Work life balance. Is it real,what does it mean & is it achievable?
I regularly post photos on my Instagram and Face Book pages under #worklifebalance. More often than not it’s to remind me of the importance of striving for a good balance, and yes, sometimes it’s to brag a little about the awesome things I get to see and experience. Occasionally, when talking to friends or acquaintances, I get the feeling I need to apologise for striving for it, as if there's a choice to make, a sacrifice between work and enjoying my life. So, as a departure from my normal blogs, here’s my take on what I think it is and what it means.
To me a good work life balance isn’t a myth and it’s most certainly achievable. It’s often about the little things in life and getting them right. Don't get me wrong those big events, the bucket list items, are great to strive for but its important to make sure the everyday "little" things are in place. The little things are different for everyone, for me one thing is making the time to exercise in the morning before I jump into my work. Just know that whatever it is that gives you a good balance isn't static. What works for me now hasn’t always worked in the past and won't necessarily work next week or next month. Ultimately for me it’s making sure that I live my life to the fullest, live for the now, not the past or the future. To do that I need to earn money and to earn money I need to work. But how much is enough and how much is too much is subjective and changes as my life changes.
Sometimes I hear people talk about their career almost as an end goal but to me this couldn’t be further from the truth. I get that a career is important to some people and I guess how important depends on your definition of what a career means. It might be about money, status or it could be a way of life. A career is just one part of your life and I certainly don’t think you need to have a career to be happy and I don’t believe you need to have lots of money to be happy. Some of the happiest, most fulfilled people I have met don’t have a career, or a lot of money.
When I worked 9 to 5, ok mostly it was 7 till 6, it was certainly easier for me to have a good work life balance. Life was more structured and because of that I made a rule that the weekends were mine, mostly I stuck to that. But then there is being self-employed. I believe to be good at what you do, to have a sustainable long term successful business you have to love what you do. And you need to be passionate and driven. But when does it become all consuming living your life to the fullest and being happy becomes compromised. I don’t have all the answers, partly because I’m still trying to work it out, find that balance, and partly because I don’t believe, as I said before, that what works now necessarily works tomorrow. Family, relationships, friendships and work priorities all change over time.
I guess it helps to be clear on what life is about. What’s my purpose, well for me that's easy, to borrow a quote from the Dalai Lama "The purpose of our lives is to be happy". So I strive to be happy but I also like to think about what I want from my life and what legacy do I want to leave behind. I know that’s all a bit deep and the reality is I don’t wander around posing these questions every day, but it does help to use these as a frame of reference for anything that’s going on in my life, particularly when I feel a little out of balance. What this looks like in a practical sense is going to be different for me to everyone else, but ultimately it’s about working out what makes me happy. What floats my boat, what makes me smile, laugh and feel good about myself, what makes me jump out of bed in the morning and what makes me sleep well at night..... And then I try to work my life around that.
When I feel out of balance, and it does happen regularly, I check in with myself to work out if I have let any of the important things in life slip. Where am I at with my work; Have I spoken to my kids recently; When was the last time I caught up with friends; Do I feel healthy; What’s my energy level like; Do I feel motivated; and am I up for those difficult conversations and scenario’s that pop up all the time in my line of work. If the answer is that one or more of these isn’t where it should be then I do something about it.
But sometimes the cause of that feeling of imbalance isn’t as obvious. So I have a few go-tos, a few favourites, to deal with it. One of the main ones is exercise. A hard gym session, a swim, a bike ride or one of my favourites, getting out in nature for a hike or a paddle. I’m very lucky to live in an awesome part of the world, and there is something magic about being in nature, something really grounding. Getting out in nature almost always brings me clarity. The other favourite is to catch up with friends. Not necessarily to dump negative feelings or issues often it’s just sitting around and talking rubbish with a friend over a beer, I have a few who talk fluent rubbish, or a good night out on the town or a coffee session listening to what’s happening in their world.
So is a good work life balance real and is it achievable? Absolutely. Is it achievable for you? Well, that’s up to you.