As I reflect on the different jobs that I've had in my life, one of the recent lessons that I've learned is that to be the most successful employee, you have to know yourself. You have to be self-aware, not just of your own professional strengths and weaknesses, but of how your personal life very subtly impacts your professional performance.

Of course, we have all encountered a co-worker who was going through a divorce, coping with the loss of a loved one, or facing some similar situation that impacted the person's job performance.

But the impact of your personal life on your professional life can be more subtle than going through some negative traumatic event. For my wife and me, our decision to move from a big city (Chicago) to a smaller suburban town (Peoria, Illinois) had an impact, the extent to which I have only recently realized. Both my wife and I grew up in suburbs, though we lived in Chicago for just under ten years after college. When we decided to move to Peoria, we knew that we would miss the city life, but we thought that we would easily adjust back to a lifestyle closer to how we grew up.

But what I did not realize until recently was just how much I have converted to being an urbanite. During my time in Peoria, I intensely missed the busy social spaces of Chicago. I missed walking down the street and seeing so many different people from all walks of life. I missed the ability to walk home from work, and grabbing a beer in the bar at the first floor of our high rise. Sometimes I missed the relative anonymity of the big city, where every once in a while it felt good to be just one person among many. I never adjusted to something as simple as having my own car and driving it to work everyday in Peoria. While many people feel liberated by having a car, I realized that I feel more liberated without one.

When I look back at my time in Peoria, I got very good performance evaluations. But I think that my personal lifestyle change impacted my professional happiness on the job. As much as we try to cabin our personal and professional lives, I do not think that this is possible to do. I think that employees owe it to their employers to be self-aware, and to understand themselves enough to choose a situation that allows them to succeed the most.

Being a good employee is not just about leaving your personal business at home. It is about aligning your entire personal lifestyle in a way that allows you to perform your very best.