Life’s a pizza…

It can take on lots of flavours but basically it can only be cut into so many pieces.

Depending how hard we want to push ourselves we can stretch the size but even then there are limits – like only being 24 hours in a day or not being in two places at once. The dough of your life will only stretch so far before the holes appear.

I can’t claim to have originated the pizza model of life – but I’ve found myself using it in a lot of situations recently. Most of them coaching or mentoring scenarios. The basic concept is that your career is a slice of your life and you need to get it in the right proportion to everything else you want – like family, friends, hobbies, lifestyle etc etc. Making any one slice bigger inevitably affects the size of the rest.

I owned up to getting my own pizza wrong in a recent blog. However I know I am not alone in managing the challenges of wanting so many things that compete for limited time. I also know that some choices come at a price. And having made those choices it doesn’t automatically wipe away senses of frustration, regret and yes, guilt.

For example being a CEO places huge demands on your time. You are on call 24/7. That means my family pay a price for me doing a job I love. They get upsides but I can’t fib and say there aren’t times when my 9 year old wouldn’t rather I did a job where I could drop everything at 5pm every day and just go pass a rugby ball instead. The kind of job my Dad had which meant he walked in at exactly 4.15 every day. I’ve lost count of the parents’ evenings and school sports days I’ve missed. Not intentionally but because meetings have overrun, trains have been cancelled or clients have needed my immediate attention.

It is not all one way though. My family love Lincolnshire village life. My eldest goes to a fantastic grammar school where I have no doubt she gets the quality of education that many parents pay thousands and thousands of pounds a year for in the private sector. My son plays in the village football team and we all love the feeling of security and community that comes with being “in the sticks”. We also live in the kind of house that would be out of reach down South. My children are always shocked when they see the tiny six foot by six foot “box room” I grew up in.

So we won’t be relocating. And that means a lot more of my pizza is spent travelling than I’d like. It also means my weekends are spent trying to make up for the time I don’t have in the week. That means I get less “me time” than I’d ideally like – which is why I still haven’t bought my birthday present yet. I love the idea of a season ticket but know deep down I’ll rarely use it.

What all this introspection is meant to do is symbolise the challenges and choices most people have to make. I meet lots of people for example who are torn between the desire for a big job and an idyllic lifestyle. Globalisation means mobility is now a real career factor so not being able to move is a huge restriction. Many feel guilty if they aren’t career-minded enough (often Gen Y’s who feel parental or organisational pressure) or equally resent that the job they love doesn’t allow enough time for hobbies, sport or family (more often but not exclusively Gen X’s).

Where it all goes wrong is when the tensions between the slices aren’t addressed. That’s when guilt and anger and resentment bubble away beneath the surface – or even erupt. You have to get the slices of your pizza in proportions that you – and those who matter to you – can live with. If you leave them to fester then it can, and often will, come back to haunt you.

The Chiumento career motivation tool (now available to our delegates as an Android app) can really help in this respect. It helps explore what really matters and what is less important. What matters most to you should be the biggest slice of your pizza – if it isn’t you won’t be happy. For example a Protectionist craves work-life balance and predictability. If your job involves long and unpredictable hours, a big commute and constant change you won’t be happy. But the price of entry to what you want might be a drop in pay – eg if you decide to work locally rather than commute into a big city and/or a less senior or challenging role.

Trouble is our motivations change. So this month we may love pepperoni but then our taste may change to ham and pineapple. Four seasons is usually a short term cop out. There’s always a slice you want more of and another you don’t really enjoy. Such is the way with pizza.

Ian Gooden
Chief Executive

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