There’s a lot of information on the internet as well as from those who’ve written articles and books on the subject of work life balance. Some believe we need more balance in our lives and that without it, we’re unhappy and stressed. That we’re out of balance because we’re overwhelmed and always on the go.
Others believe that balance is stupid, it’s bunk or that it’s a lie.
In a book I read recently, the author shared how the topic of work life balance is fairly new. And that since the mid 80s the amount of information around this topic has grown dramatically to a point that there are more than 1500 articles and books a year about the subject.
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I’ve always believed I need some type of balance in my life, but when it comes down to it, I realize that my life won’t always be in complete balance.
I can’t work my day job, continue with all my commitments, stay up late and consider my life to be balanced.
I can’t work my tail off, buy things that distract me from my mission in life or do everything that I would like to do without having the time and the money to do so.
What does balance mean?
Traditionally, we think of balance as having equal parts. Dictionary.com describes it as “a state of equilibrium or equal distribution of weight. A state of bodily equilibrium.”
Without balance we wouldn’t be able to walk correctly without getting dizzy.
I remember a time when my mom was getting out of bed in the morning. She stood up and immediately felt dizzy and had to lay back down. Something had happened and made her sick. And she spent many days in bed. She couldn’t stand up without being dizzy.
She was diagnosed with vertigo which somehow also lead to the loss of hearing in her left ear. Or the loss of hearing lead to her having vertigo. And what this did, was throw her off of balance.
Vertigo means “a sensation of dizziness or abnormal motion resulting from a disorder of the sense of balance.”
I experienced this after once summer when I was at a friends house doing multiple flips of the diving board. I didn’t feel it right away, but within a few days, every time I stood up, I got dizzy. Not to where I couldn’t get out of bed, but it wasn’t fun so I could only imagine how my mom felt.
When you hear the word balance, you may even think of the traditional definition you are used to. Or you may think of trying to stay balanced while riding a bike, watching someone perform on a balance beam or tight rope, or any number of things that remind you or tell you what balance means.
Now yes, those are our thoughts and definitions of what balance means to us, but there are other definitions and they aren’t what typically think of.
It also means…
- Mental steadiness or emotional stability
- A habit of calm behavior
- The remainder or rest, something left over
- A means of judging or deciding
- An aesthetically pleasing integration of elements
When you think about trying to achieve what most people would consider when it comes to work life balance, or having a balanced life wheel, what you should really be striving for is to have mental and emotional steadiness. To develop the habit of staying calm or being able to make a sound judgement or decision.
From these definitions and applying these to our lives, this is how we can achieve work life balance, not by making our life a complete balancing act.
But we don’t. We try to balance a lot of different areas of our lives. We may refer to it spinning plates or having a full plate. But in reality, we can’t think of it as balance. It’s more like juggling.
Most of us want to have more balance in our lives. We want to enjoy our lives away from work.
And we need more time to do this. We believe it’ll lead to a better balance in work and life.
We believe having more balance will cure the job blues or the burnout we experience.
These are all great aspirations and I believe that we can have more balance in our lives away from work and there are many things that we can do to achieve this balance in our lives.
Making deposits in each area of our life is important.
But we definitely need to control the amount of stress in our lives as I have mentioned in previous shows (posts). We need to control those areas in our life that are making us frustrated or irritable. Those areas that overwhelm us.
Those areas in our lives that are not allowing us to take better care of our body or those areas that are keeping us up at night.
I recommend you start by achieving balance with your emotional, mental and physical health.
I’m fascinated how my body works. And even though I’ve mentioned I haven’t been sick in four years because I eat the right food and spend time outdoors, there are times that I like to down a good pizza.
And I can eat a lot if you know what I mean.
I read once that when our body’s ph balance is off, we need water to help stabilize our ph levels. To get it back to where it needs to be, in balance.
At that moment, I realized that after eating a ton of bread, too much pizza dough, to much chow mien or pasta, I would wake up in the middle of the night thirsty and have to down a glass of water.
This is one way my body was telling me that it needed to balance out, that my ph level was off.
So yes, there are certain things in your life that need complete balance in order to function properly.
And some day, you’ll have more balance in your life, but it won’t be the balance you think it should be.
You need to think of work life balance as having mental and emotional stability. Developing a habit of staying calm. A means of judging or deciding.
And once you grasp this concept, balance shouldn’t mean the same thing for you as it has.
If you consider how out of balance your life feels, always on the go, constantly irritated, what I think you mean is that you just need time to rest and recover from your day to day life.
Yet you still might believe achieving balance is having more time to spend with your family and the hope that getting away can alleviate all the stress in your life.
Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t work in a job that sucked the life out of you?
That would be the best thing in the world, to do something you love. To do work that makes you happy. It would make everything better.
I can bet that what you really want is what we all want. More time freedom to do the things we have always wanted to do and the money to do those things.
