Oct 24 / Helen Bryant

Leadership Lessons on Balancing Work and Life

I am back on YouTube this week. It's been quite a while since I posted my last video, almost nine months, to be exact. I needed this break because something significant was happening in my personal life that made it difficult for me to show up on camera. So, I consciously decided to take a step back.

I hadn't planned for the hiatus to be this long, but during this time, I've learned some valuable lessons about balancing a demanding professional life with personal challenges. I thought it valuable to share these insights with you in a different format - as a blog post, as I will not be alone in experiencing the challenges of finding work-life balance.

The big event that disrupted my life was my father's terminal cancer diagnosis in December. He wanted to receive palliative care at home, and that decision led to an unexpected rollercoaster of experiences. My family and I received support from organisations like Macmillan and Marie Curie, but the true care, both in terms of medical support and emotional strength, came from us.

I quickly realised that I couldn't maintain my work as it was before. The ambitious business plan I'd crafted in December was set aside by January as I grappled with how to make it happen. Anyone who's been through the process of supporting a loved one during their final days knows how emotionally draining and time-consuming it can be.
Watch the YouTube.

I needed a guide

A turning point for me came when I read "The Big Five for Life" by John P. Strelecky. This leadership and development book focuses on setting life goals, especially for leaders and professionals who often prioritise work over everything else. 

It encourages readers to reflect on their life goals and aspirations. The book introduces the concept of identifying and focusing on five significant life goals, or "Big Five for Life," to bring purpose and fulfilment to one's life. These five goals should encompass various aspects of life, not just work-related objectives.

Strelecky emphasises that many people become too consumed by their careers and neglect other important dimensions of life, such as relationships, personal growth, and well-being. The book encourages readers to set these five life goals intentionally and to view them as guiding principles for making decisions and prioritising their time.

The idea is that by aligning your daily actions and decisions with your Big Five for Life, you can lead a more meaningful and balanced life. Strelecky uses storytelling and parables to illustrate these concepts, making it an engaging and thought-provoking read for those seeking personal growth and greater life satisfaction.

My Big Five for Life

When I read the book, I defined my five big life goals. They are:
- A strong and happy marriage that goes the distance.
- My children launch into adulthood happy, resilient with strong foundations to flourish in their own lives.
- Do work I love and feel achievement by helping others learn the skills to thrive in their careers.
- Family & Friends: Strong, enjoyable relationships that nurture us all.
- A happy and strong mind, body, and spirit.

These goals haven't changed since 2009.

Every year, I set yearly objectives that align with these life goals, and it helps me make decisions more efficiently.

Each quarter, I check and plan specific activities that deliver against these goals. It's like having North Stars that guide me through life's opportunities and challenges.

This approach allowed me to reevaluate my work-life balance in January when I felt overwhelmed. By prioritising my family and personal life, I managed to protect myself and invest my energy where it was needed most. And, importantly, be comfortable with letting go and postponing other plans.

Lessons for leaders

Too many leaders tell me that work dominates their lives, and they struggle to have work-life balance. Clarifying all your life goals makes it easier to make the trade-offs that inevitably come your way.
Even better, you will see opportunities that "double dip" several life goals. These then become no-brainers.

Also, when exciting opportunities come your way but don't seem to fit in any goal, it becomes easier to say no, as I find they rarely serve you well. Similarly, you realise quickly if one goal is dominating your time and energy at the cost of the others.

If you recognise that you might be a little out of balance or that your life goals are not so clear, I'd heartily recommend the Big Five For Life book for inspiration and guidance.

What next?

Now, I'm ready to get fully back to work. I've had time to reflect on my business and my YouTube channel, and I'm excited to bring you new content. I'll be posting videos weekly, and I'm eager to hear from you about any management or leadership challenges you're facing. I'm here to help. Check it out here if you want to see my lessons.

Rather touchingly, when I looked at my Dad's iPad after he had died, I saw that on his YouTube channel, he had all these videos on aeroplanes and history, and me. He had apparently watched every video. That made me so happy.

George Elwyn Bryant
1940- 2023

Discover how 10 minutes a week can step change your leadership impact.

Write your awesome label here.

Subscribe to My Leadership Accelerator Newsletter

Get 1 high-impact leadership lesson every Friday.  Advice, actionable lessons and tips for ambitious managers on how to reclaim your time and lead a high-performing team. 
    We value your privacy. You can unsubscribe at any time.
    Created with