Balancing Multiple Passions

January 23, 2023  | 

I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 16 years old.

Truthfully, it happened a bit accidentally.

I intended to give one workshop to my peers on self-esteem and mental health… and when we were asked to give a second, then a third, one thing led to another and suddenly I was the Co-Founder of a business called MOVE.

I ran MOVE for 8 years, all while balancing high-school, college, and life after college.

I ran MOVE while balancing other businesses I started, while I fell in love for the first time, while I double majored at UMass Amherst, while I struggled through the tumultuous emotions that come with the college years, and also while I maintained other jobs.

I’ve frequently been asked how I’ve balanced these multiple responsibilities and projects and candidly, it’s always surprised me. I grew up watching my Dad balance multiple passions, on top of his 9-5, so it seemed intuitive to me that you *could* successfully balance passions & a career.

This isn’t to say I’ve always balanced well – I haven’t, and I’ll get into that more below.

But, for the most part, I’ve always balanced multiple things at once, and I’ve had a wonderful time while doing so. I view starting and growing a business as a form of creative expression, and as an act of love; it’s deeply meaningful to me and deeply personal…. So it’s likely I’ll continue to balance multiple passions, a 9-5, and a business.

So how have I balanced multiple passions, projects, and businesses?

And more importantly, how can you?

Well, I have a 3-part guide that I’d like to share:

  • Step One: Identify what you value
  • Step Two: Prioritize what you value
  • Step Three: Let go of what you don’t value

Let’s break it down.

Step One: Identify What You Value

The first step to balancing is to identify what you value.

Your values will shape what you decide to prioritize, as well as what you decide to let go of.

There’s no right or wrong thing to value – it just is. And it’s important to get clear on what YOUR personal values are, because your values will guide you towards a more balanced lifestyle.

Today, I value alone time, my partner, my community group, my planner company called The Wildflower Company, my new full-time job, moving my body when I can, my sleep, and my best friends. This is what is important to me, at this current stage of my life.

Because I understand my values, I understand what to prioritize and also what to de-prioritize.

Feeling stuck on what your values are?

Try this activity:

List out every single thing you spend time doing. Everything! Include sleep, the scrolling you spend on social media, the time it takes to clean your living space – if it takes you time, list it. Afterwards, look at that list and start to consider what of those obligations/responsibilities/commitments you *actually* value. What feels good? What do you like?

One way to look at the list is by doing a bit of a ‘gut check’ against your list and putting a smiley face next to the ones you like & leaving the others blank. There’s a few ways to go about it… what’s important is you give yourself the space to think critically!

Once you understand what you actually value, it’s time to start prioritizing.

Step Two: Prioritize What You Value

For better or for worse, I find myself continually navigating obligations, opportunities, and requests. I’m guessing you may feel similarly sometimes; Whether it’s a friend asking you to drive them to the airport, or a new project you’re being asked to take on at work, chances are you’re being asked to do things you want to do and things you aren’t as excited about.

If you’re anything like me, it’s easy to want to say yes to everything. As a bit of an overachiever who loves people and passion projects, it’s so exciting and tempting to say yes.

However, when we say yes to everything, well, it’s no surprise what happens. Everything starts to fall apart! We start to realize that no area of our life is going well, because we’re trying to literally do everything, and we can’t!!

This is where knowing your values – really knowing your values – matters. Knowing your limitations helps a bit too.

If you want to achieve some semblance of balance, you need to prioritize what you value.

As I mentioned, I currently greatly value sleep. I intentionally plan my day around my sleep schedule, and will leave hang-outs ‘early’ just so I can go home and get to sleep. I know that I need 8+ hours of sleep each night, and it’s essential for me to have a functioning day. So, my sleep is valued, considered, and ultimately prioritized above my other obligations.

My values determine what I prioritize, which shapes how I create my day to day schedule.

When I was in college, my values looked different. And that’s okay – our values can evolve as we do.

Step Three: Let go of what you don’t value

It goes without saying that there’s only a certain amount of hours in each day. So if we’re prioritizing what we value, and saying yes to certain ways of spending our time, we need to say no to what doesn’t quite fit.

This can be challenging, but letting go of what does not fit into your most pressing priorities is essential.

Besides, when you say yes to something, you say no to something else – likely without even realizing.

For example, when you say yes to spending time with a partner – you decline spending time alone. You decline time you could spend doing chores, or answering emails, or even seeing a different friend.

So what are you saying yes to? And with that, what are you inevitably saying no to? And does it feel aligned with your values?? And how can you let go of what you don’t value?

When it comes to letting go of what you don’t value – sometimes it takes directly saying no to an opportunity. Other times, it’s a bit more about de-valuing something. For example, when I was in college, I decided to de-prioritize my grades/school work in relation to my friendships. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about school or my grades – it just wasn’t the most important thing in my life. I was okay if I got a B. I put in effort – but I wasn’t going above and beyond. It wasn’t my top priority. I de-valued it.

So, what can you directly say no to?

What can you de-value?

I also want to note that privilege plays a big role here. I have things that I actually CAN say no to. I don’t have to take care of my brother after-school, and I don’t have to support my parents financially. These things matter. I have quite a bit of freedom and flexibility in what I can say no to or what I can say yes to. And that is something very important to acknowledge.

Some Final Thoughts

Of course, balancing is never quite that simple.

I have overextended myself many times, trying to do it all, and the thing that usually goes is my alone time. And this is a horrible thing to neglect, because when I neglect my alone time, it backfires and I end up canceling plans last-minute because I’m so overwhelmed.

The point is: Balancing is an ever-evolving challenge that is hard to get exactly right all the time.

So, give yourself grace, and use this framework as a starting point.

This is a contributed piece by Ashley Olafsen. Ashley is a TEDx speaker and Forbes-featured 4x founder who is passionate about uplifting others and building impactful businesses.

She became an entrepreneur at the age of 16, when she gave an empowerment workshop to a group of eighth grade girls. After realizing her passion for helping others, Ashley co-founded MOVE, where she directed over 100 workshops and 6 summer programs for teenage girls, focusing on self-esteem, body image, leadership, and more. Ashley ran MOVE for 8 years and is unbelievably proud of the impact her and her team made in the lives of young women.

Most recently, Ashley co-founded The Wildflower Company: planner company and supportive community that helps you cultivate a thoughtful and meaningful life.

She is a loyal friend, an experienced leader, and an experienced small business coach.

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