Are You Letting Your Career Ruin Your Life?

Are You Letting Your Career Ruin Your Life?

Kathleen Byars | April 22, 2017

I’ve been ruminating this week on some of the biggest career mistakes I’ve seen lately…

But there’s one critical error I saw yesterday that will keep you trapped in a life of frenzy, instead of feeling fulfilled and free.

CAREER MISTAKE #3 – “Mistaking commitment for hours on the job”

Here are three reasons why people tend to WORK MORE HOURS than they ever need to and disrupt their own ability to enjoy their life…

1. FEAR (I’ve talked about this in previous articles)


This sounds harmless, but here’s the issue:

Getting MORE work done is NOT always better.

When you become the go-to for “getting things done,” you’ll not only burn yourself out but also stall your career.

You will find yourself caught in an expectation triangle from your peers, your staff, and your boss. They’ll rely on you to:

  • Take on an extra assignment (or two) even when your plate is overflowing
  • Schedule conference calls while on vacation
  • Skip your child’s school play
  • Answer your cell phone at all hours, including weekends

And while it may feel good to be the point person that everyone turns to when there’s a major project to tackle, how will it look when year after year your most valuable career asset is the fact you’ll take one for the team time and time again?

That work ethic works wonders when you’re straight out of grad school. And any corporation will eat up as many hours as you’re willing to give.

Yet, I don’t want to be the tough girl who handles the bulk of the work. ANYONE can do that.

I would rather be a high-level contributor who brings intellect, confidence and results in the workplace.

And goes home each day at a reasonable hour with her cell phone OFF.

That’s why I’ve learned to find super-intriguing career opportunities where I am valued – and well paid for that value – without requiring me to work an insane number of hours.

3. YOU FEEL GUILTY FOR WORKING LESS – and feel awful that other people on the team may be burning the midnight oil while you’re home snuggling your kiddos.

…so you feel compelled to work all those hours to make sure you’re valuable (and to assuage that guilt).

I get it – it stinks to watch others working ridiculous hours, especially if you think they resent you (rather than look in their own mirror).

Don’t get me wrong – being a team player and feeling valuable are important.

BUT…this becomes a problem when you believe that working an insane amount of hours is the way to achieve this.


Plus you’ll never get it all done. There will always be one more email to answer, one more phone call to return, one small detail on your presentation to fix…

But there will NEVER be another life than the one you’ve got now. Getting a lot done isn’t value. It’s work.

There are plenty of ways that you can provide value WITHOUT working 50+ hours per week.

In most cases, I’ve found that the real issue with those struggling with work-life balance is NOT the employer. It’s usually that:

You are a highly successful person that has an inner drive to be productive at all times.

Even when you are “relaxing” you struggle to be calm. It’s impossible to turn your mind off. While watching a Friday night Netflix you constantly pop up and down off the couch until the kids shout “why don’t you just SIT DOWN?”

You’re confusing “being valued” with “if I’m the one that gets work done I will be the most valuable.”

And although you desperately want to get off the fast train and enjoy a slower pace, that inner guilt and anxiety won’t let you.

I know. I get it. I used to jump into my voice mailbox the minute I started driving in order to “get ahead” of my day. I had to filter emails while I sat in the bleachers during my daughter’s basketball game. And although I negotiated wonderful flex schedules with almost every employer I’ve ever worked for, I never managed to work less – I just worked more from a different locale.

The struggle is real.

Anyone else struggle working less while still feeling valued? 

How I Stumbled from Success to the Good Life

How I Stumbled from Success to the Good Life

Kathleen Byars | February 26, 2017

Six months ago, I wrote an article about Why I Traded My Lipstick and Pinstripe Suit to Live on an Island. It resonated with a lot of people. You may have read that article and subscribed to my newsletter because of it.

Thank you.

Like many people who have joined my community, you may feel like you are biding your time until you can create your own “island story.”

Maybe you dream of a NEW CAREER.

Maybe you want MORE BALANCE in your life.

Maybe you want to do something meaningful, and use your skills with a GREATER PURPOSE in mind.

What’s stopping you?

If you are comfortable doing so, leave a comment below and share so we can learn from each other.

