Stop Living To Work: How To Embrace A True Work-Life Balance, According To A CEO

Change your priorities and find balance in life.

woman looking out the window Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

Do you work to live, or live to work? The answer may help you decide whether you're on a path to balanced success — or headed for total burnout.

This is where work-life balance comes into play.

Forshay founder and CEO Sally Thornton was committed to the grind. Both she and her husband were on successful career tracks, finding their value in hard work.

Then, life as she knew it changed in an instant.


Sally was eight months pregnant with her first child and working overtime to prepare for maternity leave. In fact, she was working so hard, she almost blew off her own mother’s birthday party.

Reluctantly, she pulled herself away to attend. After the celebration, she found out her older brother died on his return trip home.

Besides the incredible grief and sadness Sally felt, the thought that she almost missed that last visit with him put the way she was living her life in perspective in a major way.

RELATED: Beyond Work-Life Balance: How To Move Past Illusions & Focus On Progress


In the days that followed, her mother said something that Sally couldn’t ignore: "I just lost my first son, you’re about to have your first. Don’t put work first."

From there, Sally launched into a career helping others discover how to make their job work for them — not the other way around.

Today, she works with top executives and large companies to reinvent what work looks like.

Do you need a priority shift in order to make your job work for you?

Here are 3 tips on how to embrace a true work-life balance, according to Sally Thornton.

1. Know what you can control.

You can’t always control things that happen. Sally couldn’t control what happened to her brother.


But, you have the ability to explore what you can control. For Sally, it was the time she spent with the people she loved and the activities that brought her joy.

Outside of work, who and what brings you fulfillment? Maybe it’s a hobby, such as art or a sport. Perhaps, it’s time spent with your family. Chances are, it’s a combination.

Start by naming the priorities in your life.

Once you know what matters to you, work to make time for them in your life. This doesn’t mean work will get easier.

You may not be able to control your boss’s expectations or your current project deadlines, but naming your priorities and committing to them can allow you to find a balance, regardless of your career’s demands.


RELATED: 6 Working Women Share How They Balance Their Long Work Hours & Home Life

2. Learn from experience.

First attempts don’t always exactly go as planned. Even when things seem to be going well, setbacks and events will happen that will force you to work through and work forward.

The key is to realize that experiences, both positive and negative, are essential building blocks.

For example, once Sally went out on her own with a few partners, they decided to take a different direction. However, due to a noncompete, Sally found herself with some unexpected time off.

During that time, she reached out to her former clients to ask about their experience with her company. This was foundational to forming her company, Forshay.


As you work to re-prioritize what matters to you, you’re sure to have stops and starts in the process. At each intersection, make sure to learn from your experience.

Ask yourself three questions:

What worked?

What didn’t?

What do you wish you had done differently?

Next, ask your network — coworkers, friends, and yes, your family — the same questions.

Gaining wisdom from those around you can be instrumental in helping you make lasting changes.

3. Define your success.

Run or conduct your business on your own terms. This means you might often find yourself as the outlier.


For example, Sally learned through her first venture that the next time around, she wanted to truly work for herself, so she resisted the temptation to accept help from venture capitalists.

In her world, this is far from the norm. However, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean it was right for her.

When something is considered the "norm," truly take the time to assess is this acceptable as "your norm."

Here’s her secret: You can be successful, even if it’s not normative.

Stop running a rat race and define what success means to you, personally.

Maybe success for you will mean choosing to finally open your own business. Or it could mean turning down the big promotion, so you can coach your daughter’s soccer team.


Our life choices are what lie between true impact and failure. When you’re fired up about your life — work, home, and everything else — that is true success.

RELATED: A 3-Step Guide For Finding Work-Life Balance (Hint: It Starts With Your Core Values)

Hilary DeCesare is the Founder and CEO of The ReLaunch Co. She’s appeared on ABC’s The Secret Millionaire and on major news outlets such as CBS, ABC, Fox, Huffington Post, and Yahoo, and offers several ReLaunch courses and coaching. To connect with her directly or for media requests please email