Sarah Kenny wakes up at 5am six mornings a week to get to Back Bay Yoga where she practices ashtanga — a genre of yoga known for acrobatic lunges, feet tucked behind the head, and almost fifty pushups in one session. After that, she goes to work as a senior operations specialist. For Kenny, both pieces of her life are important. “I am good at my job and I am good at yoga and I had to figure out how to balance both,” she says.
One of the most liberating moments in career planning is to realize that you don't have to get paid to do your favorite activity in order to be happy. One of the constipating situations is to think there is only one career that can be fulfilling to you. Get rid of the idea that the most important thing to a worker is work, and you free yourself to make work just one portion of a fulfilling life.
Kenny's success comes, in part, from the fact that she has structured a life that caters to two aspects of her personality — the organized, office manager type, and the athletic, live-in-the-moment type.
Paul Tieger, co-author of the best-selling career guide, Do What You Are, advises that you pick a career based on your personality type, which nearly ensures that you'll have passion for what you do. Tieger's book helps you to understand yourself very quickly in a way that allows you to nail down your personality type and then find many careers that cater to it. You can even give the system a free test drive.
What is clear form Tieger's system is that a personality is multi-faceted, and a career need only cater the dominant aspects of your personality in order to be fulfilling. The passion you have that you won't get paid for is something you can do in addition to your job, and in the best scenario, each portion of your life caters to a different aspect of your personality.
The key to making this sort of life work, though, is finding a job that leaves room for a life. Kenny, for example, will not work at a company that does not respect her yoga schedule. Leslie Cintron, assistant professor of sociology at Washington and Lee University, says that workers like Kenny are not aberrations, “We have a generation that is clamoring for more balance in their lives.”
But this is a different sort of balance than the baby boomers aspired to. According to Cintron, “Baby boomers were talking about issues that they had to deal with when women moved into the workforce and polices didn't acknowledge that fact. Today one difference is that men in their 20s also are saying they want balance. They want extra space to be able to develop themselves as individuals.” Another difference is that baby boomers asked, “Can we work and have a family?” The new generations ask, “Can we work and have a life?”
For some people, “having a life” means having time for friends or developing a connected relationship. Other people might seek meaningful pursuits outside of work, such as a particular sport or extensive travel. Whatever “having a life” means to you, take solace in the fact that you don't need to get paid for it, you just need to find an employer who will give you room for your personal passions.
Be bold when it comes to getting what you need. Ask yourself what parts of your personality you need to address. Ask your employer to accommodate your non-work needs. The new generation is rife with people like you. Management advisors across the country are warning companies that if they don't make the workplace flexible they will face a shortage of willing workers.
Trust yourself to identify your personality type and your passions, and have the confidence to require that your employer afford you space to grow. Cintron encourages asking, even if it looks like a risk: “There is a lot of untapped flexibility that might be offered if one makes that first attempt to ask.”
Tread very carefully near a company that will not give you enough control over your time to enable you to pursue passions outside the office. Having control over your time and your work are some of the most important factors in job satisfaction; it is almost impossible to be happy in a job that gives you no control.