I’ll tell you what stopped me from finding my ideal life for a long time. And what took me eight years of research, trial and error, and deep introspection to figure out.

The answer to the good life isn’t outside of you. It’s inside.

In the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Dr. Stephen Covey calls this Inside Out Living. In his research on success, Covey found the success literature of the past fifty years to be superficial. It is filled with social image techniques and quick-fix, external Band-Aids to address acute internal problems. The issue being that these “fixes” only work temporarily. Prior to this time period, success literature focused on man’s nature and intrinsic principles, rather than external forces.

I didn’t realize this gem of wisdom so I kept looking for answers in all the wrong places:

  • I tried being more productive. I thought if I could squeeze more productivity into each day, I would find more time to do the things I loved. I was wrong.
  • I tried changing jobs and considered a myriad of new career paths I might take. This didn’t work either.
  • I tried being nicer and more benevolent in hopes that my increased dedication to spirituality would throw better karma my way. My karma didn’t budge.
  • I tried telling myself that I had a fantastic life and I should be grateful for what I had. After all, so many others in the world have far more difficult lives. My first-world anxiety was silly and I needed to get over it. The shame I felt about my discontent just made things worse.
  • I tried being poor, but that just made me miss being rich.


I had carved out a successful life for myself and yet I still felt discontented. Every time I made gains in one area, I lost ground in another.

Finally, I threw my hands up in despair and decided to do the very opposite of what I was doing. And it worked.

Here are three major shifts I learned to make:

STOP ASKING PERMISSION: For a long time, I kept thinking that IF I had a flexible enough job and IF I had a certain kind of boss and IF the company culture was a certain way and IF I could go home every night at 5 PM that my life would be infinitely better.

The problem with this type of thinking is that we are waiting for someone or something else to give us “permission” to have the life we want. Rather than establish our boundaries, according to what we want in life, we hope that some external force will tell us that it is okay to work less and play more.

ALTER YOUR EGO: What I learned in the islands is that I valued myself for what I did. My ego – and sense of self-worth – was 100% wrapped up in being a high achiever. Being an inexperienced divemaster and boat captain in the islands meant I had thrust myself into a world of incompetence. My inability to cope with my struggle was almost paralytic.

Gaining esteem via performance is a culture-based problem. And letting go of that hidden script inside is terribly painful. Many of us don’t recognize that this pattern is even there; and that our value-based ego is largely dictating the choices we make that actually lead us astray from the good life

LEARN BALANCE: I was so busy looking for the silver bullet that would change my life, that I failed to see the obvious. A well-played life is a life that’s balanced. It’s a life of your own design where all of your needs are getting met in a delightfully fluid and natural way.

It’s not a destination; it’s the journey.

While someday, I hope that I can have a huge impact on the lives of others, right now I can visit my elderly neighbor across the street every Sunday afternoon. And if we want more time with our kiddos, we need to turn the cell phone off and leave the laptop at the office. Following #1 and #2 above, this decision becomes easy to make. Let someone else fill those big corporate shoes. There are higher priorities right now than being king of the corporate hill.


Once I stopped looking outside myself for a solution, true magic happened. My anxiety went away. My frenetic schedule calmed down. My sense of peace and well-being increased. I began looking forward to each day and I began seeing my future as a world of ever-changing possibilities.

And I started making choices that helped me focus on my children, my health, my own well-being, and the community around me along with a compelling, creative career. I was no longer Corporate Kate, I was just Kate: madly in love with my husband, devoted mom of three, outdoor-loving-adventurer, and loyal, honest friend. Woman building an extraordinary life and helping others do the same.

I hope my journey is helpful.

Have a great week and if this article resonates with you, please do me the favor and share!

Is Corporate America Getting in the Way of Motherhood?

Is Corporate America Interfering with Motherhood?

Kathleen Byars | February 18, 2017

A lot of women tell me they want to leave their job. They feel stuck in a demanding corporate career and want to break free.

They miss their kids…they don’t remember the last time they had a real date with their husband…their newest fashion accessory is a baggy twinset to hide the extra 5 lbs from lack of exercise and one-too-many-late-nights-at-the-office vino and pizza…and the only alone time they get is the commute to the office.

