There is a great deal of conversation today about “work-life balance.” Some people feel that they can judge the choices others make for themselves regarding working, staying home to raise a family or doing both. Regardless of your family and career choices, everyone needs balance. But does anyone really know what work-life balance is or how to get it? Better yet, can anyone judge when work-life balance has been achieved? What are the signs or symptoms of a life in balance?
There is a great deal of conversation today about “work-life balance.” Some people feel that they can judge the choices others make for themselves regarding working, staying home to raise a family or doing both. Regardless of your family and career choices, everyone needs balance. But does anyone really know what work-life balance is or how to get it? Better yet, can anyone judge when work-life balance has been achieved? What are the signs or symptoms of a life in balance? I do not claim to have all the answers, but here is what I have found to be helpful in the past.
Life balance refers to the state of an individual’s existence when resources outnumber demands—and it can happen! Below are a few of the components of a balanced life:
- Equilibrium between personal and professional demands
- Time for family, friends and things you enjoy outside of work
- Calmness in your environment
- Reasonable work hours which honor you and your personal life
- A manageable travel schedule
- Time and space for things that matter most
- Identification of what fulfills you and engaging in that activity.
Just as learning to balance on two wheels when riding a bicycle takes practice, so does learning to balance all the wishes, dreams and demands we are faced with on a daily basis. Some things which need our attention can be decided by our own careful thought, such as having a family and meeting the demands of parenting or earning a living outside the home. Other demands which can make withdrawals from our resource bank are not our choice, such as a long, stressful commute or irritating co-workers. Whether we have chosen the situation which depletes our resources or not, it is necessary to continually make deposits into our bank and invest in ourselves.
Achieving a life in balance starts with knowing what it is that nourishes us, and making a commitment that we will value ourselves as much as we value others—easy to say, much harder to do. In presentations I have given on this topic, I talk about an internal directional system I believe we all have. I call that system True North.
For me, True North is a combination of beliefs, values and standards I use to make decisions and live my life the best way I can. This way of approaching life has evolved over time, and it began when I found a philosophy which really resonated with me. I share it here with you because I think it has value, and because it seems we sometimes need permission to treat ourselves well. The approach I found years ago is called The Four Pillars of Vitality and can be viewed at www.itstime.com/print/sep97p.htm:
- True Work may or may not be the source of the money we make. It may or may not be connected with the “work” we perform during our days. People who are doing their True Work often say it doesn’t feel like work; rather, it is something they love to do. Some examples are communication, educating the young, emotional healing, kindness, parenting and service. What feels like your True Work?
- True Study prepares us to do our True Work; it is part of helping us focus. True Study is very absorbing and enjoyable for us. It is something we gravitate to, often subconsciously. Some examples are crisis resolution without drama, health, history, male/female relationships, psychology, spiritual growth and truth. What is your field of True Study?
- True Rest restores and revitalizes you to be able to do your True Work and True Study. Each person rests differently— one may be alone or with others, indoors or outdoors, etc. Many find that their True Rest is the activity they turn to when they are really stressed. Some examples are alone time, being with animals, bonding with friends or loved ones, gardening, humor, meditation, physical affection, silence, sleep and spiritual retreat. How do you get your True Rest?
- True Play helps us become more grounded. It is what we consider to be “fun” and is a vital aspect of enjoying life and achieving balance. Some examples are conversation, dancing, enjoying anything humorous or entertaining, games and socializing, music, sports and the arts. What activities encompass True Play for you?
Many people living lives out of balance say that from early adulthood, their paths seemed determined. They graduated from high school and went to college or entered the workforce, moved up in their chosen career, married, had a family and take two weeks of vacation every year. There are numerous expectations placed on us by many sources, including our parents, teachers and society. We join the “rat race” early and stay in it as long as we can. We sometimes seem more focused on engaging in a “balancing act” than in keeping our lives balanced, and this is what leads to trouble.
As with any financial account, there are a finite number of life’s demands we can respond to without requiring additional resources. In the financial world, when we do not have enough money to cover a demand, the institution overseeing our account usually charges us a fee. It will then take even more of our resources to get us back to a balanced state. Experience has taught us the devastating effects which occur when life demands more than we have to give—high blood pressure, heart disease, ulcers and addiction are all symptoms of a life out of balance. Combating these issues takes a tremendous amount of energy and resources, and it will not be a quick journey back to a balanced state. Financial advisors encourage their clients to have substantial resources put away in case something catastrophic occurs. How will you be equipped to respond when life sends a bill—“balance due upon receipt?” TPW