The Work/Life Balance Fallacy

When we were children, time didn’t occur to us. All our activities fit perfectly into the day. Unless the sun was going to bed, our time seemed endless, wistfully passing by.

Our parents dealt with our schedules, moving and shifting around hockey practices with dentist appointments. Our lives were handled in their responsible care and we were blissful.

Soon after, we matured into self-sustaining adults with our own work schedules and responsibilities. We began to focus on time; trying to fit all the minutiae tightly in.

Then, we became obsessed with time. We became obsessed with balance. It seems that most of us endlessly sought a balanced life.

However, the ‘balanced life’ does not exist.

One of life’s biggest lies is the notion of a balanced life. Nothing ever achieves absolute balance. Nothing.

Between professional and personal life, striving for that perfect balance is most peoples’ mislead goal that they find attainable without ever stopping to truly consider it.

This is tough to believe mainly because one of the most frequent mantras for what is missing in most lives is, ‘I need more balance.’ We hear about balance so much that we automatically assume it’s exactly what we should seek.

It’s not.

We should be seeking purpose, significance, and happiness, the qualities that persist in a successful life.

Seek those important qualities and you will more than likely live a life out of balance, crisscrossing an invisible middle line as you pursue those qualities.

Think of balance as the middle line, and out of balance when we’re away from it. Get too far and we’re now living in the extremes.

The persistent problem with the middle is that it prevents us from making extraordinary time commitments to anything. Stay here too long and our lives will grow stale and ordinary.

Stray away from the middle and we could get reckless, marginally living a terribly hard life, devoid of relationships, fond memories and love.

Knowing when to pursue the middle and the extremes is true knowledge. Results are achieved with perfect negotiation with your time.

The reason we should never pursue absolute balance is because the magic never happens in the middle.

Magic happens at the extremes.

The extremes are where we are truly tested in will and guts. Our strengths are galvanized towards a lifelong dream. We naturally understand that success lies at the outer edges, but we don’t know how to manage our lives when we’re out venturing.

When we work too long, our personal life suffers. We unfairly blame work when we say, ‘I have no life.’ Even when work doesn’t pose a threat, our personal lives can be filled with endless ‘have-tos’ that we, once again, reach the same conclusion, ‘I have no life.’

When we get bombarded by both sides – professional and personal – we face an imminent breakdown and once again proclaim, ‘I have no life.’

Time waits for no one.

If we stray too far to the extremes, chasing our professional lives, we forget to cherish the middle, the simple.

Sometimes our work schedules become overwhelming, but our belief is that if we work hard now, we can enjoy the fruits of labor later.

Push something to an extreme and postponement can become permanent.

We seem to believe that we can make up for lost time.

But do we really think that we can get back a child’s birthday or bedtime story? Is a party for a five-year old with imaginary friends the same as a dinner with a teenager with high-school friends?

In Click, Adam Sandler has an epiphany before death where he says, ‘family first.’ Realizing all the time he spent at work instead of with his family, gave him his biggest regret.

He couldn’t make up for lost time. He couldn’t find balance.

Time on one thing means time away from another. This makes balance impossible.

Finding the right amount is essential to our personal and professional lives. Through careful deliberation of our activities, we can slowly understand where our time is best spent.

We have to spend our time on what matters most to us, instead of scrambling with minutiae. We have to accept the fact that not everything can get done in our days, weeks, months, years, and lives.

We need to realize where our true passions and priorities lie in life. We need to separate all the important activities from the things we think are important.

Professional and personal success are measured equally. If we do not treat bodies with respect, our families and friends with respect, we suffer immeasurable in the latter.

If we do not achieve professional success, we feel defeated and depressed, bringing those feelings into our personal lives.

We must crisscross the invisible line, while simultaneously chasing purpose, significance, and happiness.

We must spend a little extra time sharing memories with our families and friends and being mindful of ourselves – our bodies and minds.

We must also focus on our professional goals by working our hardest – but not longest – and giving our entire being in that singular moment.

Balance cannot be achieved.

The art of counter-balancing is a more realistic goal. With everything that we do in our professional life, equal time must be spent in our personal lives, and vice versa.

When I die, I want to have the shortest list of regrets possible. With that in mind, making sure to be mindful of my body, treasuring my relationships and chasing professional success are goals, which are strived for equally.

