The key to a good work-life balance? Prioritize your own happiness

By Christina Cannady | Photographer

Nicolette “Nico” Zulli, a third-year associate attorney at Duane Morris LLP, spoke to Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez’s Gender, Race and Media class earlier this month and made it clear you can still do other things even if your degree didn’t specialize in a particular field.

“The culture you choose to create and participate in within the workplace will define your contentment,” Zulli said.

Zulli herself graduated from Baylor in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a news editorial concentration and a minor in film and digital media. Now she’s working in law.

Oftentimes, people discover their dream career perhaps isn’t quite as attainable as they initially thought or their plans fall through, and they need to adapt or adjust. Zulli pointed out that by keeping an open mind, you might discover opportunities you hadn’t previously considered.

“Keeping an open mind and being comfortable with the unknown is important, and the sooner you can do that, the sooner you can accept that you don’t know and that’s okay,” Zulli said.

To focus on the present moment instead of dwelling on what the end result will be will ultimately increase your contentment. It is important to have a plan and goals, but also important that those plans are not concrete. You should be flexible in your endeavors.

“Adaptability is the key to survival, and we’ve seen that in the pandemic,” Zulli said.

Zulli stressed there are certain skills you can always learn on the job. She compared herself as a journalism major to those who go through pre-law programs and explained that her journalism courses allowed her to hone her writing skills, which gave her an edge at law school.

“Taking those skills and being able to adapt them to various environments is the benefit of a communications degree,” Zulli said.

She also explained how COVID-19 and quarantine have affected her priorities in her work life. When she had to start working from home because of the pandemic, she had to reorganize her day to balance work and home life. She explained how important taking breaks or walks became to clear a fog of frustration. Upon returning to the workplace, she continues to take the walks to reenergize and step away from the work buzz for a moment.

Since remote work and school has forced people to combine work and home life, this is where it becomes necessary to create a space that you can walk away from if needed. Even though they may be under the same roof, keep work as work and home as home. Don’t sacrifice your sense of comfort or well-being in order to make your home your workspace.

The process of self-discovery is necessary in order to have the most contentment in your work life. You have to venture into deeply knowing yourself to learn your priorities, principles or morals within the workplace and at home. You shouldn’t have to be two different people at home or work.

To help with this process, Zulli explained the “E’s to excellence,” which include ensuring or evaluating your personal priorities, principles, motives and morals. She says to ask yourself, “Am I in alignment with myself?” All of these things should be integrated such that when we operate, everything is in sync.

Journaling can be helpful because you can evaluate whether your words line up with your actions. Agree with yourself on a set of personal values and beliefs so you are more able to navigate situations confidently. If you are unwavering for yourself, others can’t waver you.

The other E’s include envisioning a plan that integrates your values and desires for a workspace culture, then enact the plan. Take small, immediate steps toward achieving your goal. Make sure you are making decisions, saying and doing things for yourself and not for others. Know what you stand for and know what you’re willing or not willing to do, and make sure you can comfortably set boundaries in situations. This way you can more easily envision what you want to do.

It’s important to take time for yourself, even if it’s not the main gig, to enjoy whatever it is you love. For Zulli, that is music. She does her work at the law firm but also facilitates her passion for music through her band and Soundcloud.

Overall, Zulli said your work life is what you make it out to be. Take useful and interesting classes during college, get to know yourself and have a flexible vision for the future. The culture you create with yourself and your peers dictates your contentment and happiness in work and life.


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