“We are limited, not by our abilities, but by our vision” – Khalil Gibran
Following on from yesterday’s post, I ask you: do you have a clear vision for your life, chef? It might not be a picture-perfect vision, but you need enough clarity on what are the things that matter to you.
This is really important, as many of us stop short of giving ourselves permission to explore that. In our minds, we only need to set career aspirations. And that everything else will fall into place.
But a vision that makes no room for the things that matter (besides your work) will lead you to create just that: a life where those things do not feature. This is the reason that I devote so much time in my workshops to this aspect. We have not been encouraged to hold that holistic vision in our culture, and it shows in the way that we as chefs struggle with work life balance.
The Oxford dictionarydefines the word ‘vision’ as being “the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.” It is also said that your vision is less a roadmap, but more a North star, guiding you to make choices and decisions that support it. Therefore, what we have in our lives currently relates to a vision that we had for ourselves at some point in the past.
A clear vision is key if you want to enjoy a balanced life. You might have a demanding schedule like every chef, but you find yourself able to make the most of your resources to fulfill that vision. You might encounter the same setbacks that they do, but having a vision allows you to persist through challenges. You might have to make sacrifices that others are not willing to make, but you let yourself be guided by the end results you want to enjoy.
The great thing is that you get to choose what having a life means to you, chef.
Create Your #BetterCheflife returns at the end of May to support you with the matter of ‘having a life’. This is our topic for the month, here at Love Letters to Chefs. Striking a balance between our work and our personal lives can be so challenging that it often requires stepping back and looking at the bigger picture. This, amongst other things, is what we cover during this 2-hour workshop.
This training is for you if:
You were called to review your professional life over the past year and now seek more balance
You started a journey towards wellness but now struggle to keep the momentum going
You anticipate a big life change – a new job, becoming a parent, etc. – and want to handle work life balance better
Besides the teaching element, we also go through exercises that will help you choose practices that work for you. Please book your place in advance.
They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself
– Andy Warhol
If the past year has taught chefs one thing, it has to be that we could really improve our relationship with time. We went from being starved for it to being inundated with empty hours to fill during the lockdown. And not knowing what to do with them.
Do we lean? Do we clean? The truth is that our identities and our sense of worth are tied up in that notion of busyness.
We believe that our rotas play a big part in determining the quality in our lives. Of course, there is no denying that we are time-poor professionals. But how well we would use a more spacious schedule is decided by how we currently use the precious moments that we can call our own.
Today I invite you to reflect on this question: Does the way you use your personal time serve your best interests, chef?
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete
– Buckminster Fuller
The bottom line is that we cannot afford to wait for the industry to change. When we are clear on what having a life means to us, we can create structures that help us carve out time and energy for the things that we value. Even through the constraints we face. Even when time and energy are in short supply.
But those structures do not have to be complicated. Yes, they require some amount of vision, but as with anything, you can take it one small step at a time. And before you know it, you will have built that new model, or way of living that supports your vision for what you want your life to be.
Our kitchen culture once taught us to compartmentalise our work and our personal lives. But we are no longer able to ignore the impact that these aspects have on each other. We now return to work without having fully unpacked the relationship between the two. At the same time, all of us want to experience better working lives than we used to.
Love Letters to Chefs is offering 1-1 support to Hospitality professionals who want to gain more clarity on how to navigate work life balance on their return to work after lockdown. This is for you if you want to:
Aspire towards a professional goal without neglecting your wellbeing
Retain the momentum on the wellbeing practices you started in lockdown
Overcome a challenge that you face on returning to work
These 45-minute sessions will be held over Zoom and are open to all Hospitality professionals. Sign up to book your place on the session. 10% of the fee will be donated to the UK charity Hospitality Action, which provides vital assistance to those who work in our industry.
I would not be surprised if you looked beyond the counter or the pass, to the very group of people you serve for the answer. What they are doing – enjoying a drink or devouring a meal, celebrating a joyous occasion, gathering with loved ones, engaging in idle conversation – seems to be living. Our ability to facilitate these things indicates our affinity towards the finer things in life. But in reality we simply lack the time and often the means to indulge in those things.
Added to this, we are also expected to be martyrs and give up any sense of attachment to the idea of a good life. But it is never truly quelled. This inner conflict just shows up in the many unhealthy habits and indulgences that Hospitality Industry professionals are known to embrace.
What we do not see is that having a life goes beyond having a good time. Having a career vs. having a life is far too simplistic and narrow a choice to ever bring us true fulfilment. And those indulgences will reveal their emptiness in a few years, or sometimes in the decades to come.
The better way to do it is to reflect on what having a life means to each of us. And take small steps everyday to build that vision.But first you have to see the truth about the choices in front of you. And have the courage to ask for more.
It might be easy to assume that work life balance is guaranteed to those who work a 9-5 job. Because on the surface it might seem like they face fewer struggles than we do. Or that their lives come with fewer sacrifices than we are forced to make.
But amongst those who follow that schedule, there are also people challenged with failing relationships, living in messy homes or having poor levels of fitness. This is my own observation from having worked in another industry. The additional time is no guarantee that we will use it to serve our wellbeing. Which means that even someone with limited time can, by setting the right intentions and making the right choices, aspire towards some degree of balance in their lives.
Back to you: if the lockdown was your opportunity to rebalance your life, you want to make sure to sustain the good work you put in. So that when you return to work, you build in opportunities for balance where and when you can, as you should when working in a demanding profession.
Join Love Letters to Chefs for next week’s webinar where we look at this very topic of how chefs can persist with their positive habits. You will have the opportunity to bring your own questions and challenges to the table, if you require guidance.
Here is the link to book your place. And please tag anyone who might like to attend.
Love Letters to Chefs is holding two upcoming trainings to support your return to the kitchen after our sustained absence.
This past year, so much has unfolded, concluded or been placed on hold in our lives. Yet, this return feels less like a new beginning, but more like a transition. How easily can we get accustomed again to the cheflife? How can we keep our bodies and minds in shape as we meet the demands of our work? What will it take to keep up our spirits as we navigate the uncertainty of this new normal?
If these are questions that you have asked yourself, be assured of your own agency here: you can make this transition easier for yourself. But the answers are not to be found in the workplace, but in the things that you do outside it.
“To be mature you have to realize what you value most. It is extraordinary to discover that comparatively few people reach this level of maturity. They seem never to have paused to consider what has value for them. They spend great effort and sometimes make great sacrifices for values that, fundamentally, meet no real needs of their own.
Not to arrive at a clear understanding of one’s own values is a tragic waste. You have missed the whole point of what life is for.”
These powerful words by Eleanor Roosevelt serve as a reminder that, at the heart of work life balance, is the fundamental need to know your values. And this is the reason why the Love Letters to Chefs trainings are never prescriptive, but are instead designed to reconnect you to your values.
Just like our industry is rebuilding following the effects of the pandemic, many of us are rebuilding our professional and personal lives after a year of seeing clearly what matters to us. We cannot unsee that vision. With such clarity, we can no longer go back to neglecting those things in our lives that are less urgent than the work demanding our immediate attention.
The concept of #BetterCheflife is all about helping you bridge the divide between ‘work’ and ‘life’ as a chef. So that you can realise your vision. Now.