Tag Archive for: work

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.


Bring your full self-expression to work

In one of my earlier blogs I shared about the story of a client friend who described his work as his “8 hour inconvenience.”

Almost every week as I work with teams of all levels around the globe, I encounter a similar team dynamic: people being hesitant to express themselves boldly and passionately, especially when dealing with the sensitive issues, challenges and topics that frustrate them and stifle their productivity and effectiveness.

In fact, in most teams, bold and courageous communication is often replaced by resignation, fear and a victim mentality.  It’s not that people are cowards. It’s that in organizational settings, even courageous people tend to play a more safe and politically correct game.

I understand the root cause of this dynamic. Pretty much everyone I talk to in organizations has seen others attempt to drive change only to be blocked by people in position of authority who didn’t like the ideas. In many cases, people have personally experienced this dynamic themselves.

Most people would acknowledge that there are two basic reasons that hold them back from speaking up in meetings. They are either afraid to rock the boat and/or get into trouble, or they feel resigned about their ability to change the outcome and direction.

But, if people spend such a big portion of their life at work, how can they transform this disempowering existence? Most people spend more than 8 hours a day at work. For many, 12 hours a day is the standard.

Why can’t our work be our “12 hour bliss?” or “12 hour self expression?”

I think it can and it should!

There are a few simple things you can do right away to ensure you have bliss at work:

First, make sure you have a challenge or project at work that you genuinely love. People always rise to the occasion and express themselves with passion and enthusiasm when they are working toward a future they love, or when they are a part of a team and game that they feel committed to, and passionate about. In fact, if the game you love playing requires self-expression, passion and courage, you will be hard pressed to not rise to the occasion and passionately apply yourself.

Unfortunately, Corporate America is filled with good managers and employees who have been uninspired by what they do for so long they have stopped expecting to have bliss at work. Because they are so proficient in their jobs, they can perform them sufficiently without bringing their A game to work. They can do an acceptable job on “autopilot.”

Here is a potential self-assessment checklist you could use for working on loving your job:

  1. I believe in the purpose, end goal and activities of my job or project.
  2. I have a deep, respectful and trusting relationship with my boss, all my team members, and all my customers.
  3. I feel I can bring up and address any/all important issues and topics.
  4. I see how my direct work is impacting the bigger organizational success.
  5. I feel I have a powerful platform to make a significant difference.
  6. I feel my hard work and commitment are known, valued and recognized.
  7. I feel excited to return to work on Monday after the weekend.

Rate each item from 0 (low) to 5 (high) and then find your average. If you score 0-1 it probably means “you don’t love your job”. If you score 2-3 it probably means “you own your job” and if your score 4-5 it probably means “you love your job”.

If you don’t love what you do and you can’t get there, make sure you can at least genuinely accept, own or choose it. Your work can be nurturing even if you don’t love it. But, you have to at least make the explicit mental choice to choose and own it.

If you can’t even do that, you should leave your job. It is painful to come to work every day to do a job you don’t love or own. If you don’t make a change, you are bound to eventually become apathetic, resigned or cynical.

The only reason people stay in a job they don’t love is because they don’t believe in or trust their ability to find and/or create a greater job they do love. So, by taking action to find your dream job, you are in essence taking a stand about your greatness and your ability to create a blissful life.

I have seen many people muster up courage and change jobs, companies and even careers in order to find self-expression and bliss. Many of them had fears and anxiety about making the move. But, in all cases, people found a job they loved or at least genuinely owned. And, their action also made a significant difference in their experience of themselves.