Believe me, I get it.

I used to slink around guilt-laden by the long days I left my daughter in childcare. And fifteen pounds ago, I wore that baggy twinset. And I relished my 45-minute commute to the office, especially when I turned the cell phone ringer off and played Alanis Morissette EXTRA LOUD on the car stereo.

Yet, what if I told you that Corporate America isn’t the problem?

Well, at least not the main problem.

What if I told you that our culturescape is the problem? And that you are unwittingly carrying our culturescape inside of you; allowing society to guide you, direct you, and influence your every move?

Here’s a secret that took me ten years to figure out. Corporations don’t create gilded cages. We do.

Because we’re SCARED…

We’re scared to stop being the #1 employee in the room…because that would mean we are a failure.

We’re scared to be passed over on those big, important projects…because that means we’re less valuable.

We’re scared to lose our lifestyle – or Heavens to Betsy – downgrade our lifestyle…because that means we’re not capable.

We’re scared (and super resentful) of that skinny, little, ambitious new girl who is clawing at our heels … because that means we weren’t smart enough to keep our place at the table.

And we’re scared that if we don’t provide the very best schools, the very best college fund, and the very best vacation for our family every year than we are letting our kids, our spouse, our parents, and ourselves down.

Do you know what I mean?

While RATIONALLY, we know this stuff isn’t supposed to matter, it does. It did for me. And guess what? All of those fears don’t go away if you leave the corporate world.

They follow you. And haunt you. And you’re just as scared as ever, but now you are charting brand-new territory without a compass. The answer isn’t LEAVING the corporate world. Because you’ll drive yourself equally as crazy as an entrepreneur. Or you’ll be miserable at a lower ranking job. Or you’ll burn out being a stay-at-home mom. Until you REDEFINE YOURSELF, you’ll be miserable no matter where you are.

Believe me, I’ve tried it.

So what’s a girl to do? How the heck do you release yourself from the culturescape and start writing your own story? The story you really want:

…where the kids are a BIG PART of each day.

…and your husband is the super-sexy guy you fell in love with rather than the dude who helps you prop up this thing called life

…where you feel strong and fit and healthy because you eat well and exercise every single day

…and you stay up late reading a favorite book and meet your best friend every Saturday for coffee guilt-free

You know what I mean. Whatever your version of a BALANCED, MEANINGFUL life story looks like.

Here’s what you do.

Let go. Seriously, just let go. Stop the madness and write your very own, unique, special and completely audacious life story. It’s scary as hell. And the road map is murky at best. But damn, it feels oh so good!

To do that, you have to change how you DEFINE yourself. Believe it or not, you can stay RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE, working for the same company and change your priorities, change your availability, and establish your boundaries. Or jump to one of the many amazing corporations that have outstanding cultures that embrace your desire for balance and motherhood.

You do not have to abide by the culturescape. It may be inside you, but you’re stronger than that. Just let it go and start creating the life you’ve always dreamed of. Write down what you want and the steps to get there. What boundaries do you need to create? What compromises will you have to make? And best of all, what is the reward? A life surrounded by your littles that’s peaceful, centered and completely authentic.

Geez…that sounds pretty good. Maybe the rest of the world doesn’t value a life of balance, but I sure do. And I bet you might, too…

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? It’s my passion to help others create change. I believe that we are capable of far more than we allow ourselves to imagine and when we dare to live by our own rules we find a life of true joy, success, and balance.

Do you know anyone who might benefit from this article? If so, please forward and share!

Is Your Life Balanced?

Can Life Really Be Balanced?

Kathleen Byars | February 10, 2017

Earlier this week I had an interesting conversation with a baby-mama friend of mine. She just had her third daughter six months ago.

And she is a successful, online entrepreneur.

We began talking about balance. Particularly the tug and pull that parents have between career and family.

I felt that pull loudly when I was a single mother raising my daughter. I often had to leave my daughter to the care of nannies while I traveled abroad. That’s a long way to travel away from a child. I felt tremendous guilt, but I pushed it aside for a variety of reasons that I didn’t understand then and know all-too-well now.

