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Lessons Learned on Getting a Life From Former CEO: ‘What I Did Was Who I Was’

When we read this piece, we couldn’t agree more. After all, many of us put our careers first in our lives. Yes, it’s important but at what price? Does your job define you? Do you have a sense of self outside the occupation?

Erin Callohan, former CFO of Lehman Brothers, wrote in The New York Times, “Inevitably, when I left my job, it devastated me. I couldn’t just rally and move on. I did not know how to value who I was versus what I did. What I did was who I was.”

After many years of toiling away at the job, she is first learning how to manage a life. Callohan added,

“I have often wondered whether I would have been asked to be C.F.O. if I had not worked the way that I did. Until recently, I thought my singular focus on my career was the most powerful ingredient in my success. But I am beginning to realize that I sold myself short. I was talented, intelligent and energetic. It didn’t have to be so extreme. Besides, there were diminishing returns to that kind of labor.”

And if you see yourself in this scenario as well, reading her powerful words may serve a much needed wake up call.

“I didn’t have to be on my BlackBerry from my first moment in the morning to my last moment at night. I didn’t have to eat the majority of my meals at my desk. I didn’t have to fly overnight to a meeting in Europe on my birthday. I now believe that I could have made it to a similar place with at least some better version of a personal life. Not without sacrifice — I don’t think I could have “had it all” — but with somewhat more harmony.”

So the question is, how can you manage a life and make it a priority while you’re still employed in a demanding job? The key is striving for balance and acknowledging it may take baby steps. For instance, putting that iPhone away from your bed at night and in another room is one small step toward a more harmonious life.

Tell yourself you’ll at least have one tech-free, work-free day during the weekend. Eventually build on those small steps into bigger ones and realize some of the most productive moments, most liberating and enjoyable moments aren’t ones when we’re in engaged in work but rather with others and in our own lives.

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