I tend not to agree with the Work-Life Balance term, and I think what does not work for me is the word Balance itself. I mean, the very definition of balance suggests equality. The way I see it is like this: imagine a seesaw and imagine Life sitting on one end and Work on the other. Going by this Work-Life Balance idea, the lever is supposed to remain stable, horizontal, perfectly aligned.
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However, for the seesaw game to be fun, the parties sitting on either side of the lever cannot be of the same weight. They have to be unequal, imbalanced so it can move up and down and have you squeal in panic or joy, depending on how much courage you possess. Now, imagine the lever not moving, being perfectly balanced with Life on one end and Work on the other, where is the fun? Where is the suspense, the anticipation? Where are the giggles? Are you alive having that seesaw remain perfectly still and not having a hair out of place?
You see, everywhere you turn to, there are articles, blogs, and vlogs on nifty ways to achieve the Work-Life Balance.
Go on Google this minute to research this concept; you will have at least 185 million results. While I agree some of these tidbits can get you a more fluid life, again, I wonder, is the word Balance the right word for this concept? In our modern-day society, I can’t help but ask this question: is this one of those concepts we wake up daily trying to live by and end up being more frustrated for not achieving it? One of those resolution type things we work so hard at and if and when we miss a day, or fail a little, we beat ourselves up and become depressed? So, while we have all these suggestions on what to do to achieve this, can we attain such a balance in our lives? I believe this word may end up having the opposite of the desired effect on individuals if taken literarily.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 1700s, working hours saw a peak, and it wasn’t until in the mid-nineteenth century, that work hours began being restricted. Various acts came into play, for example, the Factory Act of 1844 that limited working hours for women and children to 12 hours a day. 12 hours a day! Can one imagine how many hours they worked before such acts? Eventually, industrialists and work unions agreed workers needed a day off and subsequently two days off ‘The Weekend.’ In the mid-1980s, the term `Work-Life Balance’ was first published in the United States. However, the author suggests the term itself was mythical.
Jeff Bezos, founder, and CEO of amazon.com prefers to call it; Work – Life Harmony. He suggested that if he felt happy and accomplished at work, it translated into other aspects of his life and vice versa. The Cambridge English dictionary defines harmony as the combination of separate but related parts in a way that uses their similarities to bring unity to a painting, drawing, or other art objects. The Oxford dictionary also defines harmony as the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole. If we think about it, our lives are like mosaics, the pieces forming it have different colors and patterns, but somehow, come together to make a beautiful picture in the end. Life and Work I believe if put together rightly, can form a pleasing, consistent whole, and rightly does not necessarily suggest equally.
I used to be a perfectionist and could not afford anything to go wrong or be skewed. Also, I would dedicate all of me to work and family. I did not have boundaries and was also a people pleaser. If I sent the wrong email or made the wrong comment at a meeting, I would spend hours agonizing over it. I had to have everyone at work be happy with my work and everyone else in my life be happy. As such, I shut down what I was all about, other personal interests as I seemed not to have time for anything else. I would read only things related to work. Also, It didn’t matter the day or time, if someone needed me, I made sure I was there. Eventually, this aspect of constantly being available to everyone and no time for me took its toll.
My eating habits suffered, I stopped exercising, my body at some point couldn’t take the torture, and my mind began suffering. I would easily lose concentration or be distracted. I didn’t take enough care of my well-being. I had a wrong outlook on life in my opinion.
Like all things natural, when you feed it, it grows. Feeding my poor habits, one day I burned out at work and blacked out. Shortly after that, I almost lost my life because I seemed to be working on autopilot and as such had not properly assessed the risks involved in the task I was handling that day. Anyone who had witnessed the incident suggested I gave thanksgiving to whatever deity I prayed to. It seemed God was not ready yet to have me by his side.
After that, I took a break from it all and evaluated my life thus far, and it hit me, MY LIFE was on the back burner. All that I was passionate about, dreams I had, things I wanted to do, skills I wanted to pick up, all of what had me bubble with excitement had been locked up in a drawer, postponed to a distant future and I had reduced myself to grinding to paying bills and more grinding.
I had not gone on a vacation or taken a proper day off in four years!
A step at a time, I began cutting back on work hours. I always used to be available, no matter the day nor time, so I began reinforcing the proper working hours. As difficult as it was initially for my team to accept, I had to point out to them I was not indispensable. My time off had to be respected. I no longer touched my work computer at home.
I also realized I could not please everyone. It had become exhausting. I resolved to put my best foot forward, putting my best ideas forward and doing my work to the best of my abilities and accept whatever feedback I got. Family too was not spared, I cut back on my availability and started setting boundaries. Once I started doing these things consistently, I was able to have time for other things that tickled my fancy. I started exploring other aspects of my life and found there was so much more to life than the routine of work and family. I started exercising more, eating right, reading other things, learning new skills, new recipes, traveling and started practicing the art of Being. JUST BEING. I started on the journey of a stress-free life.
I am not sure I know the best ways in which to achieve the Work-Life Harmony, because what works for A may not necessarily work for B and I believe we all come to certain truths about who we are and what we need at different points in time in our lives. We may seem to be all the same, following a certain pattern in life, but we dance to our rhythms. However, I figured, you need to take the time to understand who you are and what you are about.
Take the time you need, but do the work. What is it that matters to you? What is it that feeds your soul? What is it that tugs at you constantly? Be present in every aspect of your life. Just be PRESENT. When at work, work and do not stress about it. When eating, focus on your meal and enjoy it, the tastes, the various spices and how they come together to make the delicious meal between your teeth. When in the company of someone, settle in and enjoy them, learn from them, or teach them, either way, Be PRESENT. Do not do things for the sake of doing them or for evidence that you did them with pictures and all. Live in and enjoy the moment.
Ask yourself this, the last time you spent with friends, can you remember how you felt? Can you remember why you laughed, what you ate? Without the aid of pictures, can you remember how you all looked? The last time you went on a vacation, did you actually vacation? It is all about being present, no matter what you are doing, work or fun, be in the moment. And if at that moment, in that minute, you do not have peace, then you know you are not supposed to be doing what it is you are doing.
In essence, the question is, whatever you are doing this minute, does it deplete you or does it feed you? Be it work or life, will it come together to make a beautiful whole? Remember it is okay not to have your whole life figured out and enjoy the journey to figuring it all out. As for me, I am still on the journey to harmonizing my life, but I can assure you I am in a much better place today than I was just a year ago because, with each day, I am doing a little bit of what feeds my soul.
Do you have similar experiences as the writer of this article? Is the term work-life balance, unrealistic or is it attainable? Leave your thoughts below. If you have experiences that you would like to share with us, simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to like, share, and subscribe never to miss an update.
About The Author: Laetitia Moukouri is an experienced technical professional, writer and Editor-in-Chief at Letstalknationblog.com. She loves exploring people’s minds, through their written work, as she is a proponent for learning new things. You can connect with her on Instagram & Linkedin with Laetitia Moukouri.