How Your Brain is Keeping You Miserable and What to Do About it

lying-brain

I was recently asked how I made the shift from being an unhappy, complaining, tired, running from one thing to another, burned out executive to one that was more positive, focused on solutions, engaged in self care and committed to helping others, while still working.

I have to admit I didn’t have a ready response. I had to think about it.

So home I went to think. Those that know me know that I think on a whiteboard or on paper (old school, I know!). I took my sticky note pad and started writing one thing on each that I did to make changes in my life. Those stickies adorned my office wall for some time. Taking up space and reminding me that had I started something, but didn’t finish it. So I decided to take them down today.

postit-notes

As I did so, two of them jumped out at me and practically screamed ‘Here I am. Look at me, I am important! Remember this!’

Those two stickies read:

  • “Pain vs Suffering Concept”
  • “Accepted that I was doing it to myself….Suffering”

It was the second one that really stopped me in my tracks remembering the grand ‘a-ha’ moment I had when I fully, truly acknowledge and ACCEPTED that I was making myself miserable.

It wasn’t being done TO me; I was doing it to myself.

It was a super deflating; heavy feeling…like there was an elephant on my back and a 50-pound bag of peanuts in my arms. It was not a feel good moment, but it was a life shifting one.

Let me back up a bit though and explain the ‘Pain vs Suffering’ concept.

We all experience pain. Physical pain like a stubbed toe, a pulled back, a broken bone. And emotional pain like the loss of a loved one, a break up or lay off. These are real events and cause real pain.

Suffering, however, is the story we layer on top of the pain. Most of the time the story goes on and on and on and on…. We keep ourselves mired in the story long after the pain of the event has gone away. We keep our drama going. The ego likes this.

We are in control of the story, not the pain.

I knew this and thought I believed it. But I didn’t ACT on it. I was keeping myself mired in all my stories, keeping my suffering going. I wasn’t taking the actionable steps to make change and stop suffering.

I was just hoping that it would somehow just ‘go away’ because I understood, intellectually, the difference between pain and suffering. Doesn’t work that way.

When I really accepted this, embraced it, I vowed to do things differently. The remainder of the stickies are filled with those other things. I won’t bore you with all of them, but I will call out two:

Find Gratitude/Joy Every Day I made it a point, a goal, to find something to be grateful for or that brought me joy every day. It could be anything…the beauty of the sunrise or sunset; the chirping of the birds in my yard; the scent of the jasmine outside my window; the crispness of the air as I drove to work.

At first it was an effort. To not forget to do it, to put everything else out of my busy brain so that I could notice something to be grateful for or find joy in. The more I did it, the easier it became. Also, I noticed that I became calmer, more relaxed. Things didn’t bother me so much.

This practice began to put things into perspective and helped the second thing be more effective.

What’s the Worst that can Happen? When I started to worry, or things weren’t going my way, I asked myself this question “What’s the worst that can happen?”

This forced me to recognize when I was catastrophizing, making things seem worse than they were. It forced me to see that my story was out of control. It forced me to see things based on reality and not fantasy.

And if the worst that could happen wasn’t so far fetched, it forced me to really look at how I would manage it. How would I get through it? What would I need to do? Was I prepared to do that? I started to see that even if something bad happened, I could handle it. I could make a plan, be in control (at least of myself) and get through the bad thing.

The big, bad thing didn’t seem so insurmountable, or scary or so big or bad.

So what is my point? What do I hope you take away from this ramble?

I hope that you see that small steps can make a huge difference in your life and that YOU are in control of the stories in your head.

If you take the time to be grateful everyday and stop making sh*t up in your head, you will be happier, more peaceful and at ease in life.

How to be Better at Anything. One Minute Makes all the Difference.

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One of the hottest buzzwords in the media today is Mindfulness. It is the new cure-all for everything: better sleep and overall health, increased ability to focus, improved relationships, promotions at work, more vitality and energy. The list goes on.

There is no denying that if you have all of these benefits, you are likely to be better at all that you do. But where do you start?

When you look up the definition and start reading articles, it can be overwhelming. Psychology Today defines Mindfulness as:

… a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you carefully observe your thoughts and feelings without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to your current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future.

Every definition or explanation includes something about ‘being present,’ ‘being in the moment,’ ‘living in the moment.’ I get not obsessing about the past or trying to predict the future.