As my girlfriend and I spoke on the phone, she needed to nurse her child. “Go for it!” I cried. (I’m the last person to be affronted when a mother needs to feed her baby). She tended to her little one and we continued talking.

We chatted about my experience raising my daughter and her experience raising her oldest daughter (who is now twelve) and the regrets we both have. We talked about careers and childcare, the long hours away from our littles, and the quiet guilt we both carried during our younger mothering days.

We spoke with honesty about the lessons we’ve learned and how different our choices are now.

At one point in the conversation my girlfriend said, “Kate, I don’t know if you ever really find balance. I’ve been up all night with the baby and I’m certainly not going to get a full night’s sleep anytime soon.”

I totally got her point!

Yet, as she said those words it brought to mind for me another thought:

Life isn’t about finding the perfect balance. A life of well-being, contentment, and joy is about living congruently with your core values. It’s when we trade our higher values to meet a lower-value that we feel off balance, anxious, and unsettled.

For a long time, I didn’t do that. I lived according to the values our culture defined for me. I defined success – and my self-esteem – according to what I did, instead of who I was.

And I traded many beautiful memories with my oldest daughter to chase my own desire to be a VIP.

t we feel off balance, anxious, and unsettled.

Dr. Stephen Covey states in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that the real problem that get’s in the way of living a highly effective life is the way we see the problem.

I didn’t understand what that meant when I first began my quest to find the good life.

Now I do.

The problem isn’t how to find a flexible job, a four hour work week, or make enough money to retire. The problem is that we are living in contradiction to our priorities and values. And we’re scared #$@&-less to change … even though our current way of living isn’t working.

Do you ever find that to be true?

Living a good life isn’t about arriving at a place of plenty where we have enough freedom, enough money, and enough time to do as we please. No one has that…I don’t care who they are.

Living a good life is living a life of well-being, designed around YOUR life values and priorities. And as long as you are living congruently with what you believe, then you are thriving and experiencing the good life.

What do you think? Leave a comment below and let me know.

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? It’s my passion to help others create change. I believe that we are capable of far more than we allow ourselves to imagine and when we dare to live by our own rules we find a life of true joy, success, and balance.

If you think someone in your network could benefit from this article, please share!

3 Keys to Effectively Achieving Goals

How to Achieve Your Goals This Year Even if You've Quit Before

Kathleen Byars | December 31, 2016

Most everything you are taught about goals makes it seriously difficult to actually achieve them.

Standard protocol suggests that you: (1) choose the correct goal (without guiding you to understand what a correct goal might really look like), (2) create a laser-sharp focus on achieving it, and (3) pound your goal into submission with an intense amount of will power.

That’s doable, but man is it HARD. You can stop eating chocolate cake for awhile in order to lose 5 lbs, but at some point you’re going to want that dang cake. And you can put in the extra hours at work to earn a promotion, but at some point even the most hardened (board room ) Wall Street Warrior needs a break.

Which is why much of the year-end goal setting and New Year resolution-making is temporal. As the shiny “time ball” drops at Times Square, you kiss your loved ones and salute your friends vowing that “this year will be different.”

Will it?

It can be! Here are three strategies to EFFECTIVELY achieve your goals.


Years ago, I had a colleague who ate an unhealthy diet. Cheeseburgers, fries, and diet soda were standard fare. He was young, thin, and didn’t have any outward signs suggesting he change his ways. Yet, his doctor – and family history – told a different story. If he didn’t change his eating habits, my colleague would likely meet an early death. Heart disease and high cholesterol were in his genetics and took the life of his father at the age of 50.

My colleague tried to hit the gym, but inevitably quit. At lunch, he mixed in salads, but couldn’t gag down his greens for longer than a week. He would eat healthy and exercise for a month or two, only to fall back in his ways.

This wasn’t an issue of focus. Or willpower. Or habit. He had all three of these. What was missing was motivation. And motivation is driven by our deep-seeded needs.

When you don’t tie your goals to your needs, you face a much higher risk of failure.

