Work Life Balance
This is one of the great Lies of the 21st century; this idea can we can manage and balance the stress of a difficult work environment by creating a comfortable life at home. This idea that we can’t or shouldn’t just work; the idea that we need to find areas in which we can relax, enjoy ourselves, have interests, family, hobbies, sports, all these things, on the face of it, seems like a really good idea. The idea that we make sure that we can express ourselves fully as creative and emotional human beings as well as just employees or managers or directors or whatever it happens to be paints a lovely picture.
Of course, it is nonsense. There is only one life. It seems to me that if we are working on something that is not in keeping with our value systems and/or our passion that we will find it very tiring and stressful. Everything we do should be congruent with our life purpose. ; we do not need to split ourselves in two or more pieces. This realisation impacts on our personal development, our management development and our health
It is nonsense for a number of reasons.
First and foremost because it typically places home life as a refuge from work. We see home as a way of recharging the batteries to equip us to “fight another day.” The prioritisation is all wrong here. Our work should sustain our family and personal life rather than the other way around.
We buy into the idea that we can work really hard and it is fine to work really hard if we have the weekends off and we have enough money to do things that we enjoy at the weekend, whether it is spending time with the family or playing or watching sport, or whatever it is we do. We buy into to it as long as we have three, four, five, six weeks holidays per year and that we have enough money to afford three, four, five star hotels for ourselves and our families and that that recharging of the batteries will give us the healthy balance that we need to go back into the fray once again, and, of course, this does not work.
Secondly, it focuses on our physical comfort
We see our home as a counter balance as physical supporting us and helping us to recharge. Too often, we do not allow time or resources to fully express ourselves. Our work and home life should be supporting our hopes, dream and aspirations. We should be following our passions and be enabled and empowered to do so.
Too often we find our balanced life is really two competing drains on our resources that only create friction. When we focus on the physical we leave nothing left to fully express ourselves as creative, passionate beings whether in a hobby or how we care for ourselves, our partners, children and family. How often are we going through the motions because we are too tired to fully follow our passion?
Does this balance we have allow for us to create, to follow our passions and dreams? Too often, we ignore this essential part of our makeup. We need to nourish more than the physical; we need to ensure we are supporting and energising our emotional and spiritual needs too.
Thirdly, it ignores the impact on those around us
It doesn’t work because of the damage it does to us in trying to be two different people, it doesn’t work because we cannot just leave the stress and the strain and the habits and the patterns that we develop in work at the office or factory door when we leave it every night. We can’t leave behind the fatigue. We carry all these things with us, and particularly when we give up time, we can’t get that time back, we can’t recreate it.
When we deal with family and friends and particularly with children they know when the decisions are being made, the prioritisation that is being given to them and we meet people all the time who say “but my family are the most important thing in the world to me and I am doing all this for them”, now there is an imbalance and incongruity there in that statement. If somebody is the most important thing in the world to you, spend time with them. The idea that we don’t have to spend time with them because we can make up for it in other ways by paying for better schools or better sporting equipment or better houses, or gardens or whatever it may be doesn’t work, children are not stupid and they realise where they sit on the prioritisation scale. So what happens is we work to appeal to our own egos so we can tell ourselves and others that we are great providers and that we are heroes and that we are martyrs and all the time refusing to accept the fact that our life is out of balance.
Fourthly, it splits us into two or more personalities
It is nonsense because what happens is we end up, at best, becoming two people; we are the person who tries at home and with family and friends and in our clubs and societies to be one person and then at work is somebody else and we think that as long as we have the outlet of our hobby or our sporting activity or our exercise that we can balance out the stress and the strains and the rigidity and the oppression of our working life. The reality is we cannot, because there are two issues here, one is what happens is we find a way to behave in work which is different to the way we behave at home and inevitably that leads to confusion as to who we are. The other way we deal with it is that we behave in a way at work that we don’t think would be appropriate in our social life and we therefore then deny and repress that, but we cannot deny and repress these habits that we are forming.
What typically happens is we get stressed. At worst we get stressed and we turn to alcohol or drugs or get depressed or we get suicidal and, too often, se struggle to find the right help for this.
At best, we seek to avoid. We use hobbies, alcohol and other stimulants to keep us busy so we can ignore the fact that we are living a life dictated and created by someone else.
What do we do?
We focus on being centered rather than balanced. We seek to live and operate in whatever environment from the same place – our own self.
The first thing is we need to ensure that our working environment matches our aspirations on a personal level and on an emotional, psychological, physical level. So how we behave outside work is how we should behave inside work. It is amazing, in my experience, how many companies react positively to people who say “this is how I am going to behave – take it or leave it” and most companies take it. Some will not of course, but an awful lot do because they recognise that passionate energised and complete people will work better for them in the short, medium, long term than people who are repressed, who are prepared to be cogs in the wheel, who are prepared to disempower themselves.
Secondly, we need to look at how the flow is in our life. Are we surrounded by people and activities that enable and empower us or are we faced with blocks, choices of one over another, inability to find resources to create a life of flow? If we are constantly juggling, reprioritising we are not flowing. In short are people giving as much to us as we are to them. Are the exchanges with others to their benefit or ours? We should look to find enablers and avoid the energetic vampires, those who leave us drained and anxious
Thirdly, we should create time for ourselves. As the Dalai Lama puts it “we should meditate for 20 minutes every day; if we don’t have time for that we should meditate for 3 hours a day!” We need to learn to identify, befriend, nourish and enrich our centre; that place that is the real us that we want to empower and allow
We need to live from our center. We may adapt certain behaviours or actions in different situations but we recognise when we do this and know how to find our way home. We do not get lost or caught in competing forces but learn to manage and ride those waves keeping sight of and owning who we are in all our own balance and centeredness. In doing this we balance ourselves and help those around us to do the same.
For more information or questions on this contact Stephen @stephenpitcher.ie