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
A few years ago, I developed a method to treat insomnia and occupy my mind in the middle of the night just long enough to drift back to sleep. What has this got to do with love? Stay with me.
So I call this sleep aid I invented, The ABCs of Gratitude. I start with A and work my way to Z with all the elements of my life for which I’m grateful.
A: I’m grateful for avocados (I love them!)
B: I’m grateful for beautiful babies
C: I’m grateful for creative genius…you see how it works?
The ABCs of gratitude are an excellent way to relax the mind and body. They are also a terrific mindfulness technique, because they require focus to make it all the way through without getting distracted and dropping down a rabbit hole.
This year, I created the ABCs of Empowerment. These gems go like this:
A: I AM agile
B: I AM brave
C: I AM supremely creative…and so on.
Well, I got to H and said, “I AM happy.” This made me stop and ask myself: am I happy? Rather than question, I simply declared it. And you know what? I immediately found something to be happy about. Brilliant. Ha!
We’ve been trained by our culture to think about romantic love in February, to think of loving the Other. As we begin a month of love obsession, of chocolate, flowers, and string quartets, I encourage you to schedule some time for self-care. Don’t just think about it, write it in your calendar. Make a date with yourself. Get a massage, buy a hat, book a weekend at the lake. Take some time for self-care and you will shine a little brighter for the ones you love. To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi: be the love you wish to see in the world.
Happy February, beautiful people!
PS: If loving yourself includes writing the book you’ve always dreamed of writing, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Is balance a myth? At some point in recent history, in the Mad Men worldview of sacrificing our private lives on the altar of our careers, something shifted. The world wobbled. Women entered the workforce. Technology changed the geography of upward mobility. We began to demand something more than money from work. We began to demand meaning. We began to crave a relationship to something bigger, something inspired.
But at what cost? The idea of work-life balance implies that there are (at least) two silos and unless the content is shared equally, it isn’t fair and it doesn’t work. But is that really true? The great personal development teacher Byron Katie requires that we question our assumptions. When we fall back on an easy answer, an excuse for not following our dreams, Katie challenges us to ask ourselves: is this really true — or is this just a story I tell myself ?
Are the twin ideas of “work” and “life” really opposites? I like to think that Sir Richard Branson has it right about work-life balance when he says, “It’s all life.”
Life is life — and whether its running your business, walking the dog, or writing your memoir. It isn’t what you’re doing so much as how you’re doing it. Does your effort bring you joy? Does volunteering at the senior center give your life meaning? Does working 80 hour weeks contribute to your essential sense of joy? If the answer is “yes,” then the idea of “balance” is irrelevant. When you love what you’re doing, you’re not worried about balance. When you love what you’re doing, you dive into that cool pool of inspiration and swim like an ecstatic otter. When you love what you’re doing, you bring that love to all aspects of your life.
This is not to imply that some imbalance cannot be unhealthy. I’m referring to the kind of imbalance that feeds your heart, that stirs your soul, that amps up your life with technicolor zestiness. Asking simple questions like “where is my joy?” and “what stops me from reaching for the stars?” are a good start toward finding the perfect balance for you. Sometimes that balance is 50/50, but more often, it’s on a continuum. Let meaning into your life without measure. Or if you must, measure your million small moments of joy.
Cynthia Gregory is an award winning author, blogger, and success coach. Email her at email@example.com
A funny thing happens when you decide to make a change in your life. You may have been stewing about a change, plotting out the ways you’ll be happier when you make then change, even blaming others because you haven’t made the change you know in your heart is right for you. So what’s holding you back?
It’s really quite simple. As humans, we are wired to crave change. We are programmed, like flowers tilting toward the sun, to bend toward transformation, toward personal development. At the same time, we are hard-wired to fear change. Seriously? Yes. At the same time we yearn for that new figure, new career, a new skill like playing the piano, we resist change.
Your inner saboteur will try to soothe you. It will whisper in your ear: everything is fine the way it is. You don’t need that degree anyway. Your mother likes you the way you are.
Your inner saboteur is a smart cookie. It always sounds reasonable, so like the smart voice in your head. The trouble is, if you take the advice of the part of you that will always opt to play small, your world will remain equally small. If that’s what you want, perfect! Don’t change a thing. Do not pass GO and collect your prize.
But if what you desire, what you crave on a cellular level is to be more of who you really are, you must learn to befriend change. Change is tricky. Change can be messy. It means letting go of what you know. But if you persist, if you step into the discomfort of something new, you will conquer your fear. If you keep jumping in that water and swimming beyond the crashing waves of doubt, paddling past the rip current of insecurity, you will enter the center of your power and you will change.
Change, like happiness, is a choice. There is a saying from a gritty old movie, where the tough guy says to the would-be hero, “We can do this easy, or we can do this rough.” Even a villain knows there is always choice, and either way is okay.
Sometimes, when you’re ready, shift happens in the blink of an eye and nothing is ever the same again. You get to choose. Happiness always comes down to choice.