There's one question Megan Dalla-Camina wishes more women would ask themselves: what do we really want from work, life and everything in between? Unfortunately, she finds many of us are instead preoccupied with the much broader consideration of our time: can women have it all?
"I think it's time we moved on," the author and strategy director at a technology firm tells Women's Agenda. "It's time to move on to a different discussion and stop trying to live up to everyone else's definition of what 'having it all' should be like," she says
Indeed, Dalla-Camina's long been trying to banish such expectations, having named her new book Getting Real About Having It All long before Anne-Marie Slaughter sparked a worldwide debate about whether women can balance a successful career with family in her now famous article in The Atlantic, Why Women Still Can't have it all.
Having been there and asked the question of herself during various stages of her career – as a single person without children, as a married woman with and without children and finally as a single mother with children – Dalla-Camina thinks she may finally have some answers to how we can achieve the kind of balance many of us long for.
And it starts with deciding what we personally want from our lives, rather than attempting to fit the mould of what and who we're told we should be. Dalla-Camina's book is a 38-chapter, straight-forward read on the tools and techniques we can apply to better manage our personal wellbeing.
The whole way through, she uses her own journey as the narrative for explaining how others can achieve a more fulfilling personal and work life.
"I didn't know a better way of operating. It got to a point where I realised it was hurting my wellbeing," she says of working long hours, not managing stress and finally deciding to make changes. "I set on a path which was about stopping to say, 'What do I actually want my life to look like'?"
What she found on the journey was a variety of teachings on wellbeing, the benefits of meditation and yoga, the magic of pursing outside passions and the need to establish boundaries and non-negotiables around work. In no-nonsense terms, she uses these findings to offer simple, practical advice on how others can find their passions, live and work with purpose, play to their strengths and have strong relationships with others – all the while building a rewarding and successful career.
Dalla-Camina has an eclectic mix of credentials and experience to back her advice. She gave up dancing, acting and Hollywood ambitions following a car accident and chronic illness during her early twenties, and made her way into the marketing and strategy teams of some of the largest organisations in the world including PwC, GE and IBM. Her Masters of Business Management is complemented by a vastly different Masters of Wellness, and she's a qualified yoga teacher to boot. A strong advocate for flexible work, she practises what she preaches by working part-time and scheduling regular holidays.
But for a book that promotes taking ownership of one's personal health and wellbeing, Dalla-Camina's best credentials come in the form of her own experience. She's fallen ill to physical burnout and health conditions she can directly attribute to not looking after herself: chronic fatigue syndrome, bi-lateral deep vein thrombosis, autoimmune disease, thyroid disease and adrenal exhaustion.
She knows what it means to get real about "having it all".
"You have to get clear and really honest about what you want," she explains. "To sit down and get honest about yourself. To say how you want to work, how you want to live, and put some boundaries around that."
And with that figured out, Dalla-Camina's book may just help you get there.
Megan Dalla-Camina's Getting Real About Having It All is published by Hay House, RRP AU$19.95.