But just ‘being’ in the moment? That sounds like a bunch of airy-fairy baloney that isn’t possible to just start doing overnight. What does just ‘being’ look like or feel like?

Let me take the take the window dressing, fancy language and esoteric hoopla off Mindfulness… what you find underneath all that fluff is good old fashioned

AWARENESS.

Yep, it is that simple. In his book ‘Solve for Happy’ Mo Gawdat simplifies it even further

“Awareness starts to emerge when you pay attention.”

As simple as this sounds, “just pay attention to be Mindful”; it’s harder than you think in our busy obsessed society. We are literally addicted to being busy, to doing, to being overwhelmed and in constant physical and mental motion.

One simple step you can take to begin to pay attention, to be aware, to become more Mindful is to consciously take a moment to catalog something in your field of vision. What does this mean?

Say you are in a meeting at work, take the first minute to look around the room and see how many people: wear glasses; are wearing a certain color; have their computers out; are sitting cross legged; are standing; have a drink or other food with them; are writing with a pen or pencil….it doesn’t matter what you focus on, just pick something.

And you can do this anywhere, any time…at the grocery store, while driving, at your kid’s soccer game, at the dry cleaner, sitting on your sofa watching the evening news. Wherever you are, take just one minute to fully observe what is around you. Easy, peasy. No fluff, no airy-fairy rituals or mantras, not a lot of time out of your day.

It is the conscious time out you take to be present; to observe and really see what is around you that is the point. And because you are cataloging you don’t have the time to judge, assess or criticize; all components of Mindfulness. You are just being and observing something specific around you.

You are on the road to Mindfulness.

The more often you do this simple exercise the easier it will become. Also, you’ll start to do it without even thinking. It will become more of a habit the more you practice.

Then you’ll reap the benefits of Mindfulness that in turn, lead you to be better at all that you do.

What Being Annoyed Can Teach You about Yourself

releasing_birds

The core principles of my coaching practice are: 1) developing awareness, 2) acceptance of what is, and 3) making conscious choices. How do you put these principles into action? Pay attention when you are annoyed.

Perhaps a recent situation from my own life will help explain this process.

My significant other and I were in the mountains over the Holidays visiting a quaint small town, walking from shop to shop, and taking in the local scene. It was cold, but the sun had come out to warm things up, so hats were no longer needed. My boyfriend was carrying his knit cap in one hand.

Suddenly he said ‘Aw, I lost my hat.’

I said ‘No problem, we have to back track to get to the car, we can look for it along the way.’

He said ‘Forget about it. I don’t want to waste time looking for it.’

I was annoyed; shocked he didn’t want to look for it and frankly a bit ‘judgey.’ The voice in my head was saying ‘You lost it, you should look for it. You have to at least try to find it. You can’t be so irresponsible.’

But I said to myself ‘Yvette, its not your hat. Not your decision. If he doesn’t want to look for it, that’s his choice.’ And on back to the car we went.

However, I couldn’t shake the feeling of being annoyed and irritated…a very clear indicator that one of my buttons was being pushed. So I took this as a sign to pay attention and see exactly which buttons were in play here.

A quick scan came back with the Responsibility button; the Accountability button; the Follow Thru button…all contributing to that voice screaming ‘SHOULD’ in my head. ‘You SHOULD look for it.’

Usually once I identify the button that’s being pushed, my irritation goes away. But in this case it didn’t. I realized there was something else going on for me. I had to go deeper.

So I sat with my irritation for another day. During that time I thought about the hat, where it had come from and why I liked it so much.

We bought that hat together on our first anniversary. There was an unusual snowstorm in Philly that dumped 6 inches of snow and turned the city frigidly cold. We were walking around, freezing so we stopped into an Old Navy store to buy a hat. It cost something like $6. But when he put it on, it brought out the blue of his eyes and framed his face perfectly. My heart raced and I was thrilled that this was ‘my man.’ Life was good. Very good. I was warm, fuzzy and in love.

So this was the real answer as to why I was so agitated about not looking for the hat…it meant more to me because of how it made me feel. It wasn’t about being responsible or taking care of your stuff or any of that other button pushing stuff.

