Work Life Balance – How a Layoff Saved One Man’s Life

On my radio show each week, listeners from across the country call in with their questions. Recently a caller asked me to help her husband who had been laid-off and out of work for over a year.  I offered to speak with him to brainstorm strategies to overcome the obstacles in his way.  

What I found out may surprise you.  

For this man, getting laid-off was a blessing in disguise. From his perspective, it saved his life! Read below for his story and the positive work life lessons learned from this difficult experience: 



–Did you decide to focus on weight loss after being laid-off or did you just naturally live a healthier lifestyle because you had the time?  In other words, was the weight loss a conscious choice or goal? 

I guess it was a bit of both.  I’ve always been a goal-oriented person.  I make goals for myself, large and small, in both my professional and personal life.  Even my To-Do lists get carved up to make daily goals as to what I want to get accomplished for that day, that week, etc.  When I lost my job, I lost a big part of the meaning in my life.  All of my work-oriented goals just disappeared, and I felt kind of purposeless without them.  I also became very depressed, and with the depression came a loss of appetite.  Because I wasn’t eating as much, I started losing weight.  One day I stepped on the scale, and I’d lost ten pounds.  At that point, I decided to make weight loss my goal.  I set an initial goal weight of 225 (from 275) and broke that down into smaller goals.  My goal was to lose an average of three pounds per week.  My first weight mini-goal was 265.  I also made goals around my diet.  I had a daily goal for caloric intake and protein.  I also set goals for daily and weekly exercise totals.  As I achieved one goal, I’d set another.  So, when I did get down to 225, I made my new goal weight 200 and started working towards that, then 185, then 175.  When I was able to do 30 minutes on the treadmill without feeling like I was going to die, I increased the time, or the speed, or the incline, something to make it a challenge again.  I made losing weight my goal and worked towards it like I would any other.

–Now that you’ve lost the weight, how does this affect your decision to go back into the workforce?  Are you more interested in work life balance than before?


I don’t know that losing weight has affected my decision to go back into the workforce.  Like most people, I don’t have a whole lot of choice in that regard.  I’m not, unfortunately, independently wealthy!  It has, however, given me a new outlook on what my priorities need to be when I return to work.  I know now that I need to make my health a priority.  Where it had always taken a backseat to work before, I now realize that it has to be at least equal to work, and perhaps even a higher priority than work.  I have to make time for exercise, regardless of my work schedule.  I have to eat well, even when eating out with clients.  I wouldn’t say that I’m more interested in work life balance than I was before, that balance was always important to me, but my idea as to what that balance entails has most certainly changed.

–Do you have concerns about your health (and ability to keep the weight off) once you go back to work? 


I do to some degree.  When I was working, I was traveling extensively, eating out three meals a day, three or four days a week.  That’s part of the reason, although not the main reason, that I gained the weight in the first place.  Going back to that will present a challenge when it comes to eating well.  Likewise with the exercise.  It’s much easier to maintain an exercise regimen when your schedule is as flexible as mine has been for the past year.  It will be much harder to keep up with the exercise when I have to make time for it before that 7:00 a.m. breakfast meeting.  I’ve done some things, though, to make sure that I don’t gain the weight back.  I donated all of my old clothes, including my suits.  Now, my entire wardrobe consists of clothes that fit me at my current weight.  I didn’t keep my "fat" clothes.  I also had my new suits severely tailored.  My suits give me, maybe, ten pounds of latitude in my weight.  Beyond that, they aren’t going to look flattering.  So, if I do gain weight, my only two choices will be to lose the weight or buy a new wardrobe, and losing the weight is much less expensive!  I’ve also realized, though, that living a healthy lifestyle is part of doing my job well.  Since I’ve lost weight and begun exercising regularly, people take me more seriously, I also have more energy and stamina throughout the day.  Both of these mean I’ll be more effective in my job, whatever it ends up being.  So, keeping the weight off and maintaining my exercise regimen becomes, in a very real way, part of my job.  Because of these things, I think I’ll be able to keep off the weight once I get back to work, but it is a concern.  It would be very easy to skip the 5:00 a.m. workout so I could sleep for an extra hour, or order the rare steak instead of the grilled chicken breast, and fall back into the bad habits that I lived for 20 years.  It’s just something that I’ll have to continue to make a priority and be vigilant about.


