These days, it seems that everyone’s jumping on the “work-life balance" bandwagon. Corporations wanting to appear concerned about their employees hire business coaches to run work-life balance “lunch-and-learn" seminars (and proudly announce the fact on their websites). Stress-management consultants talk about the need to find a balance between professional and personal life. Amazon.com just informed me of over 50 titles, in several different languages, for a subject search on “work-life balance. " Google's response was over eight million page hits, starting with a lineup of seminars and workshops, self-assessments and quizzes, and even a membership organization devoted to the subject!
As a professional coach, of course I am concerned with how my clients integrate their lives. However – and this sounds somewhat contradictory – while I am firmly convinced that there is such a thing as work-life imbalance, I'm not so sure that there's something that can specifically be pointed to on the flip side of the coin: “There. There it is. That's work-life balance. "
For one thing, “balance" is a very personal concept. Everyone has a different viewpoint on what it takes to feel that life is in balance. It's usually not so much a question of working fewer hours, for instance, as it is how productive you feel when you are working. While it seems likely that increased productivity would equate to fewer hours (though that could be a shaky assumption to make!), what's really important in this case is the sense of gratification resulting from getting more done.
When we feel that undeniably painful sense of being out of balance, are we truly responding to a feeling of being on the low end of life's see-saw, or are we responding to the fact that something else has gone awry? My experience, and that of my fellow coaches, leads me to believe that there's usually something else going on. Imbalance issues actually range from frustrations around productivity to far more serious concerns of whether our choices are supported by our personal (rather than corporate) values and ethics.
Ask yourself these questions about your sense of discomfort:
- Do you know – really know – what your personal values are? It's difficult to make choices and decisions in alignment with unclear values! Axe murderers aside, everyone lives according to certain standards and values. Nonetheless, it's my experience that most people are a little surprised – and often very pleased and proud – when they use a values-identification exercise to identify what truly speaks to them. And it's much easier to find your balance point if you understand what you're staying in balance with!
- Can you specify a particular trigger for your frustration? Is there one key or primary thing – a recurring event, for instance – that makes you feel particularly off-kilter? You will undoubtedly have multiple triggers; the goal is to identify the most irritating one first.
- Can you give yourself permission to spend at least five minutes each morning considering your day and thinking about how you will retain your sense of balance as events progress? Ideally, this should be a time of quiet and reflection, perhaps with your calendar at hand to review upcoming meetings and deadlines. If that simply won't work for you, then take your think-time while you brush your teeth!
Do you have answers to these questions? If you're familiar with that out-of-balance feeling, then I challenge you to take some time – steal it from another activity if necessary! – to think and write about the thoughts that come to mind when you consider these three points.
"I believe that uncertainty is really my spirit's way of whispering, “I'm in flux. I can't decide for you. Something is off-balance here. " Oprah Winfrey, American celebrity and philanthropist, 1954 - .
(c)Grace L. Judson
About the Author
Grace Judson is the founder and driving force behind Svaha Concepts. She coaches people who are ready to play - and WIN - the game of living life on their own terms.
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