At the heart of work life balance is the ability to find equilibrium between the commitments we have to others with the commitments we have to ourselves. As explored in Part 1 of this article, ‘Redefining Work Life Balance’ it’s no longer really about work life balance, it’s about quality of life as we juggle competing commitments.
In recent times, I’ve used the term ‘tension’ in the context of work life balance. Tension is about working to find space between seemingly opposing commitments and contradictory objectives or agendas. We are seeking to forge a path through competing demands on our time, attention and energy. Juggling these expectations and objectives in an environment where we can work anywhere any time is the challenge at the cutting edge of work life balance.
Marrying Expectations with Reality
We all have expectations as to how life and different aspects of life could or should be. Then there is the reality of life as we are experiencing it. We all run conscious and unconscious layers of expectations. From how we want to be managed, our salary expectations, how we expect others to behave, to even who washes the dishes at home. In a turbulent world, we have to ask ourselves are my expectations realistic, fair or even feasible?
Finding balance between expectations and reality is not easy. We don’t want to downgrade our hopes, dreams and standards. We don’t want to drift into cynicism which many people do when their experience of reality consistently falls short of their expectations.
On the other hand, as every spiritual teacher has proclaimed, if we resist reality we will suffer. Accepting the reality of our situation is not about resignation, but making peace with what is, thereby creating the space to resource ourselves to take intentional action, as opposed to merely reacting to what are typically circumstances outside of our control.
Commitment to others versus commitment to ourselves
If work life balance is really about balancing our commitments to others with our commitments to ourselves, it’s logical to be aware of the commitments we are seeking to balance or blend. For example, focusing on your own work priorities versus being a supportive team player. Establishing boundaries around your contactability whilst remaining available and approachable. Knowing when family takes priority and work has to take a backseat. In many ways, it’s not about juggling commitments, it’s tolerating varying degrees of guilt.
Like with most aspects of life it comes down to awareness, consciousness and choice. I can establish boundaries and I can choose to cross those boundaries. For example, I can decide to only respond to work emails during office hours. With the awareness that I know I’m doing it and the reason why I’m doing it, I can choose to answer emails whilst tucked up in bed. I can make exceptions to my rules, but I’m still aware of my rules. Constant contraventions will of course make the rule or boundary redundant.
A golden rule of relationships is ‘we train people how to treat us,’ which presupposes we are clear as to how we want to be treated. Healthy boundaries is self-care in action. We can establish routines and rituals that are good for us, whilst also staying flexible. For example, it might suit you to start work early and take two hours in non-work mode during the day, thereby blending personal commitments into what would traditionally be considered the working day.
We know that we cannot be all things to all people all the time. For many of us, it doesn’t stop us trying. Hidden within any debate on work life balance is the struggle to balance the fear of letting others down without letting ourselves down. We will feel bad when we make a promise to someone else and we don’t deliver on it. It is far easier to break a commitment you’ve made to yourself. On the surface no one is the wiser, but you will experience a sense of self-betrayal that over time will erode your self-confidence.
The question that helps to navigate these choppy waters of competing commitments is – what decision or action would make me feel most proud about myself? The answer may not be what we want to hear, but it will be a signpost to how we find, or re-establish balance.
I hope you enjoyed this post and do listen to my podcast episode titled Redefining Work Life Balance where I explore what balance might look like, or more importantly, feel like as well as sharing tips and distinctions to help you.
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