In the case of my colleague, he wasn’t motivated by the thought of an early demise. Nor did he care about becoming physically fit. What he did care about was his wife. Deeply. And his young family. One day, his doctor said to him, “If you don’t change your health now, your wife will be widowed and your children will grow up fatherless.”

Bingo. Now my colleague could tie his goal back into a strong and powerful need – the connection he savored with his family. If he didn’t straighten out his health, the connection would be lost in the most tragic of ways possible – an early, untimely death.

From that point on, every time I saw my colleague he was eating grilled chicken and salads for lunch and leaving his office 20 minutes early each day to run before going home. He kept this practice lives a healthy, fit life today. In his mid-40’s he is still alive and thriving alongside his cherished wife and kids.

Whatever your goals may be this year, tie them back to your needs and you’ll find the desire you need to make those goals a reality.


Goals can be, and should be, audacious. Big goals will stretch you and help you grow. Big goals scare you. Big goals change your life.

Yet, achieving big goals takes time. Just like the goal of health in the example above, you don’t achieve big goals in a week or a month. Sometimes, they take years.

And it’s hard to wait because while you’re waiting you feel like you are failing. After a while, that big, incredible goal starts to seem out of reach. Unattainable. Too hard.

So you quit. No one wants to live in the land of failure day after day after day.

This isn’t a new idea…in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey suggests we break down our goals into smaller steps.

“By making small strides toward great goals, little by little, you expand your freedom…”

– Stephen R. Covey

Ten years ago, my husband and I created a big, huge goal for our future: to create a family-focused lifestyle. At the time, we were full-time professionals and making time for kids seemed an impossibility. Yet, we not only made time to have children, we began taking the small steps necessary to be home with our children on a full-time basis.

It didn’t happen overnight. When our sons were young, we both worked full-time, yet I negotiated a work-at-home arrangement with my employer. The first year, I worked at home two days a week and went into the office three. The second year, I worked at home three days a week and went into the office two. By year three, I was working almost exclusively at home, apart from a Tuesday morning staff meeting. Although grateful for the flexibility, I was still working a lot of hours, which meant I wasn’t always present during “mommy time.” We then took the next step and decided to dial back our lifestyle for a couple years, while also creating passive income so I could be home full time with the boys and fully engage in motherhood.

Today, my husband is a full-time dad while I’ve stepped back into the career world. He homeschools our kids; another step toward our goal. And this year, Scott will be working with me in launching a new business that will provide even more flexibility for our family.

Do you see what I mean? Each year, Scott and I make strides toward our goal of a family-centric life. Is the goal achieved and done with? Of course not! We continue to evolve each year with the next step in the journey. Along the way, we celebrate the progress we’ve made and have gratitude for how far we’ve come.

Often I see people looking for a magic bullet – the business model or financial investment that gives you instant wealth while you work from home for only a few hours per week. That’s not a big, audacious goal. It’s cognitive dissonance and will quickly leave you feeling deflated, depressed, and discouraged.

Overnight success toward any goal is rarely, well, overnight.


In order to achieve your goals, willpower is certainly necessary, but you’ll quickly run out of willpower without embracing habits.

Once you’ve outlined steps to reach your goal, you’ll need to create habits for those steps and as Nike says “Just Do It!” Anyone with a mobile phone can easily put a daily or weekly reminder on the schedule so you don’t forget.

Let’s say you want to write a book. Rather than wait for the perfect Sunday afternoon to snuggle up on the back patio and create your manuscript under a blue sky, set the alarm clock every morning thirty minutes earlier and start writing. Or go to work earlier and leave earlier, stopping off at a coffee shop to write every afternoon. Don’t think about. Don’t analyze it. Just do it.

Maybe you’ve committed to strengthening your relationships this year. Don’t talk about it, or plan to do it, DO IT. Figure out the necessary steps and remember to start small, and make those small steps a habit. Put a reminder on your calendar to call your parents every Sunday night. Or put the kids to bed early on Thursdays and enjoy a movie night with your spouse. Start every day with a salad so you’ve checked your healthy veggie box for the day and won’t get blown off course when your staff meeting runs late and you’re eating M&Ms from the office snack machine.


