We hear a lot about the concept of “work-life balance” – a phenomena born out of “American” culture that demands more and more of our time being spent on our careers, jobs, and business in order to succeed.
Unlike other industrialized countries, where work days are shorter –with more vacation and time off, and even paid “year-long” maternity leave — the vast majority of Americans are working longer hours, sacrificing more of their personal time.
Americans are finding it harder and harder to “balance” between the responsibilities of their job and the responsibilities of their personal life, in an ever more demanding and competitive corporate world. This becomes especially hard when raising small children.
This issue is not limited to the employed but also applies to the self-employed. As a self-employed business owner for almost 20 years, it did not take me long to realize that working for myself did not always come with the “freedom” I had envisioned in being my own boss. And many times there were even more demands and blurred lines between when work ended and personal life began.
Work-Life Balance – It’s an Inside Job
Regardless of the type of work that you do, who you work for, or if you are running your own business, in my opinion the most important place to start the work-life balance is internally, with your perspective, your mindset and how you relate to yourself and your experiences.
Here are some of the most useful things I have done that have literally changed my life without ever changing my schedule or my responsibilities, which has not always been possible.
Expect the Unexpected
Plan for things to not go as planned. When we become rigid and create expectations in our minds that things will go smoothly and never deviate from what we have planned, we are doing nothing less than setting ourselves up for inevitable disappointment.
How many times in your life have you had an idea about the way things were supposed to go, and the universe had something else in mind? Being committed to what you want is definitely a strength, and at the same time flexibility and adaptability is one of the most critical parts of that commitment, which will support you in navigating the unexpected that will frequently come up.
There is always a solution or a compromise that can be made, but not when you are stuck in the disappointment that the situation ever even happened.
Feeling Guilt is a Waste of Time
There is nothing more time consuming and wasteful than spending time on thoughts about what I should have done, would have done, could have done, or regret for what I am not doing now.
This is our minds way of distracting us from the present moment – by focusing on the past or worrying about the future. This is especially common for parents since we understandably worry about how our actions, inactions, or the time we are spending with our children may be affecting them.
When you are able to stay present in the moment and choose from a clean slate, we are free of this wasted energy. All we have is now, and that is really all our kids want from us…to be with them now!
Create a Vision for Yourself
Planning is great and necessary, especially with a busy life. Schedules and routines make life easier and less chaotic, but there is a big difference between a plan and a vision, and most people do not ever make that distinction.
The plan will outline all the things you need to “do,” while a vision will give you a roadmap for how you want to “live” and who you want to “be.”
Your plan may include practical things like eating healthy, exercising, and spending more time with your kids – but your vision would include the less tangible things like more joy, gratitude, and love in your life.
These things actually don’t take up more time, but they take more awareness. When you are aware that you are holding a vision for joy, gratitude, and love in your life, they will show up, in times and places you may not expect. Your life will be impacted in the most meaningful ways even if you never get one more “free” hour.
A life that satisfies all of your needs and responsibilities is possible and will be an ever-changing work in progress, but any “balance” that we create – whether it is work, health, parenting, or relationships – will always need to start from the inside.