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.