Work-life balance is a term that I hear used frequently, yet it is as elusive as the word happiness. It means different things for different people and is certainly not a one-size-fits-all deal. There is no formula or recipe for the optimal balance in your life. It takes a little bit of effort to first figure out what balance means to you and then the hard part: making balance happen.
I talk about balance like I talk about mindfulness (a lot). I do this because I truly believe they are both key components to having a fulfilling life. That being said, I fully recognize that they are each somewhat difficult concepts to put into practice. However, we all know that great things are usually worth a decent amount of effort so let's dive into this.
1. What is balanced?
Balance does not mean equal. In no world does a "balanced diet" mean 50% healthy and 50% unhealthy, just as a "balanced relationship" will not always be 50/50. Let's do ourselves a favor and crush this myth before we begin because it will only get in our way.
Now that we have gotten past that, we need to recognize that balance is different for each person. In a work-life balance, in particular, this is important. You might be a person who finds 60 hour work weeks manageable whereas I might find 40 hour work weeks a little too taxing. Both of us can be right and balanced in this scenario.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the book Big Magic and referenced a concept that Elizabeth Gilbert calls the "shit sandwich." She talks about accepting the particular type of shit sandwich that your work creates and embracing that. We must accept that our jobs will not be 100% happiness and fulfillment. There will be a shit sandwich or two to be eaten from time to time.
I will use my sister as an example who works hard as a stay at home mom. Her shit sandwich is being completely exhausted from being with her two sweet girls all day. And yet she accepts this as part of the job, a part that is outweighed by the many positives it brings to her. To come full circle, we must recognize and accept the unsavory parts of our work lives as long as they are surpassed by other positives that our work provides.
In addition to knowing what is balanced for you, know that your work itself might need some variation for you to feel balanced. Perhaps you are a creative type that loves your corporate job but needs an artistic outlet. Maybe you are an animal lover who wants to pet sit or dog walk in addition to your 9-5.
Sometimes it is not even about the money, but the fulfillment of having diversity in how you spend your time. Having multiple income streams may help you achieve the balance you are looking for, both financially and soulfully.
2. Where are the holes?
Each job will leave each person drained in a unique way. It is our responsibility to know when we feel drained so we know how to refill ourselves. I'll use myself as an example. In my work as a therapist, I spend a lot of time listening, talking, feeling, and giving. At the end of the day, I need a little quiet time for myself. I do not define how much is needed by the equal number of hours I spent working, that would be impossible. What I do is take some time for myself to be quiet and recharge, reflecting on my day and how I feel until I feel recharged and refueled.
Since I have developed this as a consistent practice, it does not take long. More importantly than the time is the importance of the act itself. When we develop a practice of knowing where we are potentially drained and checking in with ourselves frequently, we can begin the balancing and recalibration.
Holes, or places that we need to refill, will vary from person to person. It may be movement if you have a desk job where you are sitting all day. It could be socialization if you feel secluded from others most of your week. It could be a completely different activity than your profession if you are passionate about something else. Whatever the outlet, it is important to know what areas feel drained so we can give back to ourselves in a mindful way.
3. Giving yourself what you need
This is the toughest part because it requires the most effort. Follow through is never easy, and yet it is the most important part of change. We cannot just think about the solution and not make the solution happen. We also cannot run a car on empty without filling it up. Eventually it will give out. You work the same way.
Some refilling can happen on a more consistent basis, perhaps daily, whereas sometimes you will need a big recalibration to find your balance. If you need tips on simple self-care practices you can incorporate into your life starting today, check out this self-care e-book now.
Remember not to over do it. Your energy is important and work is only a portion of your life. Finding work-life balance is way more than just finding equality. It is about finding a happy medium for yourself that feels like you are not being pulled too much in one direction or another.
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P.S. CLICK HERE to check out the Authentic Affiliate Academy. Class begins October 3! It will bring balance into your life & business!