Forget About Work-Life Balance: Do This Instead
The majority of us have a love/hate relationship with our jobs. We love them because they give us structure, goals, challenges, friends, opportunities for learning and creativity and, not to mention, money. They give us a place to belong, to feel needed and productive. They offer a place to grow intellectually and acquire new or hone current skills. They provide a ready-made meaning to what we do every day.
On the flip side, we hate them because they impose unnecessary structure and processes, set unrealistic goals, force uncomfortable relationships, expect us to learn and deliver in a short amount of time, and never pay enough money for all that is asked of us. They also take us away from life…our lives that are made up of our families, true friends, interests, passions, hobbies and things we would much rather spend our time on than working.
It is the proverbial ‘double edged’ sword. You need a job…want a job….but….also want work-life balance…which, the aforementioned JOB makes impossible. So what is an honest, hard working, average Joe or Juliette supposed to do?
[Related: The Secret to Work-Life Balance]
First, take a deep breath and slowly exhale. There is a simple answer, I promise. But, before I get there, contemplate these definitions (from Webster’s Dictionary):
Balance: Stability produced by even distribution of weight on each side of the vertical axis when the two sides of the scale are in balance.
Harmony: Pleasing arrangement of parts OR an interweaving of different accounts into a single narrative.
What images or feeling do these definitions bring up for you? Take a pause here, close your eyes and imagine each word. See what comes to mind.
Balance insinuates a win/lose situation. If one side has ‘more’ than the other, the system is out of balance. One side always has to compromise to keep the system balanced. Harmony, on the other hand, implies working together for the greater good or bigger picture. It is the conscious placement of things in an order or way that promotes pleasure or congruity. Things work together.
I promised you a simple answer to the love/hate relationship with work. Here it is:
Shift your perspective of work-life ‘balance’ to that of work-life ‘harmony.’
Give up the idea that you can even have work-life balance. It is NOT possible. Trying to achieve balance insinuates that all of the elements of your life…work, family, friends, hobbies, and community…need to have equal time and energy from you. Not only is this not feasible, it is simply not necessary. They don’t deserve equal time and energy. Some things are more important than others and that importance can change over time. Trying to balance them all does not take this shifting or relative importance into consideration. And let’s face it; they are already getting unequal time and effort from you. This is normal. It is your belief that they should all get the same amount of time and effort that is making your life difficult.
Take stock of the elements of your life that you want to have ‘in balance’. What level of effort, energy and/or attention are you really giving each of them? What level of effort, energy and/or attention does each truly deserve? It’s impossible to devote the same amount of time and energy to all things in your life, and why would you want to? They don’t deserve equal amounts.
So the first step in moving forward is simply to acknowledge and accept what already is. Your life is NOT balanced. If never will be. Next, begin to think about how each of the elements or priorities in your life can work in harmony with each other. How can you consciously interweave these elements to be the most congruent, or aligned with who you want to be? What needs more of your time and attention right now? What can be put on the back-burner? Which activities will give you the most pleasure, satisfaction or enjoyment? What is the worst that can happen if you don’t do ‘that’ today? Ask yourself these types of questions about the things going on in your life.
It is the act of consciously allotting your time, energy and focus that will bring about harmony in your life. It will be apparent that you can’t get the last minute proposal done AND get to your son’s soccer game tonight. You can call your son, explain the situation, wish him luck and promise to run dribbling drills on Saturday. You are acting versus reacting to what life throws at you and maintaining your sense of control. You are bringing harmony to your life rather than expecting balance.
The idea of Work Life Harmony puts you in the conductor seat.
You get to determine which section of your life is most important at this moment in time. You get to choose where to put your energy and time from a conscious perspective, not a ‘should’ perspective. If all this sounds good to you, take the challenge. Accept what ‘is’ about your life, as it is today and choose to build a life of in harmony, not in balance.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Full Circle Coaching
As a Career Coach I work with professionals who feel stalled to regain the self assurance, clarity and direction they once had so that they get unstuck, take control of their careers and are happier and more engaged at work and at home. The central idea behind Full Circle Coaching is that we all inherently have infinite potential. Life dulls that potential. We become plagued by self-doubt, lack of confidence and a negative inner voice... Continue Reading
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