Re-Defining Having It All

I feel the need to explain myself.

My last two posts on the topic of Having It All — both which might be interpreted as discouraging — are probably not very good marketing for someone in my profession. After all, my job as a coach is to help people dream big and achieve their goals. So where do I get off telling women and men that they can’t have it all and asserting that the very notion of “having it all” is not even desirable? What happened to following your dreams, overcoming obstacles, not settling for less?

To clarify: my critique of having it all is not about our desire for, nor our capacity to achieve, a full, rich, satisfying life. Instead, I object to the popular image of having it all that is too narrowly defined and too driven by external standards. In rejecting this vision of success, I remain firmly rooted in my belief in our capacity to live a fulfilling life, including both meaningful work and meaningful relationships. But what constitutes a fulfilling life looks very different for each individual, and changes over time.

A woman’s or man’s best hope for achieving her or his dreams is to define success on his or her own terms rather than looking to external standards. True fulfillment begins with identifying what is really important to us (our core values) and pursuing goals that reflect those values with persistence, creativity, and belief in ourselves. For most of my clients and friends, fulfillment has more to do with doing work that focuses on making a positive impact on others rather than achieving status or rank, on developing and maintaining strong, rewarding relationships, and on appreciating what they have rather than grasping for the next brass ring. If that is what is meant by having it all, then I believe it is available to us all.