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Work-Life Balance Revealed

“Work-Life Balance.”  This has become a bit of a buzzword, but what does it even mean? And is work-life balance even possible? 

5 Myths about Work-Life Balance

  1. Work-life balance is a static thing. 

It’s a myth that work-life balance is one perfect static thing. The term itself elicits, at least for me, an image of the old school judicial scales in having to find just the right Goldilocks amount of work and life, as if there is some magical state of exact balance that must be achieved. Now this is a dangerous proposition for those of us who are active or recovering perfectionists. because it has a striving for this illusion of balance that doesn’t even exist. 

  1. Another myth about work-life balance is that it only refers to time or how much time we spend working versus doing other things. And we’ll get into that quite a bit later. 
  2. Next, it’s a myth that work and life are totally separate entities that should be kept apart by distinct dividers. This idea that who we are at work and who we are when we’re not at work are two totally separate things just doesn’t have to be. 
  3. The fourth myth about work-life balance is that work and life are inherently in conflict with one another. I cannot tell you how many clients I work with who have this idea that work and everything else are in opposition, or have to be, or are supposed to be in opposition with each other, and they just don’t have to be. 
  4. Finally, the fifth myth about work-life balance is that it’s impossible to create. 

Okay, so if that is what work-life balance isn’t, what is it? 

What is Work-Life Balance?

  1. The first is how you allocate your time. Although frankly, this is the most simplistic view of work-life balance. I’ve been coaching executives and high achievers for nearly a decade, and rarely is the solution to work-life balance as simple as starting your day at 9 and ending it at 5, and not checking your emails on the weekends. That is one possibility, and typically there are reasons for working beyond typical work hours or overworking. Some of them are external, like an organizational culture of overwork. Others of them are internal, like trusting your team to pull their weight, or striving for the impossible goal of perfectionism on a project, or equating your value with the amount of work that you do. So, work-life balance is not only how you allocate your time, but why. 
  2. The second element of work-life balance is how you allocate your energy. For instance, maybe you close your work laptop at 5, but you find yourself distracted and ruminating on work stuff throughout the rest of the evening and notice that you’re not present, really, for yourself or for your family or for whatever else you want to be doing. 
  3. The third element of work-life balance is identity. This is a really nuanced one because a lot of us over the years have come to identify who we are with what we do. And so from there, when we do more of our professional role, it somehow reflects to us or means to us that we are more of ourselves. So it’s a little tricky, especially if you really love what you do. I have a client who loves what she does for work and she’s very, very good at it. And I asked her once about how much percent of your time, your energy is work-related versus everything else, and the everything else consisted of leisure time, time with her partner, doing recreational activities, time with friends, family, a lot of other things, and she said, well, I’m about 90% work, and she wasn’t mad about it. And also, I just want to say that that’s totally fine if you’re actively choosing it and not just doing it because you identify so much of who you are with what you do that you can’t imagine being a person in absence of that work role. And so for folks who are curious if this element of work-life balance applies to you, ask yourself the question in absence of this professional role or of this career, who would you be? What would you do? 
  4. The fourth element of work-life balance is your way of being. What I mean by way of being is how you show up in the world, how you do what you do. True story from one of my favorite clients: she expressed a desire to incorporate more ease into her life as measured by slowing down, being more present with herself and her family, and making choices based on the level of enjoyment that those choices would bring her. And she said, “It is easier for me to get my PhD at Harvard than it is to figure out how to operate with more ease.” And by the way, the PhD at Harvard is a thing that she’s considering. She knows how to work hard. She knows how to commit herself to a project. She knows how to get things done. But what is a totally foreign concept for her, as I imagine it is for so many of you, is ease, is having more ease and spaciousness in life. 

How to Create more Work-Life Balance

  1. First, reflect on what work-life balance means to you. What does it look like and what does it feel like? 
  2. Next, what would that sense of harmony and flow require you to give up? Example, to create work-life balance, you might need to give up relying on your career to define your worth. You might need to give up conditioning your teammates and direct reports to come to you with every single challenge instead of developing their own creativity and aptitude at problem solving. You might need to give up the rush you get from swooping in to save the day because no one else can get things done as well as you can. 
  3. Finally, what would work -life balance require you to invite in or practice? For instance, you might need to practice clearer boundaries with others and with yourself. You might need to invite and trust that good enough work is, in fact, good enough. You might need to practice getting to know who you are if who you are is not only your job. 

And there you have it friends. Work-life balance revealed. 
As a life coach, I’m so curious to hear your thoughts on this conversation. Please feel free to email and let me know. And listen, if you or someone you know could use some support with further defining and most importantly creating harmony and flow of work-life balance, please reach out. That is something I can support you with.

Work-Life Balance Revealed: Listen to the Podcast




Work-Life Balance Revealed

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