This is what I believe most people are referring to when they think of having work life balance. Doing what they love and enjoying every minute of it. Not being overwhelmed or stressed all the time.
The ability to focus on those things that matter most in your life. Such as family and friends, volunteering or doing community work, building or making crafts, or gardening if you prefer.
Although most, if not all of you, can’t have complete balance in your life in the typical sense, or even try to have more time for yourself, if you look at balance in the way I have, or should I say the dictionary has described balance, then you need to shift your idea of what balance means and get rid of the old adage about having a work life balance the way you thought it meant.
Now we can move on and understand that balance is having mental and emotional stability. And if balance means this, then we can start applying it to our lives in a different way.
Let’s take our current world we live in for example. We’re immersed in the digital age. The computer is a part of our life and with us wherever we go.
As I mentioned before, I know technology isn’t going away and that we can’t live in the current world without it unless we chose to live like they did years ago.
We can’t imagine a world without technology, even though we think life would be easier. And maybe it would be. But for right now, it’s not going anywhere and we just need to take a break from it.
Our bodies, our minds and especially our eyes can’t deal with all the electrical impulses that come at us every day.
We need a break from technology overload. But most of us don’t get the break we need.
Sure, you may get 6-8 hours of sleep a night, but I bet most of you have your phones charging, your tv’s plugged in or the clock next to your bed… all emitting electrical impulses that could potentially be affecting your sleep. And not getting enough sleep has it’s own negative affects on us.
Are you really getting away from the technology like you need to? I don’t believe you are.
Now I’m not recommending that you spend the exact same a mount of time away from all your electronics.
Even though this would be ideal, it is not practical.
You can not have this type of balance, but you can have a more balanced relationship with technology by breaking away from your electrical paradise every once in a while. By taking an electrical sabbatical as it has been referred to.
You need this break to create balance for your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing.
So is work life balance a myth or even attainable?
Unless you’re working more than 84 hours a week, you have work life balance in the sense that balance means having equal parts.
But I don’t believe any of you are working that much, maybe every couple of weeks, but 84 hours a week is just way to much.
That would mean in a typical 5 day work week you would be working about 17 hours a day, leaving you 7 hours to get a good night sleep and room for nothing else.
I know your work is important to you and I know you need to provide and income for your family. I know you need to get your bills paid and I know you need to save for your next vacation.
But what you aren’t doing is taking the time to get away for yourself, even if it’s only for a few hours to head outside to experience what nature can do for you.
Let alone doing this every day which would be ideal.
But you aren’t taking a work sabbatical. Maybe you get two weeks vacation from the company you work for, but is two weeks enough?
Did you know that in Europe, the average “holiday”, as they refer to it, for a typical job is 6 weeks?
Could you imagine what having six weeks of vacation could do for you?
I was fortunate enough to work for a European company. They gave us up to 29 days of vacation a year. That’s almost 6 weeks.
Do you know how much time I took off the first 4 years I was working for the company?
It wasn’t until I understood the importance of having work life balance I started making sure I took the full 6 weeks of vacation. What I discovered was it helped me recover from the stress that work can bring.
Taking your vacation is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and your career.
You may not have more than two weeks of vacation, if you get any at all from the company you work for. Or maybe you do get to go on vacation, but they don’t give you paid time off and taking this time might be a burden.
You need to figure out a way to have more balance away from work. You need to take time away from your job, away from all the stuff you have accumulated in your life and in your home. You need to release the pressure, the weight of it all.
We need to learn how to break away from the weight of our work, from the weight of our commitments, the weight of our stuff, the weight of technology, the weight of everything in our life to live a life that has a more natural balance.
We need to take time away from it all to relax and unplug… literally.
And it starts with taking time for your self to recover from the weight of the world around you.
That’s why you need to spend more time out in nature to help reduce those feelings that you’re having about your life and the work you do.
To help you gain clarity and be aware of those things going on in the world around you.
You need to make sure you are breaking away from it all so your body and your mind has a chance to heal and so you can start living again.
So you can be that person you once dreamed you wanted to be and to be the person we need you to be. It’s your life and you need to make the best of it.
Balance is not bunk. It’s not stupid. It’s not a lie or a myth.
Balance is attainable. So get excited! Because understanding balance the way I’ve shared with you today means you can achieve it.
Find your balance in the outdoors and spend time each week somewhere outside, either by yourself or with your family and friends.
Whatever you’re experiencing in your life today, take this weekend to get away to think about this new revelation on what work life balance could mean to you and how this new concept can change your life.
When you head out in nature, and things have started to quiet down, it’s there you’ll uncover what it’s like to relax, to feel at ease, to have more clarity and understanding about what I have shared with you today.
I believe the outdoors is the best place to achieve mental and emotional stability, to gather your thoughts, to help you calm down and a means for for gaining clarity so you can make sound judgements and decisions.
After all, this is what achieving balance in your life should be about.
What are your thoughts about work life balance?
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