By Tamara McCleary, Creator of RelationSHIFT
Most people are attracted to the idea of “Life Balance” because our modern lives can seem out of control and a human sacrifice upon the altar of busy. We want to feel we are living our best life, but for many of us, we have a sense we aren’t, and to our skeptical sensibilities, this “best life” feels to be an illusion.
Work-Life Balance does not exist because we simply cannot split our life into two compartments; Work and Life. We are whole beings and as whole beings our work is also our life and our life is also our work. It’s a package deal. Parents in particular will understand precisely what I mean by personal life being work too. It’s a whole, not a part. Our experience in a 24 hour period is our experience…this is our life. We can’t say, “I will spend 50% of my time on work and 50% with my family.” Life does not exist on a giant scale where we weigh out what we did with our day and then feel guilty for the side that seems lighter than the other. We can’t entirely separate out our time like this. It’s impossible. So if we aren’t striving for balance, what are we striving for? Satisfaction.
Research at the University of Tennessee* in 2011 with 491 Executives found Work and Life cannot be separated. A 2013 Accenture survey** of 4,100 Executives globally, found that the desire to blend a successful career with a full life outside of work influences job choice and tops money in defining success. Seventy percent of both women and men polled believe they can have a successful career as well as a full life outside of work and 50% said they realize that they cannot “have it all at the same time.”
Juggling a professional success with a full life outside of work with the belief when one ends, the other begins, is a source of deep pain and suffering because it is not possible. We think about work at-home and we think about home at-work. Technology blends both by delivering opportunities for more flexibility such as work-from-home, while at the same time creating more of a dilemma with how much work we do from home. The Work-Life Balance debate has caused not only internal suffering but marital strife as one partner or both believe work or personal pursuits are unequal on imaginary scales.
So how can we shift our mindset away from the measuring system into a blended whole which feels integrated and healthy? We can look at blending what we do in the world as one, whole, life, versus splitting ourselves into pieces of life experience. Whether what we do in the world is parenting, partnering, or professional pursuits…it’s just one life expressed in a twenty- four hour day. Each day we choose how we express ourselves, and the reality is, every day will not look or feel the same, because life is not static and all manner of things we cannot foresee or plan may show up in our life situation at any given moment.
I offer up my Top 5 Tips on how to achieve better blending, (not balance), to support a richer, fuller, deeper, experience of what I believe we are all looking for. Genuine satisfaction with how we spend our time:
1. Take time to look ten years out from now and imagine what you want to be experiencing in ten years. After spending time in gaining clarity around your vision of where you’d like to be, make a plan of how you intend to get there. Our choices today equal our experience of tomorrow. Having a clear map of where you are headed can free up a lot of wasted time and energy not supporting your vision.
2. Get clear on your values. Write down what is most important to you. After identifying your values, write down your top 3-5 priorities and number them in order of importance. For example: 1-Health/Fitness 2- Spouse 3-Children 4-Career Fulfillment 5-Friends
3. Make decisions based upon your values and priorities. Having these clearly outlined can highlight to you where you may be wasting your time on things that really do not matter to you. Having clarity around what does drive your satisfaction will assist you in making wiser decisions with your time.
4. Manage technology to create the experience you desire. For example, technology creates an opportunity for us to be home more since we can receive and send email, and text from our phones, but at the same time can become intrusive when we bring work non-stop into our personal lives. Set boundaries according to your values and priorities and carve out radio silence times in your day where you are allowed to completely unplug and focus free of distraction on the other qualities you wish to express in your twenty-four hour experience.
5. Manage Guilt. That’s right, move toward become more aware of how your unrealistic expectations of yourself or your partner may be stealing precious energy from you and dampening your experience of life satisfaction. Making decisions from your own values and priorities is the first critical step in managing negative emotions around how you spend your day. If you make decisions from this grounded place, your choices are simply your choices and move solidly in the direction of your decisions. If your guilt is coming from another direction, for example, a partner who may judge your decisions or be in disagreement with how you spend your time, then most likely there is a conflict between your values, and priorities and theirs. Marital dissonance with work-life stems from one partner judging another’s decision and vise versa. This kind of strife will not be resolved until both parties either come to peace with their differences or come together to create a cohesive whole by blending their values and priorities upon common ground. When one partner attempts to accommodate another partner’s view of what they “should” and “should not” do, it always ends up in a deeper sense of dissatisfaction, resentment, and a feeling of ineffectiveness on both a personal and professional level. Each person must feel they make their own decisions in a state of freedom or there will be dissatisfaction. Feelings of oppression are in direct opposition to feelings of deep satisfaction with one’s life expression.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of the incredibly rich subject of Life Satisfaction, to learn more, stay tuned. If there’s one thing we all have in- common, it’s the desire to enjoy this precious, finite, resource we possess called time. Here’s to you and cultivating a richly, satisfying, life experience in the next twenty-four hours and beyond.
*McMillan, Heather S. “Examining the Relationship between Work/Life Conflict and Life Satisfaction in Executives: The Role of Problem-Focused Coping Techniques.” University of Tennessee, 1 May 2011. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.
**”Defining Success: 2013 Global Research Results.” Accenture. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.