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The vision of the perfect 50/50 balance point, where you magically finish everything you need to do at work and still have time left over for going to the gym, bake with the kids, get eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, and do everything else social media tell us are the markers of a well-rounded human, is an enticing vision.
However, for most of us reality looks a little different. You’ve almost finished working on that report/project but you have to leave the office early because one of the children has to go to the doctor. Maybe you’re trying to cook dinner at home when an important call comes in, and next minute the pot is black, the smoke alarm is going crazy and everyone’s complaining about being hungry. These and any one of endless other scenarios can happen to us on a daily basis.
Simply put, when you’re at work, your personal life seeps in, and when you’re at home, your work life spills over into your thoughts and time. When you have that vision of the perfect 50/50 balance anything less can leave you feeling as though you’re failing on all fronts.
No matter what we try, work-life balance is a destination that we have yet to reach. It’s around the corner, just out of our grasp. Maybe we could get there if we rearranged things a little, got up an hour earlier, or just tried harder? However, the cat is always chasing its tail.
The problem isn’t what we’re doing or not doing, but rather that the concept of work-life balance is fatally flawed. Perhaps it’s time for a more holistic concept.
Let’s stop trying to untangle the threads of our lives to keep them separate and "balanced". All of those different life threads are fundamentally interconnected and woven into what we call ... life! Each thread will impact on the others.
We all have multiple roles, employee, employer, partner, child, football coach, meals on wheels driver etc. There are many things we do and with each and every role come commitments and expectations, demands on our time and energy. There will be times when one role requires more of us than another. There may even be times when several roles collectively require more time and energy than we have to give.
So how can we live a balanced life? The first step is to accept that we can’t, not all the time. There will be times when the sweet spot is struck and life ticks over nicely. There will be times when the balance is so out of whack you’ll feel like you’ve been sucked into the vortex of a tornado and then spat out the other side. Drop the flawed concept of being able to constantly create the perfect balance and you’ll let go of a whole lot of pressure and stress.
Be clear about what’s important to you and set these things as priorities. Work out your values, base your life around them and make decisions based on them. Figure out the key components that you want to get to in your days, whether it’s fitness, self-care or meals with the family, and schedule them on your calendar. Treat them with the seriousness you bring to meetings and deadlines at work.
Be prepared to change what you do and how you do things, be flexible.
Take control of the things you can control and let go of the rest. Worrying about things you can’t change is a waste of your precious time and energy. Learn to be emotionally resilient.
Regularly check in with yourself and the important others in your life to see how you’re doing: do you have the things in your life you want?
Be mindful and appreciate the moment that you’re in, that moment is all you really have control over.
Most of all, let go of the perfection monster — life is often messy and busy and seldom perfect. Seeking the perfect mix will suck all the fun out of living. Good enough is good enough.
Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.
For more go to www.fitforlifecoaches.co.nz.