I think I have spent most of my life trying to achieve this elusive thing we call ‘work/life balance’. Why? Because apparently, it’s the healthier option, the one that’s better for my mental health, better for my families happiness, better for my own emotional wellbeing. And yet, over the years I am consistently baffled by how to achieve it, trying different things and finding myself asking ‘have I got the balance right yet?’ Always falling short of my own and perhaps the perceived expectations of others in reaching this ‘happy place’.
Apart from generally having a tendency to dislike overused quotes, I realised recently (like a smack in my face kind of realisation) that the very statement ‘work/life balance’ implies a separation between ‘work’ and ‘life’, asks us to treat them as two separate things and then somehow create a balance between them.
Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the concept, that is not lost on me but I believe that life INCLUDES work, it’s simply one aspect of a much bigger puzzle. So attempting to achieve balance here is futile.
I recall that through my own working career there have been many life events that remained separate from my day to day work life – a divorce, family separation, personal trauma and more recently spiritual and personal development. All of which have remained at all times, personal. Not to be brought into the workplace or seen to be interrupting our ability to do our job.
Over the last few years, I have slowly started to ‘drip-feed’ parts of my spiritual and personal development into my workplace. This can be a pretty brave and sometimes uncomfortable thing to do particularly when you start talking about weird things like ‘meditation’ and ‘Reiki’ and ‘women’s circles’. What I discovered however was that giving myself permission to bring this aspect in gave other people permission to do the same. My immediate teams became more open, more vulnerable, more compassionate and understanding of others, and more willing to talk about what was going on in their life.
This was a HUGE lesson for me because until I did that I truly believed that work and life needed to remain separate. And only once I was able to start to integrate the two did I start to feel real balance and real contentment in what I was doing on a day to day basis.
Maybe what we are really trying to achieve here is just ‘life balance’ and until we create work environments that support and allow individuals to bring all of themselves AND all aspects of their life, then work will always be separate and balance will never really be achieved in either work OR life.