Until next time, my beautiful readers,

Be bold, be free, and love on.

Symbol of scales is made of stones on the cliff
Symbol of scales is made of stones on the cliff

The Reason YOU Are Unfulfilled At Work AND Home

Not many people are happy with their jobs.

The jobs I’ve worked in the past usually make it on the “Top ten worst jobs” lists.

I’ve worked filling stock at a discount grocery store, bussing tables at restaurants, and the holy grail of all terrible jobs: Door to door and telemarketing sales.

Even though this seems like a recipe for a depressing life, I’ve always enjoyed my work and derived great meaning from it.

Most people work jobs that don’t fulfill them, then at home they laze around until the next shift—which isn’t very fulfilling either.

So why are we leading lives that have left us so unfulfilled?

We’ve Completely Separated Work And Play.

We’re not having any fun at work, and we’re not seeking any challenge at home.

One thing I’ve learned throughout my study of happiness is that finding meaning or purpose in your daily activities is an absolutely necessary ingredient for a long lasting sense of fulfillment.

If you don’t derive meaning from your work, and your free time is devoid of any effort or challenge, then you may be on your way to a crisis.

Finding Meaning At Crappy Jobs.

I’ve always enjoyed myself at work because I didn’t see my job as meaningless. I tried to somehow fit my work into the bigger picture or gain whatever meaning I could from those menial tasks.

When I was doing door to door I worked with a lot of miserable people. They only saw the negatives.

“It’s so hot out and we’ve been walking for hours!”
“There is too much pressure, if I don’t get commission my cheques are so small!”
“We have to work every Saturday and I never go out anymore!”

Don’t get me wrong, those points are valid. The job sucked sometimes.

But I chose to focus on something different. I would focus on my interactions with the people I was talking to. Every time someone opened a door I saw it as an opportunity to share a connection with someone new.

We joked, we laughed, we complimented each other, we even ended up talking about life over tea.

You would seriously be surprised how many people invited me into their homes and shared a real connection with me once I stopped focusing on the negatives, and started to find the meaning in my work.

Crafting Your Job To Cultivate Fulfillment.

Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski has done a lot of research into figuring out how people derive meaning from their work. She found that you can become happier with your job whether you are a CEO, a sales rep, or even a janitor at a hospital through what she calls “job crafting.”

In one study she observed a group of hospital cleaners who found their jobs boring and meaningless, and another that found their work to be engaging and fulfilling.

The second group would ‘craft’ their job in creative ways. They would engage more with nurses, patients and doctors, taking it upon themselves to uplift the mood of the people around them.

In general, the second group crafted a perception of their job that saw themselves as an indispensable cog in a well oiled machine. They weren’t just cleaning garbage, they were helping their hospitals run smoothly and contributing to a cause that saved lives.

In this mindset, these hospital janitors could find more fulfillment in their jobs than some of the doctors who might just be looking for a paycheque.

But finding fulfillment at work is only one half of the problem. We have to find fulfillment at home as well.

All Play And No Work Makes Jack An Unfulfilled Boy.

After a long day at work it is understandable that we want to relax, but it is possible to relax too much.

When we separate work from play, avoiding all effort and challenge in our free time, we are robbing ourselves of a fulfilling personal life.

In the book “Happier” by Tal Ben Shahar, Ph.D. he examines many interesting studies that look into the relationship between challenge, happiness and fulfillment.

One study in particular run by Donald Hebb jumped out at me.

In 1930 six hundred students between the ages of six and fifteen were told that they no longer needed to do any school work. If they misbehaved, their punishment was more recess. If they behaved, their reward was more schoolwork.

Hebb quickly discovered that “In these circumstances, all of the pupils discovered within a day or two that, within limits, they preferred work to no work (and incidentally learned more arithmetic and so forth than in previous years).”

Even children—who are notoriously opposed to work and love to play—realize very quickly that they would not enjoy a life devoid of challenge.

Without challenge we don’t grow, without growth we feel stuck.

Challenging Yourself At Home.

If you’re job isn’t providing you with the growth and challenge that you need for long term happiness, you have to find it at home.

That is why I learned drums, why I study self development and write these articles.

The good thing about challenging yourself in your free time is that you get to do everything on your terms.

