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:
- 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
- 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.