Work-life balance is possible…if you change your approach

Many people struggle with the notion of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Ambitious, driven and committed people want to be successful in all aspects of their life, not just their professional career. They want to have it all. They want to have a great marriage, nurturing family life, fantastic health and fitness and a satisfying social life. And, they want to have or achieve all these desires simultaneously.

There is a notion that the Europeans have more of a “Work in order to Live” mindset while in North America, we tend to “Live in order to Work.” I think this is somewhat true. However, I have also seen from my own experience working with people from many countries and cultures that no matter what people say in public, most people who are healthy and ambitious tend to approach work as the highest life priority. Even in Europe.

This is the case because people tend to relate to their life desires and commitments as priorities, not promises.

The premise for “priorities” is fundamentally different from “promises”:

Seeing as we only have a finite number of hours in the day and scarce resources, we often feel as though we cannot accomplish everything we want. The “priorities” approach says, “We are not going to be able to achieve everything we want, therefore let’s put all our desires in order of importance so we can tackle them in that order. If we had 15 items in our priority list and only got to 6 of them – that is fine. After all, that is why we prioritized them in the first place.”

This paradigm reinforces the expectation that we won’t be able to achieve everything we desire or consider important.

In contrast, the “promises” approach says, “We are not going to be able to achieve everything we want, therefore, let’s pick the few things that are most important for us and promise them unconditionally.”

In the world of promising – a promise is a promise. In other words, if you promise multiple promises, each is equal in weight. You are holding yourself accountable for fulfilling each promise, without hierarchy of importance among them.

The “promises” paradigm compels and even requires you to be more innovative and resourceful about how you juggle and achieve all your promised areas. It also drives you to get support from people around you, delegate things to others, and overall build a network and structure of support in your community.

In the world of “priorities,” people often excuse or justify not achieving some of their desired areas and commitments because of other areas. For example, I often hear people say things like: “I just didn’t get to it,” “I didn’t have enough time or money to do it,” or “it wasn’t a high enough priority at the time.”

However, in the world of “promises,” people remain accountable and responsible for following through–no matter what the circumstances are.

I meet too many frustrated people who are out of shape or overweight who tell me, “I have been so busy with my job I didn’t have time to exercise.

I meet too many unhappy people who have issues in their relationship or marriage who tell me, “I lost my marriage because I was a workaholic.”

I meet too many unfulfilled people who have abandoned their passions and hobbies who tell me, “I stopped playing my instrument or playing tennis because I had too much going on in my life.”

If you relate to all your key life desires and commitments as clear equal promises, you will start dealing with them differently.

For example, you could promise:

  • I promise to have an amazing marriage.
  • I promise to be a parent who is highly present and involved in my children’s lives.
  • I promise to have a very successful career.
  • I promise to be healthy, vital and fit.
  • I promise to be a contributing member to my church, synagogue or community.
  • I promise to have an active and satisfying social life.

Relating to your life desires and commitments as priorities is an easier way to live because you always have a way out, an excuse or something else to blame for not living up to your desires and having it all.

In contrast, relating to your life desires and commitments as promises may seem harder at first, but if you fully take it on it will afford you a much more inspiring, nurturing and satisfying life.


Just do it

There is something to be said about “just doing it.” I sometime refer to it as “Fake it till you make.” Alternatively, in plain English this means: “Doing what you said, even when you don’t feel like it.” Sometime it feels like: “Doing what you don’t like doing in order to achieve what you do want to achieve.”

It seems a simple enough concept. However, so many people struggle with this personally and/or professionally.

One of the biggest reasons why people don’t achieve what they want is lack of sufficient action. Most people fail to achieve their dreams and aspirations because they don’t make the effort, they don’t take the action or they don’t stay the course with their actions. They give up too quickly.

I have heard different statistics about this, however it is said that it took Thomas Edison around 5,000 to 10,000 trials before he invented the light bulb. If it were up to most of us, we would still be in the dark ages.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t take action is because of the numerous stories, explanations, justifications and excuses we fall prey to when it is time to take actions.