You can pick something that you truly enjoy, even if it is just playing video games. Just be sure that you are challenging yourself, learning, and gaining some sense of meaning and fulfillment from your activities.

Breaking down the barrier between work and play is the key to fulfillment. When you are at work, have fun with with it, share connections and find meaning. When you are at home don’t just relax all the time, challenge yourself and learn something new.

It’s a challenge in itself to break down this deep rooted barrier, but if we can accomplish this, we can lead truly fulfilling lives at work and at home.

fulfillHow do you view your job to gain fulfillment?
How do you challenge yourself in your free time?
Discuss in the comments!

A Problem Person or A Solution Person?

Everyday we’re confronted by problems and challenges in varying degrees. They are seemingly endless. “My boss hates me! I can’t deal with Sally. I have no friends.”

With each passing day, more seem to arise, till they consume us. The only thing you crave is a breath of fresh air, as you desperately gasp.

Running away isn’t a permanent solution. You have to deal with them head on. You have the option between two different types of people.

Are You a Problem Person?

Unfortunately, the majority is this person. Sometimes, I’m this person. I focus on the problems and wallow in them, letting them consume me, till they affect everything.

Thoughts, feelings, and habits all go down the tubes, as I internally scream, ‘why me!’

This type of person is only concerned with one thing – when is the next problem going to arise? They expect more problems, and it’s almost like, they need the problems.

They need them to self-identify with a helpless self, with a vulnerable and weak self. Recently, I allowed my problems free reign over my thoughts. They ran like a broken record, over and over.

But I came out of it. How? I self-identified with a different kind of person.

Be a Solution Person

I sat down with my good friend, old-fashioned pen and paper. I jotted down my problems with little dashes beside them. I tried to come up with as many solutions as possible.

It took a very, very long time and most of them were unusable, far-fetched even. But there they were, on paper. After two hours and thirty-six ideas, one was decent enough to implement.

Be the person to seek actionable steps to your problems. Figure out a way to get yourself through your struggles. Internal and external problems can all be solved with conscious realization.

Confront your boss and ask what you can do better. If he still hates you, quit, find another job. Trying to satisfy someone who cannot be satisfied isn’t worth your sanity.

Is Sally really worth all the trouble she’s giving you? Maybe she’s a complaining acquaintance. Walk away. Maybe she’s a close friend or family. Walking away isn’t realistic. Limit contact. You don’t need the added negativity.

You don’t need friends to be happy. Find happiness in yourself. When you fix yourself, you can show everyone how amazing you are. Approach strangers, listen openly, ask questions, and be present in their lives. Help them first, and they will help you. Be their friend first, and they will be yours.

It is significantly harder to figure out solutions, than it is to wallow in your problems. But, with the prospect of retrieving control of your feelings and habits, it’s well worth the extra struggle.

Start the habit of creating solutions. It will be hard. It will take a very long time. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Eventually, you will be able to solve all your problems without struggling. You’ll be able to solve other peoples’ problems.

I’m not at that level yet. I still have to figure out all my problems. But I know if I practice enough, I can be a true solution person.

Be bold, be free, and love on.

pronl

Two Little Letters That WILL Change Your Life

Today is my third day of the last semester of my school career. If you have been with us since the beginning, you know of my complete disdain for school.

You’ve probably read some of our earlier articles on perseverance and living for yourself. With the culmination of school becoming an approaching reality, my body is becoming more energized, happier, and fulfilled.

Finally I can pursue my dreams, my goals and my aspirations.

The last four years have felt like someone has been controlling my life. I feel like a helpless puppet, played with and strung along this path. I’m not pointing fingers, but I am here because someone insisted I get an education.

Maybe you don’t want to go to school, but someone is forcing you

In the ever-changing world, school has become less of a requirement. Unless you hope to become a doctor or lawyer, school is becoming increasingly pointless.

But they keep forcing their opinions on you. They keep insisting you get a quality education, but shrug the horrendous amount of debt that looms over your head.

Maybe you want to leave your job, but you feel obligated to stay

You have obligations to your co-workers, family and friends. They are controlling you, keeping you in the same place, demanding your attention and valuable life.

Because of your obligations, you can’t see a way out. You decide to stay, despite your better judgment, living someone else’s expectations for your life. You feel trapped in the same place, stuck for perpetuity.

