Figure Out Your Own Work Ethic

I’m proud to be part of Generation X. We’re typically defined as individualistic, self-reliant, and entrepreneurial. We’re goal-oriented, philanthropic. We’re gritty. We’re skeptical and resourceful. We say we value work-life balance, but we work our butts off. One day, the hard work will pay off and we know it.

I recently read with interest, “Updating the Nonprofit Work Ethic.” I was intrigued. Through my 20’s and into my mid-30’s, I consistently worked 60 hours per week. I knew that it wasn’t necessarily healthy, and I remember getting lectures from elders reminding me that, on my deathbed, I would never wish that I had worked more. But I was passionate about my work – and there was so much to do in my effort to save the world!

It took a particular series of events over a period of years for me to understand that life was not all about work. I got divorced in my early 30’s and found a love for international travel and the outdoors that I didn’t know was there. But I continued to work long hours, to prove to myself and others that I had value to add to the world. I went to work for the Mayor of DC and spent a summer working 80-hour weeks and pulling all-nighters. At the end of the season, I was publicly let go – and personally devastated. Embarrassed. Ashamed. I was a myriad of emotions, despite a community of family, friends and colleagues who rallied around me, insisting that I had been thrown “under the bus.”

I spent a great deal of time – 3 years – reflecting on that experience and thinking about how I wanted to spend the rest of my life. I realized that, while I always wanted to be involved in work for which I felt passionate, I no longer wanted to work those 60-hour weeks. I moved to Colorado to get away from DC and the “rat race.” I’ll never forget the first day in the Colorado office: I walked around at 5pm, and everyone had left for the day! Now this was the work-life balance that I had been hoping for! And it was something that I had to learn on my own.

Thus, while I appreciate the article’s recommendations to use vacation time, incorporate movement into the workday, and develop self-care plans, sometimes it’s something that you need to figure out for yourself.

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