I was attached to the feeling I had when he wore the hat. I wanted to experience those feelings whenever he wore the hat. It wasn’t even about him or the hat. It was about me. My feelings. The feelings that I associated with the hat.

Gone went the irritation. I was no longer annoyed. Just sad. I would no longer experience those warm fuzzy, lovey feelings when he wore the hat.

So, what is the moral of this story? How did my annoyance teach me something? How did I use my principles, Awareness, Acceptance and Choice, in this situation?

Awareness: I allowed myself to be conscious that I was annoyed as opposed to just feeling it and letting it drive unconscious behavior. I was Aware that I was annoyed. I could take conscious steps to figure out why.

Acceptance: Once I was aware that I was annoyed, I accepted that this was true. Without the Acceptance I would not have gone further to figure out the true cause of my annoyance. I would have stayed stuck being annoyed.

Choice: Awareness and Acceptance together, allowed me to do the searching to find the root cause of my annoyance, my feelings. With this realization, I could choose to continue to be annoyed and blame my boyfriend, or I could choose to mourn the real loss…my warm and fuzzy feelings, not the hat.

The next time you find yourself annoyed, stop and become fully aware of and embrace that annoyance. With some self-inquiry and acceptance of what you find, you will open the treasure chest of choice.

How to Start the New Year Ahead of the Game. Understand Your Intentions. Don't Just Make Resolutions.

intentions

Many of us will set great New Year’s resolutions… to lose weight, to get in shape, stop smoking, to spend more quality time with family and friends…all positive things to bring into our lives.

Unfortunately statistics show that only 8% of us are actually successful in achieving those resolutions. Why is this? Mostly because we see our resolution as black or white. It is a hard stop or start, something we achieve or we don’t.

How can adopting intention help us achieve our resolutions? What is the difference between a resolution and intention? The Internet provides these definitions:

Resolution: an answer or solution to something

Intention: purpose or attitude toward the effect of one’s actions or conduct

A resolution is finite, definite and discrete. It has a beginning and an end. It is tangible.

Intention on the other hand is a feeling, a thought or an attitude. It is how we feel about what we do.

So we can think of a resolution as the ‘thing’ and intention is the ‘why’ behind the resolution.

The more fully you understand your intention, the why behind the resolution, the more likely you are to achieve it. What you want to accomplish now has more meaning and relevance. It moves from being a task or hurdle to get done/over, to an accomplishment that adds value to life.

For example, let’s say you resolve to ’get in shape’. Take this a step further and ask ‘why’? Yes, you want to lose a few pounds and look good in those skinny jeans. But on a deeper level you want to be able to keep up with your kids, not just today but for many years to come. So the reality of the resolution is not just to get in shape, but also to ‘be healthy, set a good example for my kids and live a long life’.

Armed with the ‘why’ behind the resolution when you slip you don’t see it as failure because the resolution now has more meaning. You realize that you have many opportunities and ways to achieve your resolution. It is no longer a discrete thing that you do or don’t achieve. Additionally, you have given it more meaning because you are no longer doing it just for yourself. You are doing it for your family, or something bigger than just you, as well.

Start your New Year off right. Don’t just resolve to do something. Uncover the why behind what you want to accomplish and you will set yourself up for greater success. Keep asking yourself ‘why’ until you come to an answer that is bigger than just you and feels right. Add that answer to your resolution and you have a winning equation.

Be open. Be curious. Be aware. ☺

The Single Most Powerful Step to Become More Grateful

gratitude I knew I wanted to write this article about this time of year because it resonates. But I have to admit I am finding it difficult today. Why? Because I accidentally hit my dog in the head with the hatchback of my car. He is fine, just a cut. But I am very upset and irritated with myself.

Why wasn’t I paying more attention? How could I have been so negligent?

With all of my negative self-talk, I am finding it very difficult to think about, let alone feel gratitude. So how can I write anything meaningful about it? I thought about waiting until next week to write this….Put it off until I’m in a better frame of mind.

But then I realized, that’s the point of the article…to recognize what I have to be grateful for and to feel grateful even when things aren’t going how I might want them to go. So, I sat down and channeled how to be more grateful.

It’s that time of year again. Time to reflect on the past year and think about what you want to do different next year. Part of that reflection is supposed to include gratitude….being grateful for what you have, what you have accomplished and for all things in your life.