As I have written in previous blogs, our mind – or: our inner voice – tends to go out of its way to subtly and smoothly get us out of any vulnerable or uncomfortable situation. And, as we know, most things that are worth doing or accomplishing require at least some degree of vulnerability and comfort.

Have any of the following things ever happen to you?

  1. You are sitting in a meeting and you know that some important detail is being avoided in the dialogue because of internal politics. You want to say something to put things straight, but your inner voice says to you, “Don’t do it! It’s risky! You are doing so well, why do you need the trouble? Let someone else be the sucker!” You sit there and don’t say a word.
  2. You are trying to lose weight and as part of your program you have committed to getting up early three times a week to exercise before you go to work. Your alarm clock wakes you up at 5:30am, you feel groggy and your inner voice says to you, “Getting up this early is crazy. You barely slept enough. It’s unhealthy. It’s much more effective to exercise in the evening or midday than this early in the morning…” You turn to the other side and fall back to sleep.
  3. You are trying to lose weight and as part of your program you have committed to stay off all sweet things and desserts, which you really love. You have kept your discipline for two weeks now, but it is not easy for you to avoid the temptations. In fact, you’ve lost more weight than you had planned this far. You come home late in the evening after another long day. You are tired, cranky and hungry from eating lettuce all week. You open the fridge and you see a slice of your favorite cake that someone didn’t finish. Your inner voice says to you, “You have been so good this week, plus you are doing so well in your diet. There is no harm in eating just one piece. It won’t ruin your diet. You deserve it!” You take the cake and eat it up.

There is a reality out there and then there are all our internal conversations about that reality. Our internal chatter is usually geared around why we shouldn’t or can’t do or have things. Unfortunately, you cannot stop the internal conversations. They are a built-in feature of being human.

However, if you understand this internal human mechanism, you have the option of bypassing it. What that means in reality is “just do what you say, regardless of how you feel about it or what your inner voice is telling you.”

It’s easier said than done. However, if you can overcome this, you will have a big advantage and power in achieving your objectives and dreams.

The good new is that the more you just do it, the easier it will become to repeat this behavior, because your inner voice will have less control over your actions.

How to start a great blog

I have had my blog now for around four years. As I have expressed before, I love writing and I love my blog.

Taking on the practice and discipline of writing on a frequent and regular basis has inspired and forced me, in the best way, to look inward in order to bring forth, articulate and share new leadership ideas and insights that would be relevant and useful to others. My blog has become my catalyst for new thinking and a key platform for expressing my Self, adding value and making the difference I want to make. It has also deepened my self-confidence and sense of who I am and my purpose.

Over the last few years, as social media has become more prevalent, I have had an increasing number of people ask me for my advice and tips on how to start a blog.

To be clear, I am not an expert in blog writing or social media. In fact, I am using a great professional social media group that is guiding and coaching me on how to take my content to the next level and engage with my audience.

However, because I am passionate about writing and blogging, and because I feel I have learned some great lessons over the last few years in blog writing, I want to share this with you and dedicate this post to the topic of: how to start and maintain a great blog.

Here are a few simple tips:

1- Make sure your blog has a clear purpose, direction and scope. The more focused your blog is, the more effective it will be – for you as the writer and for your readers. The purpose of your blog should be narrow enough so that you and your readers understand what is in-scope and what isn’t. However, at the same time it should also be wide enough to allow for different shades and subtopics inside your main purpose and scope.

To get clear on your purpose, direction and scope of your blog you can ask yourself the following types of questions: What will my blog be about? What will I write about? In what area do I have something unique to say? In what area do I want to make a difference and have something to say? What can I contribute that others (readers) would resonate with and be interested in?

2- Make sure your blog has a clear name that reflects what it is about. After you get clear on the purpose, direction and scope of your blog you should give it a great name. When naming a blog, make sure that the name effectively reflects your vision for your blog. When people read or hear the name of your blog they should be able to instantly “get it.”

