It was 5:30 a.m. on my wedding day in Punjab, India. My traditional lengha was on and my tikka was placed where it needed to be. I had a bottle of water in one hand and my laptop in the other. The photographers were stressed because I wasn't co-operating. Then came relief.
I was finally able to get an Internet connection at the hall and I had business requests to field from my clients in Canada. In some parts of Punjab, getting an Internet connection was a daily battle. Professionally, no one knew I was in India to get married. My husband and I were both born and raised in Canada, but we decided to have a traditional ceremony in India – a spin on the 'destination wedding.'
The plan was to be away for two weeks, and as long as I had an Internet connection and I woke at sunrise, before the work day ended for my clients, I was good to go. Some people called it impractical or unreasonable. Some called it a work/life balance issue. I called it getting what I needed to get done, done.
When you're trying to balance commitments, regardless of their nature, the interplay between variables is critical to success. In my case, those variables were an Internet connection, timing, and avoiding illness from contaminated water on my wedding day. I am no stranger to rural communities in various parts of the world that lack electricity or running water, and I'm good at maintaining commitments to family, students, and clients.
But as I go through different stages of my life, the way I view things continues to change, and my definition of balance and success continues to change as well. I'm learning to accept it.
The dialogue about balance can be misleading. How it's defined depends on the individual and what people value or what their priorities are at any given time. How we define and understand success can also be ambiguous. We have honours, awards and lists that help shape who and what we perceive as successful, but do we take the time to define success in our own terms? Do we take the time to map out not only what we want to be, but also who we want to be?
After nine years of running a business, I decided to introduce a new service. After months of planning, the launch date arrived, and everything that needed to go smoothly did. The launch was filled with congratulatory e-mails and validation. But near the end of the day I received a message about the new service that critiqued components perceived as missing. If it happened nine years ago – or even five – I would have been very defensive, resistant, and insecure after reading the critique.
The new service was only a day old at the time, so I was able to go through each point to figure out which ones to consider and the ones that were not aligned with what we wanted to be. I was able to do this with confidence because I took the time to define how I viewed success. The customer will soon be receiving a thank you card in the mail.
Balance and success can be perceived in terms of quantity – the amount of time spent with family, or the number of new sales. Or it might be the quality of experiences and interactions. To some, a successful day puts food on the table, and to others it allows for five minutes between feedings and changing diapers to take a shower.
Some people are looking ahead to their next promotion, others may want to continue making the impact they are currently making. Assess where you are in your life – personally and professionally. Define balance and success in your own terms and be confident with how it fits with who you are, what you value and what you want to achieve.
Rumeet Billan is a social entrepreneur, educator and doctoral student at the University of Toronto. At the age of 25 and again at 28, she was named one of Canada's Top 100 Most Powerful Women. Ms. Billan continues to integrate her business and doctoral studies with her passion for creating change through education.