A Happy, Successful Work Life Balance Starts With You
“All happiness depends on courage and work.”
― Honoré de Balzac (Tweet This)
Let’s jump right in.
There is no such thing as work life balance. There is only life.
This is going to get me into a lot of trouble.
A lot of time, energy, and money is spent on teaching, learning, and running after the chimera of work life balance. It has led us to believe that if we achieve this, then our lives will be perfect — fulfilling us and running smoothly.
Now I am going to get into even more trouble.
This will never happen all at once. It will only be for short periods of time, and this is a good thing!
I am not a pessimist — quite the opposite. Now I will tell you why I have made these bold statements. I would like to start with a story.
Olive Oil and a Life Lesson
When I was much younger and living in Florence, Italy, I once hosted Maria, a woman from Madrid that I did not know. She had come with her daughter to visit Elizabeth, her daughter’s friend and one of my co-workers.
Because Elizabeth’s apartment was small and I lived in a beautiful villa in downtown Florence (a story for another day), she asked me to host Maria.
While this lovely woman stayed at my home, she told me about her life, where she had worked, and how this was the first time she had traveled. It was not only her first time outside of Spain, but outside of Madrid as well. She did some sightseeing, but she also took the time to teach me how to make a potato tortilla (one of my daughter’s favorite dishes to this day) and delicious, traditional paella.
One evening, while we were preparing dinner, I dropped a bottle of olive oil that exploded all over my linen skirt. I was aghast, and I had no idea of how to get rid of the giant stain.
With the calm born of experience, she asked for the skirt and then proceeded to clean it until there was no sign of a stain. (Please do not ask me how she did that because I have completely forgotten.) She then hung it out to dry and ironed it, all in time for dinner.
When I apologized about how much time she had dedicated to this skirt over her vacation, she looked at me and said,
“There is no such thing as a vacation. There is only life.”
This struck me at the time. Recently, the wisdom of this teaching has come back to me again and again when coaching others and working on my own life.
By saying that there is no such thing as work life balance, what I really mean is that it does not exist in the way we perceive it.
The Ups & Downs of “Off” and “On”
Some people are “on” when they get to work. They identify so much with their job that they have difficulties with their sense of self outside the workplace if they lose a job or retire.
By seeing our jobs as something separate or distinct from our lives, whether as employees or entrepreneurs, we can be tricked into believing that our “life” is hung up on a peg in the cloakroom when we get to work. We pick it up again to “start living” only when we have left the office.
To merely punch in and punch out turns us away from the many opportunities in the workplace for personal growth and true connection.
Every business, no matter how small, is a “society.” Where there is a society, there is the possibility to make a difference.
We can be of service by practicing generosity, patience, and kindness. We can encourage and support others, be creative, and express our values even if they are not part of the “job description.”
The connections we build with others and how we grow as individuals ourselves are what changes our perceptions of time spent in a workplace. It is not the tasks we perform that will alter these ideals.
As coaches, helping our clients see the opportunities for personal growth in the workplace — even in the same job — is fundamental to their happiness and success.
By facilitating a profound transformation in our clients, incredible changes occur in their outlook of life, in how they perceive themselves, and in their present situations. At the very least, they will understand why they are in a specific job, what purpose it serves on their path of individual growth, and whether it is still of service to them.
I have more great news!
No matter how hard you work at “juggling” your life, you can reach work life balance temporarily. But, it cannot be maintained!
This may be in contrast with what most people say, but I stand by my statement with conviction. Those of you who have a family, a job, hobbies, pets, housework, and a million other things which vie for your attention will get what I mean. Those moments of feeling that things have gone well, that you have dedicated the “right” amount of time and energy to the people and tasks most important to you are just that — moments.
Some days are great, and then … a bunch of days are a mess.
Because things are always changing, each day must be different than the one before and the one after!
“Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
With the certainty that all things will change comes the knowledge and freedom that, because of this, everything is possible.
We can change how we feel about various aspects of our lives or about other people. Opportunities that we could not imagine existing can pop up before us. Love, where there was none, may arise like a wellspring.
The trick is to let ourselves flow. We need to be open to what each day will bring rather than try to hold onto something, pin it down, classify, and codify your time and experiences.
You are not the person you were yesterday; you are not even the same person who started reading this article. Why would something you decided days, weeks, months, or even years ago, define you or hold you back now?
This does not mean we should not have goals. But, it does mean we should learn to flow with the ebb and tide of obstacles and opportunities without focusing only on brilliant successes or spectacular failures.
So, how do we apply all this to ourselves as coaches and to our clients?
I will never get tired of quoting Rich Litvin, who says, “You can only take your clients as deep as you have gone yourself.” So first of all, it is up to you to taste, feel, and experience what this means to be able to share it with your clients.
There is only life, and because all things are impermanent, all things are possible.
How freeing! It gives us the ability to let go of what is no longer of service to us and our highest purpose and good. We can start looking at our life as a whole, and allow ourselves to be, not only to do.
J.O.B. or the Joy of Being
I cannot find the name of the person who first coined this acronym (please reach out — I would love to tag you), but it sums up the way things should be.
Isn’t this what we desire most for our clients?
Never forget: to know how to lead our clients on this path of self-realization, we need to be on the path ourselves.
We lead by example.
Educators say that children learn by example, but this never stops throughout our lifetime. We all learn from people who know more than we do, from people we look up to.
With our clients it should be no different.
We should lead by example. Our lives do not have to be perfect, nor do our clients need to copy us or our lifestyle. Yet, we do need to show them the honesty, beauty, and freedom of living according to our values and purpose.
We should lead by dreaming big and then by dreaming even bigger.
We should lead by being vulnerable, by willing to look deeply into ourselves.
We should lead by coaching fearlessly.
We should lead by living fearlessly.
This does not mean we don’t have weaknesses or that we never make mistakes. It means that we give ourselves over to the experience of life.
It means that we are connected to our highest self. We are able to distinguish between inconvenient obstacles thoughtful challenges.
It means that we know how to let go, to trust ourselves and our intuition.
It means we live with integrity and open hearts.
Only by knowing the flavor of these experiences will we be able to guide our clients. Discover your J.O.B. so that you may share it with others.