How to Have it All

A successful woman’s face is on a magazine cover in one of those savvy business poses. She is the monthly poster child of attaining the ultimate ideal: to be successful in business and then to be recognized by your community and your industry for that achievement.

Then the rest of us who are not on the cover but who are busy sitting in doctor’s offices or standing in check out lines share some common thoughts. These thoughts include:

Wow! Good for her!

I wonder how much money she makes.

I wonder where she went to school.

Did she ever not have enough money?

How did she get the money to get her business this successful?

So who did she know to get that far?

Where did she find that much courage?

Why can’t I have that?

Does she have a successful marriage?

Does she have positive relationships with her kids?

How does she balance it all????

Now pause for just a moment. Do you think those things when you see a man on the cover?

Probably not.

I know I didn’t look at the Entrepreneur cover with Elon Musk and think, “Gosh, when does that dude have time to do laundry?” When Tim Cook graced the cover of Time, I didn’t wonder when he has time to clean that groove between the window sill and the screen, you know the place that collects all the dirtydustafunk?

You may think that I am suggesting that there is something horribly wrong with this gender conditioning. I don’t actually own a soapbox, and I don’t believe that at all. Women are simply continuing to evolve from generations of survival that required women to harvest and gather. Generations of women have emerged from beautiful traditions to create new definitions of success and achievement anywhere they want. We have risen from the previous century with our right to vote and to affect policy. Next year, we celebrate 50 years from the day when a woman could finally apply for a credit card in her name alone.

And yet, if a woman soars, the world still stops and takes notice as if it’s something incredulous. How does she have it all?

Here’s the secret. She can have it all. But there is a caveat to the term “having it all.” She can have it all as long as the “all” that she is pursuing is defined by her alone. There is an endless menu of options, similar to a diner menu. But “having it all” doesn’t mean having everything on that menu. She wouldn’t choose to order it all even if she could.

What “having it all” really means, and what we should embrace, is that we can have it all if we choose.

She can have a successful love relationship, or not.

She can choose to keep her home the way she wishes, or not.

She can choose to have children or not parent at all.

If she wants an education, she will take her classes and earn her degree.

If she wants to monogram lunchboxes, sing lullabies, be a coupon diva, whittle wood, paint canvas, design clothing, lay pipe, fly planes, prepare accounting schedules, design campaigns, or petition for cleaner air, it doesn’t matter. These are just some of the thousand things that are on the menu.

What defines the successful woman who “has it all” is the woman who is clear about what she claims for her life, how she pursues and protects those choices, and mitigates any guilt for those choices.

So yes, you can have it all, everything you dreamed. Be your own success story. Do it in your own way with your own choices. You are the CEO of every hour of your life.

And if I ever see your savvy self on the cover of a magazine, I’ll just high five you, happy dance, and smile.