In this two-part post, I take a look at one of the biggest problems I see facing working women – the feeling that no matter how hard they work, they’re just getting by. I’ll explore one cause for this feeling, and the steps to begin to resolve it. Stay tuned next week for Part 2, when I’ll examine two more causes and solutions to start moving beyond them.

“I’m so sick of feeling like I’m just barely getting by. I feel like I do everything in my life haphazardly, and it’s wearing me out. I just want to feel like I have some control again.”

These are comments I heard from a client not too long ago – a bright, capable woman who was successfully running her own business. On paper, she had exactly what many of us want – a happy family, a flexible schedule, a growing business. But, in her mind, she was teetering on the edge of disaster. She felt trapped by all the plates she was spinning – like her only choices were to keep spinning them or let it all come crashing down.

Unfortunately, it’s a feeling that’s all too familiar to me. I hear it from women regularly – and I bet you do, too. They’re bright professionals who do great work in and out of the office, but they can’t seem to find the sense of calm they so desperately want.

Most of us have been that at one point or another – I know I have. But, I always had this nagging sense that there was a better way to live. That if I could just unlock the secret I could face my days feeling confident and settled.

But, to unlock the secret, you have to first understand what really causes the problem. What is it that keeps smart, talented women feeling like they’re just getting by? And how can you say goodbye to that feeling and embrace the sense of purpose and peace you’ve been missing?

Cause 1: We Don’t Know What We Really Want

It seems like a fairly elementary place to start, but to gain a sense of peace and purpose, women must be very, very clear about what they want most.

This is no simple task. Many voices compete for our attention – our mothers, our partners, the parents of our children’s friends, our bosses. All have their own ideas of what should matter most to us, and where we should spend our time and energy. They say things like…

Good mothers don’t miss their children’s activities.

You can’t pass up a promotion if you expect to be taken seriously.

I should put other people’s happiness before my own. I don’t want to be selfish.

If we aren’t careful, we can lose our own voice along the way. The small, still voice that tells us what really gives meaning to our lives and work, what feeds our brains, what brings us joy. For too many of us, that voice is just a distant memory.

We no longer know what we want, what matters most to us, and we end up living life according to a set of priorities that don’t actually serve us very well. We work harder and harder, but nothing that we do fills our tanks. And without a clear idea of where we’re going off track, we have no ability to find a lasting solution.

Solution: Find Your Own Voice

To reclaim a sense of calm in your life, you must find your own voice.

Start by carving out a little more time to listen. Find a little more quiet in your life. Whether that means turning off the social media feed with all its picture-perfect families, or taking a step back from the friend who is always encouraging you to lean in, find a way to reduce the amount of information you are receiving from other people about how you should be investing your time. Listen for what bubbles up. What do you want?

Pay attention to the times during your day that you are curious, absorbed, joyous. What makes you want to learn more and what makes you laugh? What do you wish you had more of and what parts of your life are most fulfilling now?

Each of these questions will you point you in the direction of your own voice. Stay curious. Stay positive. Keep listening to uncover the things that are your deepest priorities. Practice uncovering what matters most to you.

Tell Me…

What do you think keeps you from feeling in control of your life? What would it take for you to get beyond “just getting by”?