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Finding YOUR NOT Work/Life Balance

By Leann Benedetti
DVM, ACC, CCFP, BSc / The Veterinary Coach

Key Words: YOUR and NOT

For over a decade now there has been a lot of talk around Work/Life Balance. What does it look like and more importantly how to achieve it.  As a veterinarian in practice for 27 years, a past practice owner, a mom, a daughter, a leader, a community member, contributor, a pet parent … and mostly as a human being I was fooled into believing that Balance was the goal. 

Does that make me foolish?? (well…😉) No – it makes me human, and … what I believe to be a fairly typical veterinary professional that is used to following rules and protocols, a diligent student, and high achieving professional that tends to be a perfectionist.  While I won’t go into details here, for the first 17ish years (to my credit) that was doable – and then, as challenges mounted, it wasn’t doable anymore.  Upon reflection, I’m not sure why I thought it would ever be in the first place.  Wait, that’s the point.  I did not stop to think about it. I was not consciously choosing anything. I had a goal disguised as a belief that this was the way we do things at all costs. AND – I am 100% aware that seems like what we are told to do, and how we are trained to do it. Push Through. Keep Your Balance.  That mindset is part of the problem in our profession, and it’s only now that I’ve been able to put some pieces together that I think might be helpful.  This is what I know so far (cue: Pink-What I know so far!)

In 2017, I started the business The Veterinary Coach – and this topic of Balance was actually ‘my Why’ and was the reason for my logo (left below), and original tagline – Coaching Veterinary Professionals for Balance.  Shortly after that, I found this image (right below), which spoke loudly to me about what Balance felt like in Veterinary Medicine-which is incredibly hard, if not impossible.  One might say Magic actually … (oh wait that’s another blog). 

Regardless – you will notice that the goal was still perfect balance.

I have been talking about this, and coaching people around this for 5 years now, and it is a very recent awareness to me that neither my words, my intentions nor my expectations do not actually match what we see in these images.  I have come to understand that my balance is often ‘off kilter’, and if it is, chances are that is intentional.  I have come to understand that Balance to me is not a goal to be achieved, it is a process that allows me to actually be flexible and ultimately agile. 

Language Matters: What is Balance Anyway?

Balance in the context of finding Work/Life Balance has been positioned in my head (and I don’t think only my head) as a goal. A destination. Namely – a noun.

What might happen if we think of Balance as a verb …?  As an active process that involved adjusting, and adapting, and ‘tinkering’ with intention.  That sounds like a conscious process, that opens up space for directing weight purposely in one direction or another, that does not imply equality.

If this were allowed, even temporarily, then we might be better able to be intentional with our choices. We might be able to move from a place of rigid control and inflexibility to ‘keep the balance’ no matter what, into a place of perfect imperfection, depending on the challenge of the day, hour, or season of life. You might be able to find YOUR NOT work/life balance that serves you, and is effective in your life. What does that require? 

It requires us to be curious about our actions, our behaviours and our intentions and understand what serves us in any given moment in that day, hour or season of life.  When we can understand that, we might know better what we need to do to achieve it effectively.

One thing I can assure you, this process is far from perfect or linear, and requires us to embrace ‘messy’.  I can also assure you, in my experience…messy is worth it. Especially true if you are looking for and ready to invite change into your life.  I am not inviting you to do anything that I have not done myself, as a fellow veterinarian. And if I can do it – so can you!

These are excerpts from the virtual presentation given on April 14, for the full presentation please click here!