovered, a woman can not only blow away those clouds that limit happiness…she can move the entire mountain all by herself.

The secret to a balanced life never resides on the outside. The secret to a life that is alive and thriving and fulfilling lies within every woman. It’s inside of YOU right now. Can you feel it?

Can You Succeed By Doing Less?

Can You Succeed by Doing Less? Ask a Sloth...

Kathleen Byars | August 19, 2017
I’ve written a post today inspired by an article my husband came across just yesterday.
The article is about sloths.
Yeah,…sloths.
I’ll link to it below, but here’s the gist…
People are going bananas for sloths. So much so that they’re lining up for hours to admire them in local zoos. The reason?
Sloths are the antithesis of a harried, hectic lifestyle.
And in a world obsessed with “success is more”…sloths offer a momentary reprieve from lives gone awry with anxiety and stress.
When visitors first see the sloth up close many will burst into tears.
Why the emotion?
Years of running on work-life treadmills…lives pushing toward success…yet somehow never quite arriving, no?
Sloths take up to 20 minutes to eat a single green bean.
Do you remember the last time you even chewed your food? Or what you ate last night?
Hopefully so, yet for many people, that’s not the case.
Day after day of frenetic sameness pervades the average life.
Alarm clocks meld into commutes that meld into office meetings that meld into emails that meld into traffic jams and airline flights that meld into takeout dinners, a few minutes of kid time, a quick shower, more emails and then bed.
Only to get up again the next day and do it all over again.
Geez. No wonder sloths have such strong appeal!
Do you know what I mean?
If you’re experiencing the harried life, do you mind if I ask why? I mean, I totally get it…I once did the same.
Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Believe it or not, red pills are available for those interested in redefining success on your own terms.
Sloths aren’t the only ones who can enjoy the good life you know…
Hope your week ahead is languid, relaxing, and slow…

Bucket List Challenge!

Bucket List Challenge!

Kathleen Byars | July 9, 2017
I took my two boys to our local science museum this past week. I love it there.

Whoever came up with the idea for hands-on museums deserves the Parenting Nobel Peace Prize.

Seriously.

Any educational facility that can charm and delight to active boys for hours as they peek under, gaze into, experiment with, and skip for joy instantly deserves first prize.

Love it!

At the museum, we wandered through the butterfly exhibit, which includes a hallway dedicated to the Monarch butterfly migration.

And experiencing the migration has been on my bucket list for years.

So I asked my husband to schedule a trip for us this year to go see it. Bucket list CHECK!

And this got me thinking that it would be delightful to challenge all of my readers to a bucket list challenge.

If you’re game – (and I know you are) – then leave a comment below!

Pick THREE items from your bucket list and put these into action.
  • Something you can do in the next two months (train for a 5K, take swimming lessons, learn a language)
  • Something you can schedule in the next six months (go skydiving, see the Grand Canyon, etc.)
  • Something you can commit to doing in the next two years (African safari, become a foster parent, start a foundation, etc.)
Let’s start living our lives TODAY, eh? Can’t WAIT to see what you decide to post!

I am inspired to help corporate women find balance in their daily lives. We are elevating this critical topic of work-life balance for women in a new, private Facebook group. If you’re a corporate woman, please join us!

The Myth that Keeps Working Moms Clinging to the Corporate Ladder

The Myth that Keeps Working Moms Clinging to the Corporate Ladder

Kathleen Byars | May 6, 2017

MYTH: Working moms cannot redesign their career to favor motherhood without sacrificing everything they’ve worked so hard for professionally.

When I was working 50-60 hours per week my daughter was quite young. I asked her once why she had to be in school every day from 7:30 in the morning to 6 PM at night.

She replied, “Mommy, I have to go to school to learn!”

I was relieved to hear her words. Yet I found out many years later that she was simply parroting back to me what I was constantly telling her…and that despite all the time she got to spend with her school friends she secretly hated those long days away from me.

Feeling guilty about our time apart, I was constantly telling my daughter that she had to go to school all those hours each day in order to learn. In reality, I was simply assuaging my own guilt.

Of course, she HAD to learn so that someday she could grow up and be like me and get a GOOD job and be a SUCCESS…

…and in turn, have her own daughters who she would drop off at daycare for 10-12 hours per day while she worked.

Which is exactly what happened.

Today, my grown daughter works 50+ hours per week and her two little girls are in daycare. Even though they all miss each other a lot.

When I am asked what I would have done differently when trying to balance motherhood with my career the first time around, I always say that I would have worked less and mothered more.

