What is Better than Work-Life Balance?

A life dripping with meaning and purpose!

Work-life ‘balance’ is tough.  Does this sound familiar to you? At any moment it is important to me that I: hang out with my kids; spend time with friends; be with my partner; get some exercise; do some marketing; write a blog post; write the session I am to deliver next week; do some chores…..the list goes on and on.

Many of us worry that we are working too many hours. We know that this is a bad idea as it limits time to rest, play, exercise, connect with loved ones etc. But my observation is that just knowing we should work less and spend more time on our health and our relationships, doesn’t seem to lead to change.

For people to take action, a number of approaches seem to be helpful:

  • Exploring what it is about work that keeps us hooked in. For me, work is interesting, challenging and meaningful. Work often gets me into flow.  At work I get to use my strengths. Any meaningful ‘work-life balance’ plan needs to acknowledge this. It is important to recognise that sometimes it is hard to step away from the satisfaction that work can provide.
  • Looking at what painful thoughts or feelings are avoided by spending too much time at work. (‘I am not good enough, if I don’t work long hours I will disappoint my clients.’ If I leave work undone I feel anxious). Again, any meaningful plan must involve developing a willingness to experience those thoughts and feelings.
  • Identifying what is important enough to be willing to tackle this issue over and over. This is a moment to moment choice.  It will involve repeatedly getting it wrong. This issue is unlikely to disappear for many years (and when it does and we have retired, we will probably feel sad about it!).  This is where identifying values helps – The Brief Bull’s Eye activity can be a good place to start.
  • Getting better at mindfully and compassionately noticing both when I am living my values around this and also when I am a long way off. This is a wagon I fall off over and over again. And each time I notice I am out of kilter, I gently and compassionately readjust my behaviour.

When I am 80, I won’t judge my life by how many hours I did or didn’t work. I will judge it by whether my life had meaning and purpose. My hope is that if I keep making small moment to moment choices based on my values, then I will look back and feel pleased.

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