Like the magical unicorn, our elusive Pacific Northwest Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster, work life balance seems to be mythical and elusive thing that few if any will admit to experiencing. Why is it that despite our better judgment, many (myself included) continue struggling to arrive at that fictitious spot in time where everything is getting done well, with a sense of ease that allows us to enjoy the ride.
I’ve been coaching professionals for over a decade and in all the stories I’ve collected, I’ve yet to find one person who feels like they have it all together and is living a perfectly balanced existence. If anything the quest for work life balance is the common thread that creates a shared experience connecting us all.
According to the US Bureau of Labor and Industry, adults between the ages of 25-54 with children spend 36% of each day working. We’ve created a condition I call Work Centered Life.
When I left my job in corporate America last October I was asked by many why I was leaving. I tried to explain that I felt a calling to shift the balance of time spent to align with the values and aspirations I had for my life. I shared the visual of a divided plate used to serve meals to children.
Most of my adult life had been one heaping scoop of work, overflowing into the sections of relationships, community and personal care. What I was craving was a different diet all together. I’ll take combo #2: a little bit of everything with the ability to adjust the balance every day given the commitments, needs, priorities and feelings I was experiencing.
My personal definition for work life balance has changed and I firmly believe that true work life balance does not exsist. It is not a steady state or a place that you even CAN arrive at. The term implies that it is work vs. life. That somehow one or the other has to win. My goal is to strike this phrase and the aspiration behind it from our collective vocabulary and way of being.
Work life blend is not work vs. life, it is the knowing and appreciation for work as a piece of your life. One that you can choose to approach in a different way to make your life more integrated and perhaps even a little sweeter.
Work is a piece of life. I like to think if it this way; life is the container and work is just one of the elements that fill it. We must be mindful not to let work be THE element that fills the container so full that other elements are squeezed.
I am working hard to replace Work Life Balance with a new alternative: WORK LIFE BLEND
If you like the term Work Life Blend and want to put it into action to live a more integrated life I've given you a few practices in place:
Change your thoughts about work
Work is not the enemy, but the importane we place on it might be worth examining. Why not grab a pen and paper or your journal define what work is to you and what role work plays in your life? Is it filling your plate so full that there is no room for the other elements? Do you feel good with where you are today? Do you need a change? What is the center of your life? Do you have Work Centered Life? A People Centered Life? Could you blend better?
Release the need to feel like all is evenly balanced .Don’t measure as often if you feel that looking at each day isn’t serving you. Try a new metric for success, personally I use a two column check in each day called get ‘er done and have some fun .For me if I moved something forward and infused a little joy in my day I count it as a well-blended day.
Mix it up
Can I add some living into my work, meaning can I show up authentically and share my whole self? Can I integrate things I love with my work? To shift your mix try to: Take a break and step outside, set a breathe reminder on your phone (pause and take three deep breathes), share something you are passionate about at work or find a way to bring that to work with you.
Find your Flow
I use an assessment with clients I’ve named the flow meter. With the flow meter we assess how energy is moving in four quadrants in our lives: Work, Relationships, Community, and Self. Take a minute to check in on how you are feeling in these different areas of your life. If one feels in need of attention either from too much energy or too little perhaps a change is called for. What can you do to increase the flow to an area that might be stagnate? Depleted? Overflowing?
My wish for all of us a better blend and integration of work and life. Not an either-or, win-lose. Work is gift and opportunity for us to contribute, connect and cultivate resources that act as fuel for other areas of our lives. Let’s appreciate work for what is and get out there and do work vs. work doing us!