Why do we wait until the end of the year to take stock and be grateful? Why isn’t being grateful just a part of day-to-day life? Why be grateful at all?

There are many documented, researched and validated benefits of being grateful.

Healthier eating habits, a stronger immune system, increased energy, more optimism and mental acuity, better ability to deal with stress, higher satisfaction with life, deeper friendships, increased productivity, increased self-worth and self-esteem and better sleep….I could go on, but you can Google it for yourself.

All of that sounds great, wonderful even. I know I should be more grateful, but how does one do that? HOW do you become more grateful?

Step 1: Take a Time Out

Most of us go through our day mostly on autopilot, rushing from one thing to the next. We are generally not aware of what is around us. We don’t really see things. We observe them, but we don’t SEE them.

Taking a time out means to take a moment, any moment, any time of the day, to actually SEE what is around you. To stop, to LOOK around and find something to be grateful for.

For example, perhaps you are in the car in the garage hurrying to pick up the kids from school. Rather than automatically starting the car, backing out and being on your way….

Take a time out, sit there behind the steering wheel for a few seconds. Scan your garage; really see what is there. Yes, it might be a mess, overflowing with stuff…don’t focus on the mess. Think about what you have in all of that stuff to be grateful for.

For example:

You can be grateful for the stuff itself, for the opportunities it offers you. Like being grateful you have a snow blower and don’t have to hand shovel snow in the winter. You can be grateful to have a garage to put all the stuff in. You can be grateful that you have a house attached to that garage. You can be grateful for the career that has enabled you to have the house, with the garage to put the stuff in.

You get the picture.

The first, and only, step to being more grateful is to Take a Time out.

And, the beauty of it is, you can do it anytime, anywhere. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year or until something really great happens, or until something really bad happens. You can do it any day, every day, multiple times a day.

While it may take effort on your part to start doing this, like putting stickies with ‘Take a Time Out’ written on them all over your house, once you actually start taking a time out, it will be come a habit.

You’ll begin to notice that you actually pay attention to what is happening around you more often. Like waiting in the grocery store line and finding something to be grateful for. Or while you are waiting in the car pool line…or while sitting in a meeting…or taking a shower…or walking the dog.

Every moment will become a moment in which you can find something to be grateful for. All you have to do is Take a Time Out.

Coffee Break or Breathing Break? How 6 Minutes a Day Can Transform Your Stress Levels

breathing-break

It seems like we are all running 120 miles per hour, every hour…every day…every week…every month.

The number of responsibilities on our plates continues to mount. We feel stuck and can’t seem to get ahead at work or at home. We’re pulled in too many directions and don’t know what to do about it. We just want a minute to ourselves! But we hit the break room instead, pouring another cup of coffee to make it through the day.

Instead of reaching for coffee to give you a boost, allow your breath to actually soothe your body and mind and in the process reduce your stress.

First a little background…

Typically we are not aware of, or in control, of our breath. It just happens on its own as it reacts to life’s events. These events tend to stimulate our sympathetic nervous system (aka the fight or flight part of our nervous system). The activation of this part of our nervous system tends to increase heart rate and blood pressure, tense muscles, shorten attention and increase sweating. All great things if you are running a race. Not so much if you are trying to relax, even just a little bit.

The great news is that we can take control of our breath anytime we want. By consciously slowing down and controlling our breath, even for just a few minutes, we can begin to release the tension and stress brought on by every day life.

Here’s why this works…

Consciously slowing the breath stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (aka the relaxation part of the our nervous system). The benefits of this are huge: a general calming of the body and mind including a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure, increased clarity and attentiveness, reduced muscle tension, increased self confidence and reduced anxiety.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. So how do you actually do this? Here’s a simple approach:

  1. Schedule two 3-minute breaks in your day, one in the morning one in the afternoon. Put it on your schedule. Seriously, put it on your schedule.
  2. Turn the phone(s) and computer screen off. Close your door if you have one.
  3. Lean forward and put your elbows on your desk, a counter or a table. Try to keep your back as straight as possible.
  4. Plug your ears with your fingers and close your eyes. Don’t crush your ears; a gentle pressure is all that is needed.
  5. Now just LISTEN to your breath. Make it resonate in your head so you can hear it. It may sound a little bit like Darth Vader.
  6. Relax your jaw and shoulders and just breath slowly for 3 minutes.

