She’s the woman who has it all – the fabulous job, husband, children, house, car, and several holidays a year.

This is the vision that is routinely presented to us in our professional lives (and through the media) as the pinnacle of achievement. But does she really have it all?

Appearances can often be deceptive, and by striving to achieve this perfect vision of ‘having it all’, we can end up having not much of anything.

Creating a life that makes you happy and fulfilled, as opposed to living up to some supposed ideal, was the main theme of the latest IPG Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) presentation, at the Establishment, Sydney.

Megan Dalla-Camina, business strategist, career and leadership coach, and author of ‘Getting Real About Having It All’, a guide to creating a career and life you will love, was the guest speaker. She shared her experience from her time as a senior global marketing executive, which she balanced with being a single mother, and discussed how she reassessed and reorganised her life after her job became so all-encompassing that it meant she had little or no life to speak of outside of it.

At the end of her fascinating and insightful presentation, Megan was joined on stage by a panel of esteemed businesswomen – Kieran Flanagan, Creative Director of advertising agency McCann Sydney and author of several books; Rebecca Bezzina, Client Services Director of R/GA Sydney; and Ava Lawler, Managing Director of Weber Shandwick Australia.

Each discussed the issues raised by Megan during her presentation, as well as sharing their insights into how they managed their very successful careers, and how they recognised when their work/life balances were out of alignment.

Megan highlighted the importance of recognising the signs that you are taking too much on – increasing stress levels, irritability with your work colleagues or your family, feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or just worn out – and dealing with them accordingly.

Speaking from her own experience, she pointed out that you could have the greatest job in the world, but if your life outside of work is out of control, or worse still, you don’t have a life outside of work, you will reach a point where you can no longer go on as you are, and that it will happen sooner rather than later.

Kieran suggested that those who are doing a job they don’t love (or at least enjoy) should really ask themselves why, as if the answer was just for the money, they will struggle to find fulfilment in their career.  This scenario also has a detrimental knock-on effect on life outside of work.

No one wants to go to bed on Sunday night with a feeling of impending doom at the prospect of another working week on the horizon, but sadly, this is a feeling that is all too common.

Megan discussed how Australian workplace surveys have found that as few as one in five of us get to do what we do best at work. Not only is this detrimental to our own personal wellbeing and career development, it also makes no sense for employers, as they will lose a lot of productivity, as well as the opportunity to have a happier workforce.

Ava proposed that for employers, the easiest way to remedy this is simply to listen to your staff to find out what their passion is and what they are good at and enjoy doing. She also shared her observation that there remains too much focus and emphasis on employee weaknesses, rather than their strengths – a situation that needs to be addressed before any organisation can reach anything approaching its full potential.

We all hear about the importance of having work/life balance. Just as it is easier to achieve for some more than others, there is also no single version of it that is applicable to all. We are all different and the amount of things we can manage in our lives, as well our resilience to cope with whatever life throws our way, differs greatly from one individual to another. For instance, Rebecca told the audience that she enjoyed having a super busy lifestyle, but of course that isn’t for everyone, so you need to decide what is best for you and those closest to you.

Ultimately, said Megan, you have to want balance in your life in order to make it happen. Not even the busiest among us are so swamped that we cannot achieve a greater level of balance and wellbeing in our lives, as many techniques – such as working on your self-confidence, learning to say no to things, focusing on your strengths, and prioritising your tasks – do not steal any time from your day whatsoever.

Other techniques – such as meditation, going for a walk, participating in a sport or hobby, or catching up for a coffee with a friend – need only take a few minutes or an hour at the most, but can have a dramatically positive impact on the way you feel and how you approach life in general. Surely that’s worth a little of our time, regardless of our circumstances.

Megan’s ’12 Rules for Balanced Women’ is available as a free download from her website.