Work/Life: How many times have you driven yourself to tears by trying to make that awful phrase work? Have you ever run out of a meeting early determined to "have a life?" Or maybe you ruined a perfectly good evening because your thoughts were still at the office. Perhaps you called your friends at the last minute to pull out of a party because you were excited about your headway on a new project. Where was the balance in any of these, you may ask? It was there, just not in the way you might think.
The concept of finding a balance between your work and your life balance was created in the ‘80’s. It was an effort to bring order to the changing world. Think about it. Cell phones weighed almost two pounds, the personal computer had just appeared on the scene complete with a monochromatic green screen, and the idea of a gold watch upon retirement had died. When you wore a suit, you were at work. When you were at a BBQ, you were living. So amidst all the turmoil, someone created the phrase work/life as a way to soften the misery everyone was having with the changing world.
Instead of saying “I’m unhappy with my life,” people got a get out of jail free card by saying “its okay, I just have to find my work/life balance.” For many that excuse is still alive, and that’s a shame. Because there is no work/life balance, there is just life. I’m not being mean or pessimistic when I say this. I simply say this because we were not put here to work. We were put here to live.
Work should just be another component of your life. It is no different in many ways than the time you set aside for the gym, or for your family, or for your weekends. Each of these is just a part of your life. They support your life, not compete with it. They should help you to create the life YOU want to live.
Think of it this way. If you had a horrible marriage would you be happy? If your financials were a mess, would you be stress-free? If your home-life was a disaster would you enjoy your time there? The obvious answer is no. Yet nobody calls it a marriage/life balance or a home/life balance. Have you ever wondered why people who love what they do never worry about their work/life balance? Because to them, it’s just a part of the life they love.
So stop thinking in terms of work/life, and start thinking in terms of living the life you love. Instead of trying to find balance between each aspect of your life, focus on finding balance within each aspect of your life. If you can find harmony within each component of your life, the rest will sort itself out by itself.
Take a moment to think about what you want. Think about what would bring you happiness. If your goal is to make more money to support your lifestyle, why not change your lifestyle so that you didn’t have to work as much? Imagine what it would mean if you worked a job that you loved, even if it paid less. Imaging how great it would be to wake up every morning excited by the opportunities of the day. Wouldn’t that create a life worth living even if it was “out of balance” by those 80’s standards?
Whether you tend too much focus on work or too little, the real issue is not finding balance between work and life, but on building something you love across all aspects of your life. So don’t worry about balance. Instead think about harmony in each part of your life. The balance will find its way all on its own.
Here are just a few ideas to help you find the harmony that's best for you:
Learn to respectfully say no. It’s your life, so it’s okay to say no every once in a while, as long as you do it respectfully. It’s okay to say you don’t have the time to bake cookies for your child’s school. Its okay to tell a client you can’t get something done right away. Just be honest about why. People understand. After all, they’re human too.
Make good choices. Watch yourself when you respond by rote. Every time you do, you usually end up regretting it later. Next time, take a few seconds to think before you respond. Train yourself to pause so that you can make the kind of choices that work for you, rather than against you. After all, you have to live with the small choices you make every day. So make good choices.
Don’t stress about what others think. It’s not their life. You live in a brave new world. Your ideal life may not include a retirement home in Boca Raton or a corporate job. Who knows, your life may just revolve around doing what you love – be it yoga, finance or raising chickens in the country.
Create feel good goals. Life is not just about retirement goals. Take time to set up some weekly tasks that you will feel good when you’re done. Start small. They don’t have to be banner waving accomplishments. They just have to be realistic, attainable and something you can smile about.
Make sleep a life component. You carve out time for dating and shopping. You carve out time for work and play. So why not carve out time for sleep? It is undoubtedly one of the most important parts of your life. So set aside eight hours just for you.
Allow yourself to enjoy your job. Many of us have been raised to think our jobs are inherently bad. They don’t have to be. So give yourself permission to love what you do, or at least part it.
Remember, give to others, but keep in mind that it’s okay to be a little selfish with your time. Be compassionate to others, but also be compassionate to yourself.
After all, balance doesn't mean doing everything. It means doing just one thing – living.