So what’s the point of all this? Well, FREEDOM quite frankly. And confidence. And living the life you want! After all, isn’t that what life is supposed to be about? Creating the world you want to live in, rather than living in the world someone else created for you?

Will it happen overnight? No. Yet, IT IS POSSIBLE to reach those seemingly impossible goals by following the three steps above. By aligning your goals with your needs, taking small steps, and creating habits even the most audacious goals can become reality.

I hope you’ll give these strategies a try and let me know how it goes!

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? It’s my passion to help others create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where anything is possible.

If you think someone in your network could benefit from this article, please share!

Giving the Gift of Presence

Giving the Gift of Presence

Kathleen Byars | December 23, 2016

Baking Midwestern farm cookies at Christmas are a tradition in our family. My grandmother used to bake huge, soft circular discs and stuff a mixture of fruits, nuts, and dates in between two of them to create a ginormous sugar cookie sandwich. I am told she fed these to her four, strapping sons when they come home from the farm fields at lunch time.

My mother and her sister carried on the tradition; each taking turns every Christmas to bake multiple batches and ship one-half of the batch to the other sister, thus saving her the labor until next year. As a child, I remember my excitement at receiving the special box of cakey sugar cookies in the mail from my Aunt, each ablaze with bright-colored frosting, long before the toxic effects of Yellow 5 and Red 40 food colorings were known.

And I wistfully recall many beautiful holiday afternoons baking and frosting our own batch of cookies with my mom, who is no longer with us.

Six years ago, our family became grain-free and I stopped baking these delightful little memories. While we have found many alternatives to other family recipes, this very special cookie recipe, replete with Crisco shortening and cup after cup of gluten-y flour, has no substitute.

Yet, as I surveyed the landscape of this year’s holiday season, I decided that baking memories is exactly what I – and my boys – needed.vintage-pyrex-bowls I unearthed my grandmother’s wooden pastry board and my mother’s vintage Pyrex mixing bowls. I bought real flour. And food coloring. And, god forbid, Crisco.

I put down my cell phone; crumpled up my to-do list; and closed the door on the room full of unwrapped presents. I gathered my exuberant, bouncing little boys into the kitchen and we made Grandma’s Midwestern Farm Cookies. As the eldest pounded the dough into submission and my littlest rolled out crooked shapes, I told the boys stories about my mom – the grandmother my boys will never know – and how grateful I am to share this family tradition with each of them.

As the first batch of sugary cookies hit the baking rack to cool, and the smell hit my younger son’s senses, he piped up, “I’m pretty sure your mom was a baking genius!” I laughed.

I whipped up a batch of confectioner sugar frosting and asked the boys to each choose two vibrant colors. We ended up with very un-Christmas-y lime green, hot pink, turquoise blue, and deep purple cookies. The boys added sprinkles and our cookie tradition was complete.

We each sampled one and then delivered the rest around town; creating our own special twist on sharing and sending love.soft-sugar-cookies-7

Sifting through my emails this holidays season, I am bombarded with messages offering me a long list of special offers, sales, and last-minute opportunities to purchase holiday presents. While I like a good sale as much as the next gal, what I am really honored to be giving my family this year is my presence, not presents.

I am giving my family the gift of putting down my cell phone, shutting off the computer, and setting an auto-responder on emails. I am not rushing to set next year’s goals or trying to “get a jump on the competition” by working straight through the holiday season. Instead, you’ll find me knee-deep in Legos, curled up next to my husband on the couch with a book, or jumping outside with the boys on our new trampoline. Savoring every single moment.

We spend so much of our lives focused on success and getting ahead. Yet, living a life of deep meaning and personal satisfaction is about balance, prioritizing time, and appreciating the moment. That’s what I’ll be doing for the next week. Giving my family my undivided presence.

While I wish you much success in 2017; right now I wish you the gift of creating moments with your own family or friends this holiday season. May your holiday be beautiful and full of memories!

I believe we all have a bit of trailblazer inside us, don’t you? It’s my passion to help others create change. I’ve always found that disrupting the status quo leads to an amazing life where nothing is impossible.

If you think someone in your network could benefit from this article, please share!