“Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.” – Epicurus
One of the many benefits of growing in maturity is that we become aware of the finiteness of the time we have on this planet. I consider it a benefit because it forces us to evaluate our choices and ask ourselves a pertinent question: “Is this a good use of my time?”
No matter what our social standing is, we’re all given 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year, and an undetermined number of years to live. And during that lifespan, there’s a whole lot of stuff that we’d like to get done. This includes things that we want to do and things that we have to do.
Maslow, a psychologist from the 1900s, said that people have needs that have to be met in order. According to the pyramid model he created (Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs), we have to first take care of our basic physiological needs such as food, water and shelter. In the early days, you had to plough the fields and build your own home. Today, we have to go to work to afford buying our basic necessities.
But as you move up the pyramid of needs, Maslow identified that we need much more than our physical needs to thrive. We have an undeniable need to feel loved, safe, and to belong to a group. We also need to experience a sense of self-actualization by achieving our full potential as a human being. These are challenging to fulfill through work alone, and require deliberate lifestyle choices to meet them.
That’s where establishing a healthy work-life balance becomes relevant. This relatively modern concept of prioritizing between work (ambition and career) and lifestyle (leisure, fun, health, relationships and spiritual development) is the key to creating a high quality life. We’re lucky to be living during a time where most of us have our basic needs met so that we have the luxury to consider our higher needs.
Back in the day, it was all about survival – at least for the majority of the people. Peasants and slaves used to work in dreary conditions and faced drudgery in their daily life, while the aristocracy lived a life of frivolity and indulgence. The life of most commoners was defined by monotony, predictability and degradation. Fortunately, with the advent of democracy and capitalism, things changed for the better.
Even though we’re much better off than our ancestors, our modern society has developed its own version of ‘slavery’, where the modern-day proletariat is now putting in extra hours at work because they’re afraid of the eminent threats of cutbacks and layoffs. Technology has made workers accessible beyond regular working hours and this has led many of them to be on call even during their free time.
A survey done by HBS reports that 94% of working professionals reported working more than 50 hours per week and nearly half said they worked more than 65 hours per week. The impact of being overly focused on professional demands has resulted in alarmingly high rates of stress-related diseases, damaged relationships and deterioration in overall happiness in the general working population.
You see, unlike other creatures on the planet, we aren’t born just to survive, but to thrive on our experiences. For that to happen, we must go beyond the mundane things that we engage in on a daily basis. We’re emotional beings made for exquisite experiences of joy, fun and passion, and the only way we can have them is by designing a lifestyle that gives us these opportunities.
We are the captain of our ship and it’s up to us to create the balance that we desire. We do this by creating a work-life balance that allows us to accomplish our goals while also enjoying other aspects of life, such as work, friends, family and personal interests. Most people make the mistake of reserving rest and fun for weekends and vacation time only.
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to finding balance. It is personally defined based on your unique priorities, personal needs and circumstances. For example, as an HSP and an empath, I know that I’m more sensitive to stimulants such as bright lights, loud noises and crowded areas than the average person, and I structure my work and home environment and social engagements accordingly.
You can never be fully engaged with the wonders of life and soak in the pleasurable moments if you’re always rushing, stressed out and bogged down by the demands of your life. Life’s vivid and varied colors and textures become available to you only if you live life from a centered place.
If you’re presently feeling overwhelmed and pressured by the demands in your life, here are some guidelines that will help you get back into balance:
1. Define what success means to you and prioritize accordingly: The reality is that we have limited time, energy and resources. For this reason, we have to clearly define our priorities so that we can delegate our resources towards our ideal lifestyle. When we know what brings us a sense of success and accomplishment, we can invest our energy in related activities. We can establish inner balance when we know that we are using our resources wisely. Time is a limited resource that you need to manage just as carefully as you would manage your money. Master the art of time management and prioritization and you’ll find it easier to create balance in your life. This post provides more tips on time management.
2. Find a profession that doesn’t feel like “work”: When we are in a profession that we love and that we’re excited about, it feeds us and enhances us on all levels. It does not feel like “work” or something that we have to tolerate so that we can earn money to spend on the fun stuff and things that we actually like to do outside work. When your profession is connected to your passion, it will energize you and you won’t feel the need to escape or to find a fix to bring back harmony and peace in your life.
3. Avoid or remove energy drainers: Energy drainers consist of activities related to tasks and interactions that add no value to your life and could potentially be detrimental to your wellbeing. Get an overview of the activities that don’t enhance your life or your career, such as spending time surfing the Internet and social media websites, taking unimportant phone calls or listening to a negative friend or co-worker who complains a lot, and do your best to minimize or eliminate them all together. I’ve provided more in-depth solutions on how to deal with your energy drainers in this post.
4. Respect your body: We’ve all undoubtedly experienced the feel-good effects of a healthy meal, a perfect night of sleep and a great workout. That’s because our body is essentially comprised of a bunch of bio-chemicals circulating in our blood stream that are directly impacted by how we treat our body. Because of the mind-body connection, it’s crucial that we respect our bodies by living a healthy lifestyle, which broadly consists of consuming a nutritious and balanced diet, getting enough physical activity and sleep, and drinking plenty of water. Your body is your vehicle for life and it’s essential that you keep it sturdy enough to withstand the pressures and challenges that you will encounter along the way.
5. Engage in downtime activities that bring you into balance: Staying balanced also requires that we take time out to recharge our batteries and engage in things that ignite our joy. This consists of practices that feed your soul and make you feel nurtured and cared for, such as having a warm bath, reading a riveting novel, listening to music, meditating on a beach, cooking a delicious meal, and going out dancing. You don’t have to take a vacation to a tropical destination to bring balance into your life – simply build more leisure time into your schedule so that you can commit to a practice on a consistent basis.
Learning the art of achieving work-life balance will help you get the most out of the limited time that you have on Earth. Like a skilled juggler on a tightrope with several balls in the air, you’ll cross over to the other side knowing that you gave it your best shot and that you had fun in the process!
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What are the challenges that you’ve faced when creating a healthy work-life balance?
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