Maybe you want to learn something, but people beat you down

You crave a new skill, but people say, ‘That’s a far-fetched idea. You’ll never make it.’ You absorb this negative feedback and internalize it.

You give up your zest for learning or trying because others have said you couldn’t do it. Before long, you’re stuck, again, in your cyclical life.

When I wanted to learn politics, I faced opposition from all sides. I wanted to change the world positively. Most people told me I was crazy, that it would never work. I gave up.

The Solution is a Powerful Two-Letter Word

The word no is one of the simplest words in the English language, but it possesses significant power. We don’t exercise no as often as we’d like. We might disappoint people.

But your sanity and life depends on those two little letters. When you say yes to someone, you inherit all of their expectations, requirements and burdens. We can’t solve all the problems of the world without taking care of ourselves first.

Say no when someone thinks they know you better than you. Say no to people who feel like school is the best decision for your life.

Of course, we have those obligations to our families. But say no, by finding another solution while you’re in your current job. Say no to the slavery of your 9-5 if it doesn’t satisfy you. Seek solutions.

Say no to negative people and dream crushers. Say no to people that think you’re crazy, stupid, or foolhardy.

Maybe if I rejected all the dream-crushers during my political phase, I could have changed the world. But I gave up because I forgot to say no. But, then again, I’m trying to change the world now. This time, in a different way.

Be bold, be free, and love on.

Four Stress Relieving Methods

Recently my life has been quite stress-free. There haven’t been any problems worth worrying about and everything is going according to plan.

I don’t mean to brag. I’m sorry. But until school starts, my life will continue to be relatively stress-free. But like death and taxes, stress is virtually unavoidable in today’s world.

Although stress is an unavoidable factor, there are ways to manage it. If you manage stress, you manage your mood. I feel like it’s safe to say that everyone has an identical final goal – to be happy.

Managing stress is one of the many yellow bricks on that long road to happiness.

yellow brick road pic

1) Confide in someone

“A trouble shared is a trouble halved.” – Chinese Proverb

But don’t complain. Sharing a problem with someone close allows you share that stress factor. Share it with someone who may have encountered the same problem.

Their guidance will be extremely helpful. But be weary! Don’t complain to people, especially to random strangers.

Remember that everyone encounters stress and the majority of people do not want to hear how bad your day was. Keep your thoughts with close family and friends.

2) What are you thoughts?

Everything stems from your thoughts (well, your brain). How does your brain deal with stress and stressful situation.

i) Write it down

And throw them away (or burn them). I find, throwing your thoughts, worries, and stresses away have some profound effects. The physical act of throwing away written negative thoughts can mentally purge them.

You can also burn them. Call me a pyromaniac or arsonist (none of which I am), but there is something incredibly therapeutic about fire.

Creating-Realistic-Burn-Paper-Effect-in-Cinema-4d

ii) “Cancel Rule”

A friend of mine suggested the “Cancel Rule.” Personally, I find this method extremely effective. Next time you are stressed and find yourself lost in your thoughts, start repeating cancel to yourself.

Repeat the word ‘cancel’ over and over again and that negative thought appears to have vanished away.

3) Go for a walk

Being in nature is calming – but even looking at an image of nature can decrease stress levels and increase positivity.

Personally speaking, I love walking outside. The sights and smells have a very calming effect on my body. Sometimes, I take outside for granted. When you stop everything and go for a walk, you really start to appreciate the beauty.

Everything is green and striving. That energy is transferred to me.

4) Breathe deeply

I’ve mentioned the importance of breath in a previous article (You can check it out here). Too few people breathe improperly. The breaths are shallow and faint because breathing is left to the unconscious mind.

Stop for a few moments and listen to your breath. Feel your breath entering your stomach and exiting your nose. Pay close attention to your breathing. It allows your body and brain to get a burst of oxygen, relieving any stress that may occur.

There are a lot of little problems in the world that can be stressed over. The key to managing stress comes from ignoring the little problems.

These problems find their way into your brain and fester until they become large ones. Following the mentioned techniques has helped me manage my stress levels.

How do you deal with stress and stressful situations? Leave a comment below. My readers and I would love to hear from you.

Be bold, be free, and love on.