Hi, my name is Alice Benham and I work a lot. I find a great deal of my identity in my work. I feel excited and fulfilled when talking about or doing my work. And it’s where the vast majority of my time, energy and resources are spent.
I’ll get into the impact of this confession later on but first, let’s explore the two places this relationship with work comes from...
The first is my parents (cliche I know). As church pastors, they’re a walking example of what it looks like to find a greater purpose in your work, use your vocation to help others and constantly look for ways to bring more and better to what you do.
I respect my parents a great deal and from an early age, whilst I could see the sacrifices they made to work in that way, it was far outweighed by how fulfilled they were and the wider impact I saw their work having.
But that’s only enough to inspire me to work in this way - what’s sustained and developed this relationship with work are my personal values. Whether we’re conscious of them or not, I believe we all have a unique way of measuring the ‘success’ of our lives and for me it comes down to three things - autonomy, impact and challenge/learning.
A life where I’m in control (I blame teenage anxiety for that one), having a wider impact and constantly challenged and subsequently, learning, is a life I’m happy to live. So naturally, when I stepped into business at 17 and found these things in their plenty, I was very quick to put the blinkers on and go all in.
‘All in’ would be an apt description of how I approach anything in business and whilst it’s to credit for where I am today, it’s also contributed majorly to the lack of separation between human Alice and Alice Benham Ltd.
Going ‘all in’ means saying yes to some incredible things. But if you’re not careful, it can also mean saying no to some things too… things like a social life, relationships, hobbies, mental health, friendships, travel - to name a few.
This^ is a lesson I’ve learned time and time again in my business and each time, it’s nudged me to take a step back and reassess whether it’s an exchange I’m willing to make.
That’s how I see it - as an exchange, not a sacrifice. What I’m willing and happy to ‘give up’ in exchange for business growth is totally personal to me and the common denominator to when this works out well is self awareness.
(Side note: 5+ years in it’s only just beginning to ‘work out well’)
So what does that self awareness look like?
Well, I’ve never resonated with the concept of ‘work / life balance’ because 1) my work feels like my life and 2) balance feels like an impossible standard to achieve. Instead, I like to look at where my time and energy is being spent across the work / play / rest blend, a concept my life coach taught me.
It’s a simple process of questioning What percentage of my life is being spent in work, play and rest? Does that blend look how I want or need it to? And if not, what needs to shift to get it to a better place?
As you’ll be able to guess, my instinct is to achieve the highest percentage of ‘work’ possible but if I’ve learned anything over the last 5 years, it’s that although it feels good at the moment, it doesn’t make for a sustainable or joyful or experience. Which is why, over the last year, I’ve been consciously learning what play and rest look like for me - leaning into the emptiness of lockdown, giving myself permission to find personal joy, and surrounding myself with people who challenge my ‘all in’ instinct.
It’s been uncomfortable and a little scary at times (work is a big comfort zone for me) but right now, things are the best they’ve ever felt.
Maintaining a healthy relationship with work is an ongoing focus for me and I don’t think I’ll ever stop finding part of my identity in what I do. Instead, for me, the solution is about staying self-aware of what I want that blend to look like and constantly nudging myself to find identity in other areas too.