Why Women Need to Break Free of the Ideal of Having It All

ideal, having it all“I have never met a woman, or man, who stated emphatically, ‘Yes, I have it all.’ Because no matter what any of us has—and how grateful we are for what we have—no one has it all.” This Sheryl Sandberg quote reminds us that the concept of work-life balance as an ideal to strive for is overrated and that’s OK.

The very notion of having it all indicates that we have to make time for everything.

So rather than striving to have it all, perhaps success is really about identifying the things that are most important to us and adjusting to make room for those things.

The first step: Deliberate choices about your time

Thinking about starting your own business can be thrilling—a new set of challenges, exciting possibilities and the opportunity to stretch by pushing your boundaries out of the everyday predictable. There’s so much to look forward to.

And yet, making things work takes some juggling. Successful entrepreneurs will tell you that owning a business is not a 9 to 5 proposition. They also say that doing what they love, creating their own “thing” is more important to them than anything else—they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Whether your ideal world includes running your own business while meeting family requirements, supporting charitable activities, participating in community activities or pursuing a hobby, we all need to find a way to make room for things that are important to us. You can make it happen by making deliberate choices and letting go of time- and energy-consuming things that are not priorities. This is true whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee.

ideal, having it allStay true to your vision

Maria Flynn, CEO of Orbis Biosciences, does a masterful job by making room in her life for the things that are important and staying true to her vision. While running a successful company, Flynn is also the mother of two young children and is active in the entrepreneur community.

Flynn attributes much of her ability to balance what she loves, to growing up in a household where her parents were busy running three business while caring for a family and being involved in the community. “My parents taxied me in the first years, older brothers in my early years, mom’s employees in the middle years and grandma sprinkled in between. There were more than a few days when I wondered who was picking me up. I was often the last kid.” While other people cringe at the thought, she recalls the experience as character building—giving her time to daydream, build relationships and juggle competing demands.

And the character building didn’t stop there, her parents made their children part of the business, teaching them to do inventory, work with finicky customers, deliver packages, paint fences, take responsibility for the auger at harvest time and anything else a kid can do.

She considers the work-life balance discussion laughable. “There is no work-life balance—just a life that you love.” Everyone juggles differently based on what’s important to you. “If you hear yourself saying, ‘there is never a good time,’ then fight to make it happen,” Flynn suggests.

ideal, having it allFive lessons she shares from her entrepreneurial childhood that she still applies today:

  1. There is a continual give and take between all parts of your life. It shouldn’t necessarily be a prioritization between work-life, but rather of all things. In both your personal and professional life, learn to ask yourself, “Is this the most valuable use of my time at this point?”
  2. Always work ahead. Time is nearly always more valuable in the future, and you can’t predict what will come up. Also, nurture your ability to turn on and off as appropriate so you begin to create a mindset that when you are on, you are very efficient.
  3. Continually prioritize. Take stock of where you spend your time, money and energy both at work and at home. Prune what isn’t important—the time-wasting meetings and unnecessary travel. Successful pruning strategies can effectively translate from one part of your life to another.
  4. Build a support network. Discuss your business goals with your spouse or life partner to build support. Create a list of people to call who can offer advice and support for work and home.
  5. Tame your expectations. If you feel guilt over societal pressure related to childbearing and care, remind yourself that it’s okay for others to do things for our children (or for us). Guilt is nonproductive but only you can decide to ignore it.

What matters most to you?

ideal, having it allAre you living your life in accordance with your core values? According to the Vail Leadership Institute (VLI), core values are those that you treasure—the things that you would die for, or, alternatively, live for. Choices include things such as happiness, friendship, community, challenge, freedom and family. There are many online exercises available to help you pinpoint a few key values. Once identified, moving forward with the real spirit of “balance” or “having it all” truly makes sense.


This article is the fifth in a series to help women entrepreneurs like you look at what’s keeping you from moving forward, overcome doubts and understand the fundamentals and the mindset needed to help make you successful. They are not designed to help you build your financials or create your marketing plan, but rather to prod you to think bigger … and begin thinking with the mindset of an entrepreneur. They will appear on our blog: https://insightsnationalseminarstraining.com/  and in our free monthly professional women’s newsletter which you can subscribe to: http://www.nationalseminarstraining.com/womenslink/index.cfm

If you missed our first four articles, read them here:

  1. Women Entrepreneurs: What’s Keeping You From Starting the Business of Your Dreams
  2. Creating the Mindset for Success as a Female Entrepreneur
  3. 7 Questions to Ponder Before You Start a New Business
  4.  Does Starting a Business Feel Too Risky to You?

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