There are no rules, however, my guidance is that names like “Living Life,” “Social Media” or “Wealth” are too wide and include too much. However, names like: “Healthy living,” “Living Courageously,” “Growing your Business with Social Media” “Making a Difference with Social Media,” “Constantly Growing your Wealth” or “Becoming Financially Free” are more effective names. Names that are more verb-oriented are generally more clear, focused and effective than names that are more noun-oriented.

3- Make sure you write on a regular basis. It is more important that you decide the frequency you feel comfortable writing in, and stick to that, than the actual frequency of your writing and posting.

Some people believe that if they start a blog they have to write and post something new every week or even more frequently than that. Obviously, the more frequently you write and post new things, the more dense your output and potential attraction of readers is. However, I don’t believe writing every week or more is a pre-requisite or necessary when you start a blog. I recommend to people to start with writing and posting new things at least once a month.

However, it is more important that whatever you decide, you announce and declare it to your readers and then you stick to it. This way, people start expecting and looking forward to your blogs. You can always increase the frequency of your writing and posting as you get the hang of it. I started with once a month, then I moved to every other week. Now, I write every week. This frequency suits my routine and commitment.

For those of you who feel that you have something to share and give that others around you would resonate with, and find useful, I strongly recommend to take on writing a blog. I hope these few simple tips will be useful to you in your endeavor. Good luck!

Create and achieve more possibilities for yourself

When people believe a goal, ambition or dream is unattainable or unlikely to be achieved, they usually do not invest their time, heart and effort to pursue it. In plain words, they don’t go after it.

For most people this is how the story begins and where it typically ends.

However, so many people have desires, ambitions and dreams that they sincerely want to achieve and have not done so. They may have believed in these dreams in the past or even made attempts to pursue them. But, if they felt challenged or simply didn’t succeed, they gave up their efforts.

I meet so many people who have become resigned about “having it all” in certain areas of their life. People usually have convincing stories and explanations about what is “realistic” and what is not. Overall, they believe they can’t fully have what they want in some or all parts of their life. Even if they don’t convince me, I can tell they have convinced themselves.

“I don’t have enough time,” “I am too busy with work and/or family,” “I don’t have enough money,” “the time is not right,” “it’s tough out there,” “I am not good/experienced in this,” or “I probably don’t want it badly enough.” I think I have heard them all.

Our excuses and explanations are valid and legitimate. But, they disempower us because they promote the notion that we are smaller than our circumstances.

I don’t claim that we can achieve anything and everything that we want in our lifetime… and perhaps that is because of the boundaries of my beliefs. However, I truly believe that most people can achieve and have much more than they believe they can.

If you agree that people only take action when they believe it is feasible the question is “How do we make an idea feasible in our mind?”

I want to share a little technique that could be useful in this regard. Try this by following the few outlined steps. You can do this in conversation with someone or by writing your responses and thoughts in your notebook:

Step 1: Identify and call out an area where you want to achieve, do or have more.

Step 2: Clearly articulate what you want and what you are committed to in this area.

  • In other words, describe the desirable end state of this area. What does it look like when you are truly satisfied and happy?

Step 3: Ask yourself the question: “What COULD I do, or what COULD be done in order to achieve my desired result or to make progress toward it?

  • As you can see that the instrumental word here is COULD.
  • The word “could” implies possibility. It keeps your thinking open and unrestricted from the constraints and obligations of commitment or action.
  • When you think, speculate and explore from the space of “What could be done?” you are much more inclined to think outside your box.

Step 4: Ask yourself the question: “What WILL I do to achieve my desired result or make progress toward it?”

  • Only go to the fourth step after you feel you have done a good job coming up with answers to the third step.
  • You don’t have to commit to anything if you don’t want to. However, if you don’t commit to what could achieve your desired result or make progress toward it at least you can be confident that the issue is not the circumstances.
  • You can always commit later if you are not ready now.
  • Lastly, if you choose to delay action, I strongly recommend you give up complaining or feeling helpless about your circumstances.
  • Ultimately, you must give up being a victim.

Try these steps and see how much possibility you can create.