I’ve been reaching out to ask what are topics that you find challenging currently and would like some support with via my blogs or facebook lives and a recurring theme is work life balance.
You know that feeling that there are more tasks than time, more month than money and more stress than rest? Things are out of balance for many of us and far more people than ever are out there writing that work life balance is a myth anyway.
But myth or no myth, many of us wish it could be different. We’d prefer if things felt more evenly spread, with time for the personal and the professional, time for self and others, time to create better physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.
For my part, even if I’m in a minority, I hold the light for it being possible to create and experience what I refer to as work/life harmony. So I want to offer you some ways of approaching this issue anew, with a fresh perspective and a transformational strategy!
The new perspective I want to offer is to seek harmony instead of balance. When we think about it, balance is a state or position that’s not always easy to achieve and is usually difficult to sustain. We can hold the state or position momentarily but typically it is constantly shifting and perhaps that is what makes it so exhausting to try to attain as a permanent state. Look at the image here! Perfect balance! But imagine what it would be like to try and hold that position indefinitely – ouch!
A word and approach that is more empowering and life-giving, I believe, is harmony: work-life harmony. It’s less about time or trying to give equal amounts of time to personal or professional interests and commitments and more about creating a rhythm and sense of ok-ness not matter what is going on.
When we look at this in terms of work life harmony, it means acknowledging that there are going to be seasons in our personal life and there are going to be seasons in our professional life. And when there’s harmony, it’s really being in joy or at least ok, no matter what is happening. When I’m at work, I’m happy being fully committed there. When I’m with friends and family or looking after my physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, when I’m doing the shopping or walking the dog, I’m happy and fully present with that.
For me recently I’ve been having a busy time professionally (again!). I took my holidays anyway and the opportunity was to be able to enjoy the holidays while on holiday. And as I come back, and it is busy, to be able to find a way to enjoy that too, not least because I’m refreshed from the break.
When I looked at my calendar more objectively yesterday, I could see that there are both personal and professional commitments scattered across the weeks. So, while part of me reacts to seeing my time being so tightly scheduled, in truth there is harmony there! I do things that resource me personally during 9-5 hours and I sometimes do evening work when it suits me better to schedule it then because there are other things I prioritise earlier in the day.
At a workshop recently a lot of participants were feeling challenged around the perception that their profession demanded sacrifices on the life front in order to excel professionally. Our speaker on the day said she didn’t feel she was a great role model for everyone because by her own admission, she tended to work long hours.
My view was that she was a great role model! She had absolutely no resistance or resentment about the hours she worked. And she felt she was there for every important event in her children’s lives and was confident and proud of the relationships she had with them. There didn’t seem to be any disharmony in terms of what time allocations she gave to work and to other life relationships and commitments. She didn’t feel she had to work hard to succeed, she was working hard because she loved what she worked at. I thought she was great! She was highly successful in her career and highly satisfied with her life.
This is not a suggestion to everyone that you have to work longer and harder! You know that my own goal is to achieve the kind of impact I want to have with my work while having a regular working week and weekends free. I’m just saying that for me not every week is a 40 hour week – some are a bit more and some a bit less. Next week for example I have a day off with a friend. So yes, this week I have a few longer days to accommodate that. Over all in the month will I have averaged a 40 hour week, pretty much! I’m taking time for professional development in November and building a holiday around it travel permitting and I’ve scheduled two weeks off over Christmas and New Year. I’m claiming that as a success in terms of there being harmony overall.
The transformational tool I also want to share is to invite you, if you are feeling disharmony around this topic, to lean into that. On my vision workshops we always look at our longings and our discontents as signs and signals towards what life is actually calling us towards. As, English historian Dame Cicely Veronica Wedgwood puts it: “Discontents and disorder [are] signs of energy and hope, not of despair.”
If you were to really work with your discontents and disorder in the context of your work life balance, what would the resolution of it look like? What would create harmony?
Every person in the world only has 24 hours in the day! Those who feel more harmony are making choices that cause them to feel harmonious.
We are all of us having to constantly readjust the dial. I want more clients, graduate students, professional growth opportunities of one kind or another and then ooops, now it’s too much! I want more time with my kids or my elderly parent and then circumstances change, kids grow and develop different needs and interests, periods of illness get resolved or support systems get put in place and we don’t need all that time in the same way.
Get intentional! What would you love? What would answer the longings and dissolve the discontents? What can you stop doing? What could you start doing? What can you say no to? What can you get help with? If it were all resolved for the highest good of all concerned, what would what look like? And what’s the simplest, easiest first step you could take in that direction now?
If you have difficulty working through this on your own, please join us for the online Vision Workshop on Saturday 9 October where I will take you through a step by step process to design and create the life you’d love to be living – bookings open on my website here
Cover image credit: Gustavo Torres via Unsplash