That’s it. Really. It is just that simple.

I guarantee that if you do this consistently for a week you will begin to notice a difference in your stress levels. Six minutes a day is all you need.

Your breath is your single biggest tool to combat your stress. It is up to you to use it to your advantage… or you can continue to allow your breath to stress you out.

What do you have to lose? Give it a try.

Are Your Hidden True Beliefs Undermining Your Happiness?

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Meet Mary. She is a stay at home mom to two great kids, wife to a hard working professional and caretaker of the family’s golden doodle, guinea pig and gold fish. Most days Mary feels very blessed to be in the position she is to take care of her family. She genuinely enjoys running the kids around to practices and to meet their friends. Keeping the house up gives her a sense of accomplishment and wellbeing. She is a good planner and prioritizes her time effectively to ensure that all that needs to get done does get done. Overall she is happy and feels that she is meeting everyone’s needs and expectations.

Recently though Mary is feeling very anxious and has an overall sense of being ‘put upon’ and out of balance. She believes it is her responsibility–her job–to take care of her family, and has always enjoyed it. Something has changed though. Now she feels irritated and just a bit angry. She is becoming openly irritated, short with her kids and strangers and is generally not nice to be around.

Sound familiar?

Mary is surprised, confused and upset with her current feelings. She doesn’t know why she feels this way and would like it to just ‘go away.’ Unfortunately Mary’s feelings won’t just ‘go away.’ She, like the rest of us, will need to do some inner reflection to understand what is causing her to feel the way she is.

Coaching offers many ways to understand what is going on in a situation like Mary’s. A fundamental approach in coaching is to identify the core thought that is running though our mind in a particular situation. By identifying this thought you can also uncover the true belief driving that thought.

True beliefs are those beliefs that make us who we are. They shape how we behave and act toward others and ourselves and define what we expect in life. Some true beliefs are conscious and easy to see. Many are not so easy to see because they are unconscious and drive many of our automatic thoughts, actions and reactions.

When we’re feeling stressed, out of balance and unhappy it is often because an unconscious true belief has come into play and we’re not even aware of it. These beliefs come attached to an expectation…. we expect certain things to happen or play out based on our belief. Our unconscious expectations aren’t being met….we get cranky, irritable, and angry and feel that something just isn’t right. Life is out of whack.

A good way to know when a true belief is driving your behavior is to monitor your self-talk. If that self-talk includes a lot of ‘shoulding’ you are likely acting upon a true belief.

If you are feeling this way, here are a few helpful tips and practices:

  • As you find yourself ‘shoulding’ (I should/he should/they shouldn’t) stop and ask yourself what expectation do I have that is not being met in this situation?
  • Why do I have this expectation? What true belief is driving it?
  • How has this belief served me in the past? How is it serving me today?
  • What can I do to shift this belief, and associated expectations, so that it serves me more productively today?

Through thoughtful self-introspection, guided by coaching practices, we can identify those true beliefs that no longer serve us. And by making conscious fchoices, to change that belief, to give it up or to simply be more aware of it, we can increase our happiness, decrease stress and create more balance in our lives.

Be open. Be curious. Be aware. ☺

Meditation is Like.... a Day at the Beach!

Work Life Harmony

You’ve seen the headlines in the grocery store, on the nightly news, on your Flipboard and email feeds. It is EVERYWHERE. The in your face, if you don’t meditate something is wrong with you…your life is falling apart…your health probably sucks. Everyone KNOWS “Meditation is GOOD for you.” What is wrong with you?!

But…all you know and can think about is “I’ve tried to meditate and I just CAN’T do it. I can’t stop THINKING. I can’t empty my mind. And, OMG if I see another article telling me it is sooo easy and sooo good for me I am going to scream!”

I get it. You’re frustrated, annoyed and feeling guilty for not mastering meditation and making it a daily habit. The pressure is overwhelming. Let me see if I can help lessen that pressure.

When you think of meditating I am guessing you think you need to empty your mind and stop all thoughts to actually be ‘meditating.’ Right? Am I right? Well, I am here to tell you that is NOT correct. Whew! Hopefully that is a relief. What I am also here to do is to offer a different perspective.

