By Kelly Woods, Director, Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center
How do we live our best life?
How do we navigate the delicate balance between being the best employee while also being the best partner, parent, child, friend, or any other important role that we occupy while still saving a few precious moments to focus on our own self?
It turns out the answer to this question is tough to pin down. The number of scenarios that result in the optimal work/life balance is exactly equal to the number of individuals seeking to find it. It’s complex. It’s personal.
In a previous job, I remember returning from a 120-day detail in August. My first weekend back at my regular job I was designated as the office Duty Officer. This was my first stint in that capacity all summer. The first time my phone rang that weekend, my son burst into tears. He knew the dreaded work phone was back and would be a constant and unwelcomed companion at the dinner table, on our hikes, during our conversations, and for all our adventures for the remainder of the summer. He was devastated and I was heartbroken.
It was my duty to answer the phone, but what about my desire to be present for my child?
The demands of life are certain, and desires are persistent. The issue is when the demands continue to outcompete the desires, or the desires routinely dominate the demands. To reconcile this always seems to require sacrifice for someone. At times, work wins. Other times, the opposite is true. It is a reality with which we all live.
Because there are no one size fits all solutions, one of the best things we can do is to share our lessons with each other. We can learn creative ways others are carving out their best life and apply, modify, or support those opportunities within our own spheres.
The truth is that we all have to make hard decisions. If we rely on our employers to develop policy to facilitate balance for us, we are almost guaranteed to be unsatisfied. No rule set or requirement holds the magic key. It’s up to us to find the balance for ourselves.
In the Fall 2021 issue of Two More Chains, the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center intentionally entered this conversation and offered some perspective. Check it out if you haven’t. Let’s keep the dialogue going.