–How has getting laid-off changed your perspective or priorities?  Do you see your lay-off as a blessing in disguise?


It’s hard to see losing your job as any kind of a positive when you have a mortgage, car payments, etc. to make and no income to pay them with, but, yes, in some ways, getting laid off has definitely been a blessing in disguise.  Perhaps the most significant way it’s been a blessing is that, because of it, I’m confident I’ll be around to see my children grow up and have children of their own.  I’m not so sure I would have if I hadn’t been laid off.  Before I was laid off and lost weight, I was 100 pounds overweight, diabetic, and had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and sleep apnea.  I was basically a heart attack waiting to happen.  I could have gone on another fifty years like that, or I could have dropped dead in a month.  Chances are, though, it would have caught up with me sooner or later.  Now, I feel better than I have since I was in high school, and all of my health problems have cleared up.  I’m no longer diabetic, my blood pressure is normal, as is my cholesterol, and my sleep apnea is gone.  My life expectancy has increased by probably twenty years or more.  That’s a pretty big blessing.  Also, being out of work has given me time to really think about what I want to do with my life and my career, and reevaluate what I want out of both.  I’ve discovered that my passion is problem solving, and by tailoring my career search to positions where problem solving is a significant part of the job description, I’ll be much happier in my career when I return to work.  Ultimately, when this is all over and I look back on this past year, I think I will see this as one of the best things that ever happened to me, but sometimes that’s still kind of hard to see from where I’m at right now.

–What advice you have for others who have been laid-off and want to turn things around to a positive?


First, and most importantly, keep busy.  It’s easy allow the uncertainty and the loss of purpose and self-worth that comes with losing your job to simply paralyze you.  But with that paralysis comes depression, which leads to more paralysis.  Eventually, you get into a destructive spiral where you’re incapable of doing anything, including even looking for a job.  Keeping busy prevents the paralysis from setting in and helps keep your mind off of things, so stay busy doing something.  It doesn’t matter what it is so long as it’s strenuous enough or involved enough that you can’t think of other things while you’re doing it.  Second, make goals and work towards them.  Again, it doesn’t matter what they are, so long as they’re challenging and significant enough to give you a sense of purpose in life.  For me, the loss of a sense of purpose was as stressful as the loss of income.  Having goals and working towards them gave me that sense of purpose back.  Third, take the time to really think about what you want to do with your career and your life.  You have to find a new job, and that takes a lot of time and effort, especially in this economy.  Before you dedicate your life to your job search and your new job, make sure it’s the job you want, and be honest with yourself — maybe part of the reason you lost your job in the first place is because you didn’t really like it and weren’t dedicating yourself to it fully.  That’s a tough admission to make, but if you don’t at least ask yourself that question, you run the risk of having the same thing happen to you again.  Finally, take some time to pursue your secret dream.  We all have a crazy, impractical dream we’d never admit to and never normally waste time or effort on.  Maybe it’s running for political office, writing a book, launching a music career, or starting a business or charity.  Whatever your dream is, devote an hour or two a day to it while you’re out of work.  You have the time now, you might not ever have the time again, it’s a useful distraction, and you never know where it might lead.

Did a layoff have some kind of positive impact for you? What strategies are you implementing to keep work life balance a priority?   I welcome your ideas and advice. Please share them here.  

If you have other career questions or stories to tell, share them here or call into my radio show Fridays at 4pm ET/1pm PT on SIRIUS 112/XM 157 at 1-866-675-6675.  Work Life balance is an important goal and I’m happy to help you with strategies for working smarter not harder!

The time you think you’re missing, misses you too.  ~Ymber Delect


(Photo compliments of



For this man, getting laid-off was a blessing in disguise. From his perspective, it saved his life!  Read below for his story and the positive work life lessons learned from this difficult experience:


–Did you decide to focus on weight loss after being laid-off or did you just naturally live a healthier lifestyle because you had the time?  In other words, was the weight loss a conscious choice or goal?

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