The world is spinning faster than ever and everyone talks about work-life balance, but few people are adept at actually wedging more “life” in an already cramped calendar. So how do we do it? How do we add more of what makes life worth living without creating more stress in an already demanding life?
First of all, take a breath and stop judging. As Steve Jobs averred, “It’s all life.”
Second of all, sometimes “balance” is overrated. Have you ever been lost in a passion project and the hours flew by? It’s unlikely you felt the withering sting of imbalance. Chances are, you felt great. Sometimes “balance” is irrelevant.
Third of all, it depends on how you define “life.” In the Co-Active Coaching model, there are 10 areas of life requiring some level of “balance.” With so many ways to tilt toward imbalance, it’s not surprising we feel more out than in. Nevertheless, balance is what we crave. Balance is the sweet spot where fulfillment lives.
In the “work” part of the work-life equation, we typically apply strategies to achieve benchmarks and goals. “Life” is no different. Choose your passion. Make a plan. Be accountable. For example, to raise a satisfaction score in the area of health, we might create an excuse-proof strategy for improvement, such as:
- Schedule YOU time. Don’t just talk about it, block out time on your calendar. Then do it. It’s amazing how well you can stick to a plan when you put it on an official agenda with other, equally pressing priorities.
- Practice daily gratitude. Sticking with the example above, try running the ABCs of Gratitude around your health regimen on a daily basis. This might sound like: “A: I’m grateful for Agility. B: I’m grateful for my beautiful Brain. C: I’m grateful to have so many Choices.” And so on. Appreciation goes a long way toward silencing the judge in our head, whom we all know can kill a plan before it germinates fully.
- Learn to say NO. This will come in handy when you put exercise on your calendar because as sure as night follows day, as soon as you put “Gym” on the datebook, a million invitations will arrive in your inbox to test your resolve. Practice saying NO. Invent ways to say NO without actually uttering the word. It may be hard at first, but practice gets you to Carnegie Hall. Stop sabotaging yourself with kind and accommodating. Sometimes nice doesn’t get you what you really, really
- Create a policy for self-care. As CEO of your life, its up to you to establish policies that govern the decisions you make. For instance, make it a policy to practice self-care with courage. Contrary to popular myth, self-care is not selfish. In fact, it is the opposite. Taking care of yourself means you can show up more fully for the people and projects that really matter. Airlines don’t train passengers to put their own oxygen mask on first for nothing. When you have all the R&R, energy, purpose and passion you need, you’re a better, happier human person. When you are happier, you show up in ways that ultimately make the world a better place. And isn’t that worth a bit of effort?
- Celebrate small victories. Change is hard. Change is scary. Change is inevitable. And if you want to achieve something different, bold, and outrageous, you must do something differently. At first, you will fail. Then you will fail intermittently. Then, you will succeed intermittently. Then you will succeed. Celebrating your successes will reinforce your brain’s capacity to seek success, experience thrill, reinforce fulfillment. It’s a reciprocal pattern. It’s the echo chamber of our dreams.
Balance is a matter of practice. It doesn’t just happen. We live busy, impactful, fragmented lives, and this requires us to prioritize where we invest our time and energy. Sometimes we have to take a stand for what’s important. And if better health, deeper happiness, and more life are worth having, they are worth the effort it takes to give them a place of respect on our list of things to “do.”
Want more life in your work-life balance? Schedule a free coaching sampler with me @coachcynthia.gregory.com