A Guide to Achieving Work-Life Balance
“Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?”
― Carl R. Rogers
any of us rush all the time in an effort to manage our responsibilities at work and at home. We speed up while wishing we could slow down; we seek control when what we really want is freedom. For most people, achieving a satisfying balance between our personal and professional lives remains out of reach.
We tend to believe that if we could only achieve full control over every part of our lives—if we only had more time—all of our problems with work life balance would be solved. In fact, over-control can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction. We rush all day at work, then hurry home. We arrive breathless, feeling neither confident nor in control. Our urgency actually increases our out-of-control feelings, and we blame ourselves for not managing better. This brings us back to the first belief—closing the negative loop in our thinking.
What is the State of Balance in Your Life?
A client once asked me, “Why can’t we be like other families and do things on the weekend? We are so tired that we just want to stay in bed, wake up late, and do what we feel like. But then the end of the weekend comes and we feel we missed out on an adventure or fun ski trip with the kids.”
Can you relate?
- Feeling like your life is happening TO you
- Rushing and reacting with a sense of urgency
- Experiencing frustration and scattered thinking
- Not sleeping well, feeling irritable and having chronic physical complaints
- Working far to many hours with little or no time for family or fun with friends
- Over-thinking most decisions
- Being governed by circumstances or by others’ expectations
- Overreacting to what other people say or do
Consequences of Being Out of Balance
You already know intuitively that being out of balance does not feel good, but did you know that it can lead to very unpleasant consequences over the long run? Here are a few:
- Anxiety/depression, heart disease
- Financial difficulties
- Weakened personal relationships
- Missing pivotal moments in our children’s lives
- Losing your sense of control
- Loss of enjoyment; preoccupation with busyness
- Missing out on what makes life meaningful
The good news is, you can improve your experience by finding the right balance between the demands of life and what really matters to you.
Time vs. Values
It may seem counterintuitive, but achieving work-life balance is not about time; it’s about values. Making choices that align with what matters to you leads to increased energy and a sense of purpose. When you prioritize your values and set clear boundaries around them, you can be confident that you are living with integrity. That is a win-win situation.
Live in sync with your values:
To coach yourself through this process, you can follow these guidelines.
1 Identify Your Values
You could look at a long list of values and choose a few—but I have not found this to be helpful. Instead, I would invite you to defer to your feelings and past experiences. Values live in our bodies, memories, and senses, and cannot be identified by logical thinking alone.
What have been your peak experiences?
What were you doing when they occurred? What were your feelings? What did you value about that experience?
What have been your low experiences?
What was the event? What were you feeling? What need was not being met?
Choose 3 or 4 top values from your list. This may be hard to do, as there are likely many values that feel equally important to you. You could ask yourself, “Which of these would be most fulfilling if I used them as my primary way of being? Which would support me best on the inside? Which would be absolutely necessary for my fulfillment? Which would be my must-have value?”
You might also notice that several fall into one category. Could they be summarized as one value? For example, if eating well, exercising, and meditating are your values, could they be expressed as “wellness”?
Some related values, like fairness, openness and integrity, might be more abstract. Your core value could be integrity, with fairness and openness in parentheses.
3 Set an Intention
If you set an intention to live by your values, you will have more energy because your actions will make sense and come with a feeling of reward; this will motivate you to continue with changes to your behaviour and habits. Intentions are powerful magnets for attracting what we most want, because an intention is more than a goal: it is a clear determination to bring about change.
4 Bring Your Values To Life
Create Inner Calm
Cultivating a calm mind is like raking the soil in a spring garden: it sets the foundation for all other growth. Like garden soil bringing seeds to life, inner calm is the medium out of which your intuition will emerge. It bridges the gap between conscious and unconscious knowing, giving you access to both logic and gut feelings. These are the two key ingredients to good decision making.
Act with Conscious Awareness
Just before making a decision, take a deep breath. At that slower pace, ask yourself if the choice you are about to make is really coming from you, or from someone else. Is it coming out of fear-based thinking? Will it lead you to increased well-being and a sense of purpose?
Being consciously aware is the skill of paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It is not one we readily perfect in our western culture, where everything moves quickly and success is constantly evaluated. Cultivating this skill allows us to make choices that line up with what is best for us. We need to learn how to be non-judgmental observers of our own lives. Mindfulness meditation is an excellent practice for developing this skill. (link)
You are allowed to set your own boundaries! In fact, setting limits is a sign of good health. Boundaries are the way we meet our own needs and protect our values. Have you ever noticed that when you allow your boundaries to be crossed, you feel disempowered? Perhaps even off-center? “Going along with it” can seem like a good idea at the time, but you have probably noticed that it usually feels worse in the long run. In contrast, when you set boundaries, you experience more confidence, vitality, and inner strength.
5 Recognize When You are Not Aligned With Your Intention
Take your foot off the gas regularly and ask:
“Am I stressed?” This may be a sign that you need to make a different choice.
“Who or what is driving my choices today?” Notice the feelings that come up.
“What is it costing me to do this?” Choose what gives you energy.
“Am I settling for less?” Always go for what inspires you.
“Am I too focused on the details of my life?” Look at the big picture and remember your values.
6 Accept That There Is No Perfect Balance Point
Life is a process of continually choosing, reflecting, evaluating and re-evaluating the everyday details of our lives. Take the pressure off! Know that as life ebbs and flows, so will you. There will be moments where everything feels just right, and moments when you notice things moving in the wrong direction. Setting a course correction IS the work of a balanced life. Celebrate your process and commitment to living your life fully.
Identifying your values can be a complex process. Living consistently with them is even harder. Talking to someone objective can make this process more clear, deep and lasting.
I invite you to dip your toe into this experience with a FREE coaching session. It will be my gift to you.
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.”
- Stephen R Covey