How I Learned the Importance of Work Life Balance the Hard Way

importance of work life balance

Over the last few years, I have personally learned the importance of having a work life balance.

“Vulnerability is the first thing we look for in other people, and the last thing we want to show them about ourselves.”

Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart

Oomph, that’s big and so true!

As leaders in business and in life, we have the hard job of balancing our business needs, team needs, community needs, and family needs and typically our personal needs come dead last.

To admit we need help rebalancing, setting up healthy work boundaries and putting OUR health first, well that feels…downright vulnerable!

And boy-oh-boy, do we resist getting vulnerable!

But part of my job as a coach is to help my clients see how to change that, so I’m going to get a little vulnerable here. It’s because I want you to learn from my mistakes so you can reach your business goals AND live your healthiest life!

My Dream Job and My Medical Nightmare

In 2009, I had finally arrived! I was the first Social Responsibility Director at an independent Y. I loved it!

I was championing equity, access, and raising funds to support the mission so everyone could be a part of the Y. Working locally, statewide, and nationally, the Y aligned with every value I had…until I let it become a bigger priority than my health. (I still love the Y but have a healthy boundary now!)

The stress of this job…was SO big…and…was literally killing me.

For me, it took the form of a rare disease that was made worse by stress.

By 2014, my history of acute pancreatitis turned chronic and my body stopped digesting my food and my gut became paralyzed (gastroparesis).

By 2016, I was malnourished, skinny, sickly, on fentanyl 24/7 for pain management, and tube-fed.

I went out on long-term disability. My dream job ended in a blur.

Getting Better

On December 28, 2016, my pancreas was removed by a rare procedure that was invented at the University of Minnesota called TP/IAT. I was the 767th person to have it since it was pioneered in 1977.

It saved my life.

Spending more than 100 nights in the hospital in the past 6 years. I still have gut issues. Since 2015 I’ve had dozens of surgical procedures and tests to help me have a good quality of life.   

Making healthy choices is important for me to stay out of the hospital. It can still be hard. But I now know the importance of work life balance.

A New Twist on an Old Career

During my illness and recovery, learning more resiliency strategies became a big deal.

I was a habit-change ninja by applying the skills and strategies I had used with clients for the past 25+ years.

In 2019, I became a Nationally Certified Health and Wellness Coach and opened my own business, determined to not let it take priority over my health.

In 2020, Tom Duenow and I started Transitions in Nature, and in 2021 we made it official!

My Realizations as I Discovered the Importance of Work Life Balance

  • A healthy culture starts at the top. I 100% own that I failed to demonstrate healthy behaviors when I worked at the Y until midnight (or later) to reach a goal. My drive and response to stress could only have been prevented by me as I had a LOT of tools available. Proving: we can be our own worst enemy.
  • Small businesses that succeed tend to have healthy teams and healthy boundaries.
  • Healthy teams = less down time, increased focus, and clear thinking, reduced health insurance costs, more creativity, collaboration, and happiness!
  • According to a 2020 study done by, health and wellness coaching positively impacts individuals with chronic pain and pain-related interference. In 2014 WHO reported that over 60 million people in the world suffer from chronic pain. Health & Wellness coaching is a viable, less invasive strategy.
  • A good health and wellness plan spans at least 12 months. In the case of TIN Coach Michelle Lesperance, she’s coached with one business for over 7 years saving them $1,000s! Programs have included: smoking cessation, healthy eating, disease prevention, stress management, empowerment, and happiness!

Learn From My Mistakes

My greatest wish is that you learn from my mistake and build yourself a business that allows you to maintain a balance between your work and health.

Yes! You are that important!

Without you, your dream will not come to life.

Here are some things to consider as you move forward.

  1. Take a look at your routines. Pick one that you wish you didn’t have and commit to replacing it with new behavior. Know your “why” and it will be easier.
  2. Check out a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear – habit stacking is one strategy he talks about. I’ve used it successfully with many of my clients.
  3. You don’t have to do it alone. In fact, working with a health & wellness coach is fun and rewarding!
  4. Try doing something that brings you joy each day.

Wishing you a work-life balance that includes good health and a strong business!

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