Published in Womeninc, October 2004
by Diana Gabriel
Is your life packed with shoulds, coulds and have-tos? For most women, balance usually means personal sacrifice…putting our needs at the end of our daily ‘to-do’ list which most often results in us neglecting self- care. Let me begin by stating that perfect and equal Work/Life balance is an illusion. Attempting to appropriate equal number of hours to work and personal activities is a set up for failure. Heaven knows we do not need to experience any more failures. Many of us think of balance as static – a rigid fixed schedule with time slots for each moment of our day.
In reality, life is in continual flux and requires conscious attention to being in choice about our activities. Life is dynamic and our definition and perception of Work/Life balance also needs to be fluid and dynamic. The “right” balance for you today most likely will look different next week or next month. Many factors influence our “right” balance for example, whether we are single or partnered, the life stage we are in, the ages and demands of children, our health, responsibilities to family, where we are in our career and/or special projects with deadlines. Additionally, we are often pulled off-center by our own expectations.
What is the right Work/Life Balance for me?
There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all balance that is “right” for everyone. You must take responsibility for your decisions and begin to realize that you do have a choice in how you delegate your time and energy resources. The very best Work/Life balance for you is most solidly anchored in your personal values, perspectives and life purpose. Knowing and articulating your personal values is critical in defining your priorities, setting very clear limits and boundaries and being unambiguous about what you want in life. Getting clear about your values can provide the structure needed to make decisions that are congruent with your life purpose. They also help you differentiate between what you want and what you believe you should need.
When you are clear about your values and life purpose, and make decisions aligned in supporting your values, you can truly be who you really want to be. We often speak of Work/Life balance when we think of balance. If we were just to speak of “Life Balance” it may be more about defining who we are and what we stand for in life.
Balance is foundational for personal effectiveness. When we are balanced we are more productive and less stressed. Our relationships improve both on and off the job. Life Balance is a habit that we need to practice and dance with daily. It is important to define and create your own best Life Balance.
How do I define and create a Life Balance?
A place to begin is to commit to taking at least one action, each day for the next 30 days, to bring you into better alignment with your life purpose. Schedule it in and make it a top priority – and make it happen! An example might be to commit to taking a lunch break at least once a week, that is truly for yourself – no errands, no phone calls – just taking time to slow down and reflect, read or just be. Setting this intention, and honoring it for a month, is a good step toward being conscious of balance in your life.