What’s all this talk about Work/Life Balance and why is it so important?
I particularly like the metaphor Austin Vickers shares in his book Stepping Up To a Life of Vision, Passion and Authentic Power (2005). He likens balance to a three-legged stool. Vickers refers to the three stool legs as “body, mind and spirit” and notes “all three of these legs of life are necessary to make us stable and balanced.” He cautions that if you are missing one leg of your stool “all of your energy is spent trying to maintain balance and not fall over. You cannot relax. But upon a balanced stool, one can relax, read, work or use it as a tool to do other things.”
The cultures of China and India have recognized the importance of a balanced life for more than 2,000 years. Their theories of health and illness are based on the presence (or not) of balance. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on the belief that dis-ease is caused by energy blockage in the body. In order to stay healthy, it is important to keep energy moving throughout our bodies; for example, by regularly practicing yoga, qigong or tai chi, having therapeutic massages by an experienced practitioner, or receiving balancing from an energy healer.
Data show that balance is important for performance and for creativity. We need space and inner calm to create. If we constantly feel like we’re on a treadmill and unable to get off, it eventually affects our performance as we have difficulty sleeping, are challenged to focus, and we have no time and space to “recharge our batteries”.
Lissa Rankin in her book Mind Over Medicine (2013) cites a number of studies showing that chronic stimulation of the body’s stress response caused by work-related stress can lead to autoimmune disease (such as fibromyalgia), heart disease, cancer, inflammatory disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes and other illnesses. International data also show that overwork leads to early death. The Japanese actually have a name for it – karoshi, or “death by overwork”.
Work/Life Balance is an elusive and personal concept. Elusive, because so many people talk about and strive for it, yet few are able to attain and/or maintain it. Personal, because what work/life balance looks and feels like for you is different from what work/life balance looks and feels like for me.
Imagine what your life would be like if you were able to quiet your busy mind, forget about your “to do” list when “off “ work, have time for family and friends without feeling guilty; and feel good at the end of the day based on what you’d accomplished?
Here are a couple of exercises to help you explore work/life balance.
- When you think about work/life balance what thoughts and feelings come up for you? Take a few moments to jot these down.
Take a few moments to relax. Take several deep breaths and get comfortable. Then think about your personal vision of work/life balance. Answer the following question.
- What does work/life balance look and feel like for you? You may find it helpful to use the stems I see…and I feel…. For example: I see time in my schedule to have lunch with good friends regularly. I see doing yoga classes four times per week and really being present during these classes. I feel inner calm. I feel there is enough time to do what I want to do each day.
I’d love to hear from you and welcome your comments and insights below. Please share with others who you think might benefit.
P.S. My book “Learning to Dance with Life …” includes an entire chapter of proven strategies and powerful practices for creating more balance in your life.