by Valerie Jones | Featured Contributor
“Take care of yourself. When you don’t sleep, eat crap, don’t exercise, and are living off adrenaline for too long, your performance suffers. Your decisions suffer. Your company suffers. Love those close to you: Failure in your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationships is.” -Ev Williams, co-founder of Medium and Twitter
Work Life Balance.
It’s a buzzword these days. A mantra. An elusive ideal that we all want to achieve. The nirvana of life, where everything magically falls into place, and we experience the ultimate bliss of having perfect balance in every area. We spend the proper amount of time at work and our business is thriving. We have quality time with our family and friends. We exercise regularly, eat healthy, and meditate daily. Everything is ticking along as it should, and we are happy!
And guess what?
It sounds good though, right? Work Life Balance. We should all want that. It’s the holy grail of modern life. What’s wrong with wanting balance in our lives? Isn’t that what will bring us peace and happiness?
Nope. Here’s why.
It holds up a standard of perfection that is unrealistic. It is a subtle yet powerful message that constantly reminds us that we are not quite measuring up. We haven’t yet gotten it right. Falling short. Failing. Not good enough.
This ideal will keep you in a place of perpetual discontentment and constant frustration. It will drive you to make decisions from a place of ‘not good enough.’ And when you make decisions from that place, it doesn’t line up with your truth, and therefore isn’t going to satisfy you. Rather, it can build resentment, anger, and regret, which will keep you from being present.
Think of it this way. You have been working on a big project and busting your butt to meet a deadline. You know that your workdays are long right now, and you are feeling guilty about it. You see the messy house. Your kids are whining and grumpy because you’re not available. Your husband is whining and grumpy because he’s eating yet another frozen dinner. Your mom calls again, and again you send it to voice mail. You can feel the tension mounting, and every hour you spend at your desk, your guilt increases. The voices in your head are screaming at you:
“What are you doing? You’re neglecting your family. Your children are growing up without you. Your husband is going to leave you, and you are a terrible daughter! What kind of life is this? Slaving away at your desk, day after day? Where’s the balance? You’re a failure!”
So you listen to this voice and set aside the project. You immerse yourself in your family, driving the kids to soccer, making home cooked meals, cleaning the bathrooms. You feel great! The kids are happy, hubby is happy. You had a long lunch with Mom and she’s happy. The house is sparkling. You’re a rock star!
Then you walk by the office and glance at your desk. See the pile of papers you were supposed to have dealt with yesterday. Work is piling up. The project is still waiting, and the deadline is looming. You are flooded with guilt. Anxiety and panic sets in, and a cold sweat breaks out on your forehead. The voices start up again:
“What the hell are you doing? You can’t just ignore the work. It’s piling up, and you won’t ever catch up now! You’re such a slacker. You’re business is going to fail. Oh, but your house will be clean! You are irresponsible and lazy! Get back to work!”
This is the Work Life Balance crazy train. It’s the guilt trip of all guilt trips. It will keep you running in circles, trying to create ‘balance,’ yet always falling short and always failing. You end up stressed out, burnt out, unhappy, feeling like a failure, and every area of your life suffers. You never catch up, never relax, and never feel like you are enough.
It’s time to get off the crazy train!
What’s the truth?
The truth is, life is messy. Life is never fully in balance, because life is not perfect. You are not perfect. And so, sometimes we are out of balance in areas.
And it’s okay.
It’s okay to not have balance.
It’s okay to give more in certain areas of your life at certain times, because that’s what life is all about. Seasons. There are times when one area of life requires more attention than others. It just happens. And it’s okay.
Perhaps you just had a baby. You need to be home and focused on this new little life that requires a lot of attention. You take some time off work. It’s not the end of the world! For a little while, work might suffer. But you are spending time with your baby, because that’s what your heart wants right now. Enjoy it!
Perhaps you are launching a business. You need to focus on it, work hard, and put in the hours to get it off the ground. It requires a great deal of your time and energy. Meanwhile, the kids don’t see much of you, your husband is lonely, and your friends are wondering if you dropped off the planet. It’s okay! They will all survive, and you are doing what you need to be doing, and focusing on what your heart wants right now. Enjoy it!
Do you see what I said there? “What your heart wants.” That’s really the key to everything. Forget about balance. Listen to your heart. Your heart will tell you what’s right, every time. Those voices in your head? All lies, designed to keep you trapped in guilt and fear. Turn the volume down on the voices, and turn the volume up on your heart.
When you are feeling stressed about being out of balance, check in with your heart. What’s it saying right now? Maybe your heart is telling you to walk away from the computer and take a walk, or make some soup, or play with your kids for fifteen minutes. Do it.
Maybe your heart is telling you to get that project done, and leave the laundry, call a sitter, or ask hubby to cook dinner. Do it.
When you listen to your heart, you will feel good about your choice, whatever it is. You will be able to be present in the moment and fully engage in whatever you are doing, because you will know it’s right. You won’t be resentful, or angry, or feeling like you should be somewhere else doing something else. You can embrace the moment, knowing that it is right.
It’s okay to not have balance.
Sometimes we are a rock star in one area of our lives, and sucking in another area.
Life is uneven.
Let go of needing Work Life Balance. Embrace the uneven. Accept that you can’t be all things to all people. Forgive yourself when you fail. Listen to your heart, and do what it’s calling you to do, in that moment. And when you do, show up with all your heart, and give all you have. Love fiercely, work diligently, and above all, have great compassion with yourself. You are awesome and a gift to this planet. Your uneven, messy, imperfect life is exactly what it’s designed to be, so stop fighting it and embrace it!