Updated: Feb 16, 2020
In our fast-paced world, it is imperative that we maintain our personal-well being whilst not sacrificing our personal and professional goals. But how can we balance everything going on in our lives on top of our professional ambitions? Is it ever possible to "have it all"? WIL's second ever WIL Talk attempted to tackle these questions, with the insight of several professionals, including university professors, a CEO and a counsellor.
The discussion opened with Jyothi Thrivikraman, an assistant professor at the Leiden University College and an academic researcher in the field of global public health. Having worked in several countries in Asia and Africa, Jyothi provided insight on how she was able to maintain her well being and professional career while living a mobile lifestyle. Being mother to two, she has had to make sacrifices and tough decisions regarding her family life and her professional life. Throughout her speech, she pointed out that having a career that develops in multiple directions should not be seen as a failure, but as an opportunity for change. Through anecdotes, she also described how crucial coordination with your partner can be, especially when you have children and both wish to develop your careers.
Next to tackle this question of balancing ambitions was Anne Glick, the co-founder and executive director of Globe Smart Kids, a non-profit organisation that helps make the foreign more familiar to kids all over the world. Having lived in various foreign countries such as Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and with 17 years of experience leading teams, managing programs, and building relationships on various continents, Anne had to learn to balance her personal and her professional life from an early age. She described this WIL talk as something she wished she could have attended at our age, admitting that it would have been immensely helpful. After stating this, she reminded the audience not to expect to have it all, for you can plan everything out, and life can still throw you curve balls. Through personal stories, she shared her advice on how to handle unexpected events that may affect your professional and personal life. Rather than constantly looking forward to your future, Anne stressed that taking time to appreciate where you are and who you are with at present is just as important. With this attitude in mind, she also told the audience that although having it 'all' is possible - this just depends on how you define 'all'. With this philosophy in mind, Anne hopes we learn from an early age to be satisfied with adjusting and compromising, as we must accept that everything will not always go our way.
Brandon Zicha, a senior assistant professor in policy science at the Leiden University College, continued this discussion. He began his speech with what he believed some time ago would compose having it 'all': having a rich family life with kids and close relationships with friends and family, striving for success in your and your partner's respective careers, being healthy, having leisure time, be able to accumulate wealth to pass down, and bring up children in an international household. During the rest of his speech, Brandon described the fallacies of this definition. Echoing Anne's words, he also admitted that having it all depends on how you define 'all' and 'can'. He reminded the audience that trying to control things in life that you cannot control will only lead to dissatisfaction and frustration. Living life under a false vision of what you want and who you are trying to be is something that must be avoided as much as possible, another piece of advice he hoped the audience would live by. Learning to make flexible plans and to do the best possible thing for who you are were two of his key messages. He finished his speech with the realisation that in this day and age, we try to design our lives too much, rather than authoring them.
WIL's talk last speaker was Lamprini Kiosse, an occupational health psychologist who works with organisations to protect and promote the safety, health, and well being of workers. A strong advocate to improving the quality of a professional working life, she admitted that when she received the invitation to participate in this WIL Talk, she did not even finish the email before accepting. She began her speech by admitting that balancing ambitions have been the "theme" of her life. Although it may seem like we are able to manage everything at all times, she highlighted how important it is to realise this is often not true, and that we must neither be afraid to ask for help nor to be afraid of accepting change. After experiencing a burn-out herself, Lamprini started to ask herself many questions regarding what she wanted and who she was, a monologue which enabled her to direct herself onto a more suited path, both in terms of her personal life and her career. She wants to remind young people not to despair, not to rush, and not to be anxious when it seems like you have not achieved enough early enough. Taking time to understand what you want to do and who you are is an incredibly important step. Our generation, which faces many uncertainties, must be able to accept that no matter how much planning we do, we might not be able to predict what our lives will exactly look like.
Following the four speeches, the audience was able to ask questions to the speakers, generating interesting discussions regarding what had been said and how to handle the competitive environment young students often find themselves in. Overall, the WIL Talk ended with the following encompassing message: try to realise your ambitions as much as you can, and continue to dream, but be able to accept that what you try to plan out may not occur exactly as you want it to. Control the things that you can, accept phases of rethinking and finally, accept the possibility of having the re-prioritise your ambitions and desires.