What being in a long-distance marriage has taught me about work
My husband and I have known each other since high school and have spent most our waking time together since. After being married for 5 years, he had to move to another city, not too far from where I am now, but as you can imagine, this was a big change. Initially, we met every weekend. But that was totally unsustainable so soon, we were down to meeting once every three weeks for a couple of days. Now, I get that this is nothing compared to intercontinental marriages, heck, I think technically we’re in the same state even, but living apart has its challenges and for me, it gave me a lot of time to think. Now, fourteen months since we started to live apart, I’m penning down some important work lessons I have learnt from this time — as it (hopefully) nears an end:
- Trust: This sounds like a cliche but needs to be said, especially with regard to our professional relationships. When tasks are assigned and delivered, they function on a basic premise of trust between the employer and the employee. The same unsaid rule applies between team members. You are trusted with work — sometimes more than you can handle or feel are capable of — but that trust is a beautiful thing. I find that at work, just like at home, trusting someone to do their bit, will motivate them to go above and beyond all expectations. Just because you can’t see someone, doesn’t mean they’re not doing what they are supposed to! Trust and freedom can bring out the best in your employees and your long-distance partner.
The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. ~ Ernest Hemingway
2. Gratitude: In these past months, more than anything else, I have learnt to be thankful for my job. Being capable and having the ability to work is something to be thankful for. Having a job, is something to be thankful for. Even when things don’t seem to be working the way you want them to, it takes little effort to realise you have so many things working for you! For me, it meant taking the time I had with my loved ones and the work I do as a privilege and luxury. I learnt the importance of work and the sacrifices people make to earn a living or follow their purpose.
Being grateful all the time isn’t easy. But it’s when you least feel thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you: perspective. Gratitude can transform any situation. ~ Oprah Winfrey
3. Investing in oneself: There are many perks to having the same partner since a decade. There is only one downside — you tend to lose a sense of self. You become invested more in each other and have less time to think about yourself. I am grateful that I got this time to realign myself to my dreams and aspirations. At work, I had time to think about — what new skills can I learn? What are the next steps for me in my career? Is there an opportunity that I am missing out on? I read a lot. After years of working, we get so comfortable where we are, we don’t necessarily stop to think about what we can do to take things to the next level. Whether it is about going up the corporate ladder of seeking something that pushes us outside our comfort zone — upskilling and investing time in ourselves is the cornerstone of growth.
Learning can emerge as spontaneous order at the edge of chaos. ~ Sugata Mitra
4. Stepping outside your comfort zone: Who likes change? I don’t! As much as I detest it in my personal life, I love trying something new at work all the time. I love challenging status quo. But having to live outside my comfort zone for fourteen months has made this all the more true for me. Growth begins where your comfort zone ends. When you are truly challenged and pushed into a corner, you have no option but to change. That’s the change that really sticks with you forever and breaks the barriers in your mind, slowly but surely. Things I never thought I was capable of, like managing a celebrity book campaign, or offline marketing which I had never thought was a skill I had, I found a way to make them happen. As long as you’re uncomfortable, you’re learning.
The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity. ~ Dan Stevens
5. Intent and perspective: I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but here goes. For the first time in thirty years, I set goals for my life. Goal-setting and working towards something is possibly the only way to get through a tough time and come out feeling like a winner. Where did I see myself in the next 3, 5 and 10 years? I wrote out — in great detail — what my professional and personal life looked like in the years to come. And then I made a plan how I would get there. Before I sound too preachy, let me tell you a year into this exercise, I’m nowhere close to where I thought I’d be. I’ve also changed multiple goals. But the point is, I have intent. Just like how my husband and I had a clear idea of what we hoped to achieve at the end of this period. Of course it all gets a bit blurry when you’re having a bad day, but writing these things down clearly, can help you refocus and realign.
Our intention creates our reality. ~ Wayne Dyer
6. The journey is as important as the destination: Wouldn’t I love to fast forward time to when my long-distance marriage ends and my same-home marriage begins? Not really. Keeping your eye on the prize gives you focus, but what you learn along the way — that’s priceless. Having a career goal is great, but in the process of reaching it, learning more about yourself, the people you work with and constantly tuning your goal with who you are right at that moment — that’s priceless. There is no replacement for the relationships you build along the way.
Sometimes it’s the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination. ~ Drake
7. Happiness is only real when shared: Having said all of the above, true happiness means so much more when you have someone to share it with. This is why creating that culture of safety, inclusiveness and belonging at the workplace is so important. Whether at work or at home, surround yourself with people who truly care about you. Invest in people who lift you up and who add value to your life. Don’t forget to add value to theirs.