A balanced life?

A work life balance?

It’s paradoxical.

We spend so much time working or thinking about work, it’s unlikely that we make time for much else.

One of the first books I read, as a young entrepreneur, was How to Master the Art of Selling by Tom Hopkins. His key message was balance. It was based on his experience of dedicating his early years to being the best in the business and finding his life out of whack. All work and no play made Jack a very, very dull boy!

When I started my first business in 1989, I was obsessed with the work. In my eyes that meant growing my recruitment business from zero to something that was going to provide me with all the bling stuff that I had dreamed of owning as a teenager – the 911, Rolex… you get the picture. I worked in excess of 100 hours per week and I didn’t let up for nearly three years. I still remember telephoning a candidate on Boxing day who was aghast that I should have the temerity to break up a special day with a stupid call. I didn’t see anything wrong with the call: if I was committed enough to prize myself away from the usual Christmas celebrations so should my candidate!

I’m not sure where my work ethic originated. I suspect it was more to do with my competitive spirit. Just think of Johnny Wilkinson or Lance Armstrong. Both of these athletes would think nothing of working their butts off on Chirstmas day. In the end, despite my successes, I saw my pattern for what it was – work, and nothing more. It wasn’t exactly an insight, but I wasn’t prepared to commit my life force to one thing. Also, by this stage, I had met Allison – my wife to be. If nothing else, she was able to articulate the meaning of a balanced life and it wasn’t premised on the amount of hours I committed to the business or the money in the bank. It was measured by happiness, freedom and love.

The only reason I regale you with this story is to make the point that life is not lived through work. That doesn’t mean doing less of one thing and (much) more of something else. But making sure that even when you ease off the work pedal, you have something else to replace the time that brings you fully to life, and isn’t a meaningless distraction.

[Note: Too often we hope for something to wake us from our narcissistic torpor. It seldom happens and we fall into endless distraction.]

Trying to maintain a work/life balance is meaningless unless you know what is more important or inspiring than work itself. Many people have subsumed who they are with their work to the point where there is nothing left.

Stop and focus.

If you lived a balanced life, what would it feel like?

I know when I’m in balance.

I’m happy.

I don’t lose my temper.

My mind is quiet.

My internal critic hides away.

And, I awaken my genius.

But, most of all, my body and mind feel as one: I don’t feel a tension between what I’m doing and what I’m supposed to be doing.

I recognise that this is easier said that done – I’m tempted to repeat that – but you need to discover more often the experience of balance. It doesn’t mean escaping, ignoring your predicament but rather understanding who you are. And don’t tell me the money is your raison d’être. It’s not, and never will be.

When I think back to the people in my life who lived in balance rarely were they the folk who had the most money. In particular, my grandparents had practically nothing to their name but they knew that work was not there to fulfill anything other than being able to spend time together. They were in love. That was enough.

Yes, perhaps things have changed. Our expectations are massive compared to previous generations but in the pursuit of more we have given up on the notion of finding inner stillness.

My work often involves trying to help people see that there is a life of meaning without the pressure of work. If you can reconnect with the real you, in time you can rediscover the essentials of living a life of meaning and purpose.

Completing a time log or diary is often a good start as to where you’re spending your time. But, more often than not, people know where their time needs to be spent to live in balance. In most cases they just need the encouragement and postive reinforcement to make it a reality.

Balance.

What does it look like to you?


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