Creating Your Life Collage: Strategies For Solving the Work/Life Dilemma with Beth Sirull

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Author Beth Sirull will discuss how women can create rewarding and satisfying careers that are not all-consuming.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live's Family Wellness Auditorium. Today we are discussing Creating Your Life Collage: Strategies For Solving the Work/Life Dilemma with Beth Sirull.

Beth Sirull is the co-author of Creating Your Life Collage: Strategies For Solving the Work/Life Dilemma. She has successfully established a market research and consulting company, which better complements her personal life following a ten-year corporate career.

Beth, welcome to WebMD Live.

Sirull: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Moderator: What is a life collage and what does it have to do with the work/life dilemma?

Sirull: Most people think about the work life dilemma in terms of balance; we found that actually creates more stress than it alleviates. If you think about balance, think of an old fashioned scale; very two dimensional. Work on one side, and your life on the other, and life isn't two dimensional. The other characteristic of balance is that it's precise and static; to be in balance, you have to be still. Life is constantly changing, and to better reflect life that it is constantly changing and multi dimensional, we created the life collage. When you create the life collage, you identify all the roles you'd like to play in your life -- your family, friendships, religious commitments, being physically fit. You're taking all those roles, and designing them in a collage that reflects your priorities. It's a new way to solve the work life dilemma. We call it a conscious life collage, because you're consciously choosing the elements you're putting into the collage, and designing them in the way that works best for you.

Moderator: What are some signs that I need to make changes in my life--create my life collage?

Sirull: There are a number of early warning signs; indicators that your life is out of whack. I'm not going to give all of them, but I would suggest that you ask yourselves 5 questions. If you answer yes to some of these, then it may be time to make some changes, or look at the way that your life and work mesh. The first question -- are you constantly feeling exhausted or frequently sick? Do you find yourself saying "it will get better next week or next month"? And it doesn't. The third -- do you dread going to work? Do you start having the Monday morning blues on Sunday afternoon? Are you working harder and longer, but enjoying it less and less? Finally, ask yourself if you have a sense of feeling stuck. If you answer and nod to one of these questions, then it may be time to look at how you work and how that fits into the rest of your life.

Moderator: How do I go about solving my work/life dilemma--creating my life collage?

Sirull: The very first step is the one we just did -- that you recognize the need to make some changes. The first more concrete step we suggest is to look at their definition of success and balance, so that if you think about what you'd like your life collage to look like, or what balance means to you, then think about your definition of success. So often in American culture, we define success by the money we earn and title we have... and if you want to have all of these other activities in your life; friendships and community, church, or some spiritual commitment.... if you want those other activities, then you need to redefine success to include all of these other activities. In that way, when you define success in that broader way consistently, then as you move towards success, you're also moving towards balance.

Moderator: Sounds like a lot of work. Will it be worth it?

Sirull: First of all, it's not necessarily going to be a tremendous change; many people look at the issues and determine small changes they'd like to make in their life. Maybe they'd like to leave work on time one or two nights a week to work out. That's enough for them to feel that they have their collage in order. That might require smaller changes. If you're someone who wants to revamp how you work and want to start working part time so you have more time with children, that's going to be greater changes. The first step is that it may not be as big a mountain to climb as you think. In the course of doing research, my co-author and I did interviews with nearly 1000 women, and the most common phrase people used with us is that they wished they had done it sooner. Even people who did a lot of work, to a woman, they felt that they had made worthwhile changes -- people reported more satisfaction with their work, richer sense of relationships, more time for activities, and more peace and fulfillment. The short answer is that, yes, it will be worth it.