And it’s not because I wasn’t a “great mom”. I led Girl Scouts. I brought homemade cookies to every school event. I threw epic birthday parties. I took my daughter with me on business trips all over the world.

Yet, I didn’t understand how to unwind the script in my head that told me I had to work full-tilt in order to be a success. I didn’t understand that I could have worked less and designed my career to spend more time with my baby girl, while still being a high level contributor and valuable asset to my employer.

Kathleen Garrett Byars with her daughter 1990s

Pic of my daughter and me circa 1990’s as we prepare for another day of work and school.

TRUTH: I wish someone had told me that I had the courage, talent, and capability to create a POWERFUL career that didn’t require long hours away from home and crazy, frenetic days racing from point A to point B.

TRUTH: And I wish I had known that the legacy I was leaving my daughter – the footprints I gave her to follow – meant she would in turn someday create her own unbalanced life…and miss out on the journey of a lifetime with her littles.

Today, the overwhelm of working parents is endemic. Seventy-five percent of all working families report less than a few hours of quality time per week with their kiddos. And while as a nation we are wealthier than ever before, surveys measuring our well-being shows that our contentment and satisfaction is plummeting. And yet, the same cycle repeats itself over and over until someone stands up and says “enough”…my family is going to be different.

Can you relate?

 


I am inspired to help corporate moms be the professionals AND the mothers they want to be. We are elevating this critical topic of work-life balance for women in a new, private Facebook group. If you’re a corporate mom, please join us!

May You Live Every Day of Your Life

May You Live Every Day of Your Life

Kathleen Byars | April 28, 2017

I came across a beautiful quote this week on work-life balance from former KPMG CEO, Eugene O’Kelly.

“What if I hadn’t worked so hard? What if…I had actually used…my position to be a role model for balance? Had I done so intentionally, who’s to say that, besides having more time with my family, I wouldn’t have also been even more focused at work? More creative? More productive? It took inoperable late stage brain cancer to get me to examine things from this angle.”

Damn.

And he’s right. Researchers have found that employees get more done – and do so at a higher quality level – when they have work-life balance; meaning more control over their time and can better anticipate any disruptions to that schedule.

When leaders focus on the objective – and not how many hours a staffer spends working – employees are more engaged, more creative, and more productive.

Huh, who knew?

I was never praised by my employer for the number of hours I worked, yet I always had the distinct impression that I was valued for my dedication to the firm. (Note…this was inside my head just like it may be inside yours…I had to learn to how to get rid of this deep-seeded notion).

Study after study shows that work-life balance which includes taking time off, working a predictable, yet flexible schedule and immersing oneself in guilt-free, long vacations where there is absolutely no contact with the office stimulates high productivity, longer employee retention, and improved staff communication.

And guess what? You can create that for yourself right now. As I’ve written in previous articles, waiting for some external force such as a boss, a shift in company culture, or a new job to create boundaries for you isn’t going to happen.

The secret sauce is in re-wiring your concept of what a valuable employee looks like and understanding how to create value for your employer so they have no qualms about granting you a more flexible schedule. Are some employers more generous than others? You bet. Yet once you’ve made up your mind that you want to be compensated for your value rather than your time, you’ll be surprised at how simple this actually is to do.

So what do you do that your boss, your company, and your colleagues find priceless? Are you an amazing orator? Spectacular mediator? Incredible with remembering details? A true leader of people? You’ve got secret sauce – we all do. Market that. Make that your core competency and solve other people’s problems using your unique ability. Work less, not more, yet hone in on your true value and make that your calling card at the office.

And all the other stuff? The late night hours, after-work cell phone calls, early morning emails. Stop it. Seriously. Just stop it. You’re too valuable. You need to create space to be the genius that you are. And that comes by letting go – not doing more.

And what would you do with your extra time? Reconnect with your kids? Deepen your connection with your spouse? Spend time giving back to the world in a meaningful way? Or heck, you could simply sharpen up your tennis game! The possibilities for rejuvenation are endless.

The point is that work doesn’t have to take precedence over life. Creating a rich, meaningful life is about living according to your core values and putting effort into all areas of life, not just one or two. It’s a life of deep contentment, connection, and joy.

And the kicker is that science supports our quest for a flexible work-life balance that’s within our control. It’s time to shelve the after-hours cell phone calls and leave the laptop at work. Maybe even be so daring to leave the office an hour or two early several times each week? You’ll not only increase your joy in life but also be one heck of an amazing employee.

After all, science says so.