It seems like the harder we try to solve it, the busier, more
stressed and exhausted we become.
You only have to Google ‘Work Life Balance’ (over 32 million results) to know it’s something we all aspire to yet struggle with.
Reality Check: Work/Life Balance is actually an unattainable myth and the quest to achieve it is futile!
Think about it. The idea of a ‘balanced’ life is actually flawed. Taken literally, balance suggests equal amounts of everything you’d love to cram into each day and it’s simply not possible. If we spend 8 hours sleeping, this leaves 16 hours for everything else. Do you really want or need to devote equal time to your work, health, family, leisure, daily incidentals and other priorities?
The other flaw in the work/life balance proposition is the inherent assumption that work is ‘bad’ and the rest of life is ‘good’ and we should therefore strive for less work and more of the rest of life. Once you uncouple work from life, it all starts to unravel. If you didn’t work, how would you support the rest of your life? Besides, many people actually enjoy their work which provides challenge, social connection, variety, routine,
certainty and financial stability.
Lifestyle pressures pull the pieces apart. These are often self-imposed and it’s relatively simple (not to be mistaken with ‘easy’), to change them when you know how. Like a jigsaw, all the parts of your life interlock and you are the common denominator. So now you’ve been freed from the struggle, let's see how to piece together the puzzle and create a seamless picture of your life.
An Integrated Life – a realistic and attainable alternative
Rather than striving to achieve balance by enforcing strict boundaries between work and life, it’s much easier to integrate your life and treat it as a whole. Once you’ve mastered the art and skill, all the parts work harmoniously to support rather than compete with each other.
How to live an Integrated Life:
- Decide what's important (our priorities often get lost amidst the 'busyness' of everyday life) and let go of that which isn’t.
- Consciously devote time to what's important – scheduling self-appointments in your diary to get things done; learning to say 'no' without guilt, planning and responding rather than reacting.
- Change your expectations – many of us are notoriously hard on ourselves believing we can and should 'do it all'. Be kind to yourself and take the pressure off. You can have and do it all once you’ve decided what ‘all’ is, how much you really want it and what’s possible.
Living an integrated life is vital for your physical and mental wellbeing and once achieved, creates a positive impact on the lives of those you care about. This includes
being a great role model for your children, friends and colleagues.
If creating an integrated life seems hard, these 3 steps will make it easier:
- Check in on what you're telling yourself. For example, if you believe you have to work a 50+ hour week, how do you know that? What evidence is there and who said so? We often fail to challenge work place norms and in doing so hold fast to limiting beliefs such as, I have to be at work before the boss arrives and stay till after he/she has left. How do you know that? Have you actually asked him or her directly?
- Turn statements and beliefs into better questions. Instead of I have to work long hours to be successful, ask yourself If I could be successful by swapping the long hours for working smarter, how would I do that?
- Learn how to influence others constructively. Creating an integrated life requires compromise and effective negotiation techniques are a powerful skill to master. Positive conversations with your boss (eg about working shorter hours or working from home), partner and children (to help out more around the house) are simple when you know how.
All puzzles are easy to solve once you have the solution. Remember, you don’t have a ‘work’ and a ‘life’ – you only have one life. Don’t you owe it to yourself and those you care about to integrate the parts to make it work well for you?
Find out more about how to create an integrated life in my book, The Great Life Redesign – change how you work, live how you dream and make it happen today. It will be available from all good bookstores and online in January.