Why You Should Quit Worrying About Work-Life Balance

It’s almost Christmas! Sorry to do this to you, but really, where has the time gone? I can’t believe it’s August. Each year the retailers keep pushing the boundaries on how early they put up the Christmas decorations, and I have also noticed that some neighbours couldn’t be bothered to take down last year’s Christmas lights, so they just left them up. I don’t blame them seeing that it comes around so quickly. 
Has the time gone quickly for you too? Many of us who are working and/or doing business and/or studying find that time has gone quick because we’ve been super busy running from pillar to post and barely catching our breath on the weekend before we go on the grind again. Try adding the daily struggle to maintain a functioning home, catch up on our social engagements and achieve a healthy mind/body/spirit and we easily find ourselves over-committed, stretched too thin, fatigued and stressed. We find ourselves wondering if it will ever get better and how long we can keep up this pace?  

Each time I have an annual review one of the topics we discuss is work/life balance. However, when we drill down into the subject, is it possible to achieve work/life balance? Some experts believe that the phrase itself is a fallacy because of the assumption that always have to make trade-offs among the four major compartments of our lives –

  1. work/business/school
  2. home/family
  3. community including friends, neighbours and social groups
  4. self (spirit, mind, body)

Perhaps the term work/life balance stems from the assumption that work is bad and life is good hence the need for a balance in the first instance. This is problematic because we spend a lot of our time at work which means that for some, most of their time is burdensome and this literally translates to being tired of working and creates pressure for our holidays/weekends to compensate for all the negative energy (source). 

A more realistic alternative is to integrate and foster harmony among these four aspects of life.  Some people would explain this as “life is work, work is life.” (source).
Various self leadership skills are very important to be able to achieve this alignment and they fall within the following four headings (source). 

Authenticity

Leadership skills in authenticity focus on enabling us to be and act real by clarifying what’s really important regardless of where we are or what we’re doing. To be authentic we need answers to the following questions:

  • What are my values? What really matters to me?
  • Do I embody my values consistently? How can I do this more?
  • Do my actions align with my values? How can I make sure that they do?
  • What is my legacy? How often do I envision this?
  • How am I holding myself accountable?

There are some exercises that help find these answers and you can find them on www.myfourcircles.com

Integrity

Skills in self leadership in integrity zoom in on respecting the fact that you are one whole person playing many roles and also encouraging others to view you this way. This requires us to:

  • Clarify expectations – In many of our relationships expectations will be implicit and although they have not been spelled out we can be judged if we fail to meet them and this can impact on trust. 
  • Build & maintain supportive networks – The support of the people around us help us emotionally & other ways to be whole people and to play our different roles better. 
  • Learn how to apply all your resources – this involves transferring & using knowledge, contacts, talents and skills [which may have been built up in one aspect of your life] to other areas of your life. 
  • Learn how to manage boundaries smartly– this involves experimenting with what areas of your life you need to separate and other areas you can merge. Professor Friedman from Wharton’s Leadership Program calls this segment and merge. For example in order to create a separation you might notice that chat notifications from business associates during the night is breaking your sleep, so switching mobiles off when going to bed for some time might be a start. Then trying a new way to merge aspects of your life might be bringing your partner/kids for an outdoor game organised by your work colleagues. Notice what works and what doesn’t. 

Creativity

This involves innovation that helps in integrating the four different aspects of your life. To be able to achieve this you need to answer these questions:

  • Am I getting the results I need?
  • How can I resolve conflicts between the four aspects of my life?
  • What is the status quo? Should it be the status quo?
  • Are there any new ways of doing the things I’m currently doing? 
  • How can I embrace change with courage?
  • How can I create a culture of innovation around me?

Just like a craft, we get better at leading our lives by practice. As John Irving writes, find a way of life you love and have the courage to live it. 

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