One of my favorite topics is the notion of work | life balance. It sounds so cliché now, but I started thinking about work | life balance in my early 20’s when no one was really talking about it yet.
I will never forget, a friend introduced me to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and I devoured the book. To say it was life-altering is an understatement.
I had never been exposed to anything like that before, and when I read his work, my whole life changed. Naturally, the work appeared at exactly the time I needed it. I was 25 years old and going through a divorce; I was depressed, confused and floundering. I kept wondering, “Isn’t there more to life than this?”
After that, I read every self-help book that was published and became a follower of Eckart Tolle, Abraham, Deepak Chopra, Rhonda Britton, Carolyn Myss—basically anything I could get my hands on. I was seeking answers to life questions, which many of us do during our 20’s and 30’s. Little did I know that I had a long way to go to feel like I had some semblance of work | life balance that was grounded in meaning.
My life’s journey has been to grow, evolve, learn, and become a better person. It hasn’t always been easy, but I have been a seeker of knowledge and personal evolution. In hindsight, it was clear that I was seeking external answers to feel better when in reality all of the answers were inside of me.
I believe that life provides the teachers we need when we need them. My first exposure to work | life balance came when I started to work for Gary Keller (CEO/Founder of Keller Williams Realty International). I vividly remember watching him as he explained how he planned his calendar and blocked his time. Essentially, this methodology has become the foundation for his national best-selling book with Jay Papsan called The One Thing. One of the things that stuck with me was his ability to plan a full year ahead. He always started with family time, vacation time, and finally, work time. The other thing that was profound was his explanation to me when I questioned him about the notion that scheduling my life that way would take away my freedom. He told me, “It’s counter-intuitive because the only way you will ever get freedom is by planning and blocking your time based on your priorities. Otherwise, you will end up working 24|7 with nothing to show for it”
I bought into this notion hook, line, and sinker, and I am grateful I did. To this day, I know that my life would not be the same if I had not learned this skill (and many other life-altering things) from Gary Keller. Over the years, I studied under other discourses such as the Aji Network. The Aji Network helped me refine the process by focusing on what they call “conditions of satisfaction” and commitments. I started working on commitment management instead of time management, accepting that we can’t manage time, but we can manage commitments. Essentially, this is just a deeper level of focus and prioritization that helped me make sure I made commitments to the most important things I wanted in my life.
Recently I had the opportunity to work with Brooke Castillo (The Life Coach School), and became a certified life coach. One of the things I learned as a life coach is that our purpose or life’s meaning is simply whatever we choose to think. I spent time writing about how to create purpose and meaning and use it in your daily life. For me, my purpose is to make a difference. I have a longer vision statement, but I have shortened it to making a difference because it is easy to make a difference on a day-to-day basis, and it’s easy for me to remember.
One of the other things I learned about balancing life and work was to use my calendar differently. Brooke recommended using time blocks to produce a specific result.
This leads us to the daily grind. I can admit that I still get overwhelmed with the daily grind – basically, with a life that is fully scheduled and intended for high performance. Even if your calendar isn’t fully scheduled for high performance, you might feel like getting up every day, making coffee, packing lunches, driving to work, working and driving home starts to feel like Groundhog Day. When I start to feel this way, it reminds me to stop and reflect. I ask myself questions like these:
What I have found is that when I am feeling this way, I have lost sight of my purpose or I have forgotten to take care of myself. For me, this means over-scheduling without time to rejuvenate. This is where self-awareness and though management can be your friend. One of the things I have learned that helps me tremendously when I am stuck in a negative thought that I am having a hard time shifting is to add an “and it’s okay” the sentence. For example, if my thought is, “My life feels likes a grind,” if I can’t make the emotional shift to the thought “My life is great,” then I try, “My life feels likes a grind right now, and that’s okay.”
What this does for me is allow me to accept where I am versus struggling against it. I find that the more I accept and allow how I am feeling the quicker it passes. Also, if your life is truly a grind,you can begin to think about what you want to change to make it less so. Sometimes it can be as easy as making small changes—maybe waking up 15 minutes later or reading a novel you love over coffee in the morning, instead of the news.
I am a person who loves self-reflection, planning, coaching, growing, evolving and offering value to the world. I also recognize that there really isn’t any such notion a work | life balance. Our lives are a creation that we get to make up. Who is to say that you need to balance life and work? If you are like me, you feel best when your work and life are organically combined and authentic to you. I used to think it was more a matter of counterbalance—that we might work too much and then counterbalance it with taking a few weeks off to live our lives or be with family. Now I find that when my life and work are blended together with my purpose as the foundation, I feel the happiest.
My advice is to think about your purpose and how this shows up in your life and work. How can you live your purpose in every interaction every day? What do you want your life to look like, and what is keeping you from living that life? Often, changes only require new thoughts about what we want or identifying our limiting beliefs that are keeping us from living the life we want. I hope you will join me as we enjoy the journey of life, work, and purpose to create the life of our dreams in 2020.
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