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You only have to Google ‘Work Life Balance’ (over 32 million results) to know it’s something we all aspire to yet struggle with.
Reality Check: Work/Life Balance is actually an unattainable myth and the quest to create it is futile!
Think about it. The idea of a ‘balanced’ life is actually flawed. Balance suggests equal amounts of everything you’d love to cram into each day and it’s simply not possible. If we spend 8 hours sleeping, this leaves 16 hours for everything else and do you really want or need to devote equal time to your work, health, family, leisure, daily incidentals and other priorities?
The other flaw in the work/life balance proposition is the inherent assumption that work is ‘bad’ and the rest of life is ‘good’ and we should therefore strive for less work and more of the rest of life. Once you uncouple work from life, it all starts to unravel. If you didn’t work, how would you support the rest of your life? Besides, many people actually enjoy their work which provides challenge, social connection, variety, routine, certainty and financial stability.
An Integrated Life – a realistic and attainable alternative
Rather than striving to achieve balance by enforcing strict boundaries between work and life, it’s much easier to integrate your life and treat it as a whole. Once you’ve mastered the art and skill, all the parts work harmoniously to support rather than compete with each other.
How to live an Integrated Life:
- Decide what's important (our priorities often get lost amidst the 'busyness' of everyday life) and let go of that which isn’t.
- Consciously devote time to what's important - scheduling self-appointments in your diary to get things done; learning to say 'no' without guilt, planning and responding rather than reacting.
- Change your expectations - many of us are notoriously hard on ourselves believing we can and should 'do it all'. Be kind to yourself and take the pressure off. You can have and do it all once you’ve decided what ‘all’ is and what’s possible.
Living an integrated life is vital for your physical and mental wellbeing and once achieved, creates a positive impact on the lives of those you care about. This includes being a great role model for your children, friends and colleagues.
If creating an integrated life seems like a struggle, these 3 steps will help:
1) Check in on what you're telling yourself. For example, if you believe you have to work a 50+ hour week, how do you know that? What evidence is there and who said so? We often fail to challenge work place norms and in doing so hold fast to limiting beliefs such as, I have to be at work before the boss arrives and stay till after he/she has left. Do you know that? Have you asked?
2) Turn statements and beliefs into better questions. Instead of I have to work long hours to be successful, ask yourself If I could be successful by swapping the long hours for working smarter, how would I do that?
3) Learn how to influence others constructively. Creating an integrated life requires compromise and effective negotiation techniques are a powerful skill to master. Positive conversations with your boss (eg about working shorter hours or working from home), partner and children (to help out more around the house) are simple when you know how.
Lifestyle pressures are self-imposed and it’s relatively simple (not to be mistaken with ‘easy’), to change these when you know how. Working with a qualified and experienced professional coach is an effective way to gain the insights and master the techniques to create an integrated life.
Why is an integrated life so important? You don’t have a ‘work’ and a ‘life’ – you only have one life. Don’t you owe it to yourself and those you care about to make your life work well for you?
Find out more about how to create an integrated life in my book, The Great Life Redesign – change how you work, live how you dream and make it happen today. It will be available from all good bookstores and online in January.
Caroline Cameron is an executive, business, career and lifestyle coach, who presents enlightening new insights into the life many of us are living today. Caroline is the founder of professional and personal development company, Possibility to Reality www.p2r.com.au. Caroline offers a specialist service to help those wanting to successfully escape the rat race (www.seachangesuccess.com.au) and is ANZI Coaching’s ‘Coach of the Year’ for 2011. Connect with Caroline via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and her blog.