Our thoughts are ever present, constant and necessary. They are a function of the human existence we live. They only stop when we are dead. The ever-present nature of our thoughts is analogous to waves at the beach. Waves are constant, ever-present, soothing at times, ever changing and insistent. Can you stop the waves? Nope. That would mean the end of the world, literally. And, here’s the secret, you can’t stop your thoughts either. The key is not to become INVOLVED in them.

Imagine yourself on your favorite beach, simply sitting there watching the waves. You don’t go into the surf. You don’t get wet. You don’t get tossed around by the current. You just sit and observe the waves come and go. They don’t impact you because you are here, on the beach. They are there, in the ocean.

It is the same with meditation and thoughts. The thoughts don’t stop; you just don’t get INTO them. You don’t get embroiled in, obsessed with or tossed about by them. They will continue to come, one wave of thought after the other. You simply watch them, just like the waves on the beach.

This is the real work of meditation…allowing the thoughts to simply ‘be’ and not become involved with them. Meditation is not ridding yourself of thoughts, having an empty mind, this is not possible. What you do do, is allow them to come and go without them taking control…leading you down some obscure path about the difference between the mung beetle and the dung beetle. You simply acknowledge the thought and return to watching the thought waves come and go.

I know this sounds easier said than done. With practice, you can learn not to get into the thoughts that pass through your mind; to simply acknowledge them and let them pass. Hopefully this perspective gives you some ammunition and courage to try meditation again. Hopefully it takes some of that societal pressure off and you can breath again.

So the next time you try to meditate and find your mind filled with thoughts, remind yourself that this is just going be a day at the beach….Watching but not getting wet.

Job vs Life: Which Will Win??

Work Life Harmony

The majority of us have a love/hate relationship with our work. If you are one of the few that truly loves your job and can’t wait to get there every day, this article is NOT for you. But, please feel free to share it with your co-workers who aren’t quite as happy as you to be at work.

Now, back to those of us that 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 in our 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 silly process, set unrealistic goals and challenges, cough up pseudo-friends, expect us to learn and deliver in a short amount of time, oh, and never pay enough money for all that is asked of us. They also take us away from life…our families, true friends, interests, passions, hobbies and things we would rather spend our time on.

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?

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 invoke?

Balance insinuates a win/lose situation. If one side has ‘more’ than the other, the system is out of balance. It may break, fall down, become unstable or simply be painful. 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.

So that brings me to the simple answer of how to find work life balance….Shift your perspective of work life ‘balance’ to that of work life ‘harmony.’

The elements of your life…work, family, friends, hobbies, community don’t have to each have equal time and effort, nor should they. They need to work together, each with differing amount of time and effort from you, to make your life feel pleasing and like a single narrative.

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. Making you feel like a failure, like you are never enough, that you are a bad person, that you suck.

Whew, a little harsh, but true. Ok, so now what?

First, begin to accept, truly accept, that there is no such thing as work life balance. To be ‘stable by equal distribution’ of energy and time across all facets of your life is not feasible. It is impossible to devote the same amount of time and energy to all things in your life, and why would you want to? All things in life don’t deserve the same amount of time and energy as some other things. So the first step is simply to acknowledge and accept what already IS.

Second, try on this new idea of ‘work life harmony.’ How does it feel to you? Does it intrigue you? Does it seem ‘right’ somehow? If it feels ok, begin to adopt this as your new way of thinking about life. When you notice that you are beating yourself up over something, missing a soccer game for example, stop and acknowledge the situation and see it for what it is; needing to shift time and energy somewhere else to keep your whole life in harmony. Here’s a quick example.

Let’s say you are mountain biker and get on your bike at least three times a week. You are also a really great friend. Suppose one of your very close friends is going through a really hard time and needs more support than usual. You have two options:

  1. Give your friend the support he/she needs and give up some of your biking time and then beat yourself up about not getting on your bike three times a week because you should be able to do both OR
  2. Give your friend the support he/she needs, consciously choosing to give up some of your biking time knowing that the harmony of your life will be maintained and that once your friend is ok, you can put that time and energy back into your biking.

Which of these options feels better? That is a rhetorical question, by the way.

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. You get to be in control of how your life is orchestrated that best serves your needs, interests, priorities and goals. You get to come off autopilot.

So, if that all 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. It doesn’t have to be Job vs Life. The choice is yours.