An unnatural myth

by BN26 Mar 2012

Almost every organisation, big and small, maintains a true desire to help people achieve and maintain a ‘work/life balance'. But, it's an almost impossible task, and here's why.
The very name itself asks you to achieve the impossible. Keeping anything perfectly in balanced is hard. Any slight variant will send things tipping. Life changes. The world changes. Always.
Work is busy. There are emails, meetings, blackberry's, changing leadership, changing roles, challenging markets, internal politics, customer challenges, shareholder demands.
But still, workplaces try. For years, people have been encouraged to work at home; after all we have the technology. But eyes still stray to that empty cubicle or office, thinking "It would have been great to have you at that meeting yesterday". Or the common "I'm going to work from home tomorrow, and the classic response "nice work for some!"
And people try. There's talk of the benefits of maintaining a healthy focus on personal lives. "Once I walk through the door at home, I leave my work at the office". Until the blackberry chimes, or you just check for that one really important email. Or you find yourself checking your emails instead of reading that special book to your loved ones or for yourself.
Very soon it becomes clear that only a handful of people seem able to achieve true so-called ‘work/life balance’. And often, these folks have been able to accept the realities that have been imposed upon them.
Don’t set yourself up to fail. You will always be in danger of disappointing yourself, family, friends, colleagues and others because of factors well outside of your control.

1 Know what inspires you
A simple and effective concept for this is what we call Self-Engaging Leadership. Articulate and remain true to what commonly inspires you both personally and professionally. It's called Self-Engaging Leadership because it helps you to be continually energised for yourself, and for others, around what you are doing ... both at work, at home or in the community. The concept is about helping you know WHY you are doing something – being true to your purpose. You start with helping yourself, then help others.

2 Manage your own life as a whole
Every fortnight or four weeks check-in around where you are with:
• Work (ie. activity, progress, challenges, other)
• Home (ie. finances, housing, other)
• Mind (ie. stimulation, mental state, other)
• Body (ie. fitness, diet, skin, other)
• Heart (ie. relationships, pets, charities, other)
• Spirit (ie. community, nature, religion, reading, other)

Check-in around WHY things are the way they are... are you being true to your purpose? If your life is out of step with whom you are and what's happening around you, it should be self-evident. Also, keep asking yourself are you being true to what commonly inspires you both personally and professionally. And then make quick and easy plans to make immediate changes.
 If you continually have things which don't inspire you both personally and professionally – try to develop an alternative approach or mindset. Be prepared to make big decisions in this process – this is hard but the reward is great. Don't continue down a continual path of discontentment – it's easy to do but not in anyone's best interest.

An important footnote: Sometimes people have to face realities at certain times and places in their lives. Often they aren't left much room to make major decisions, particularly around their work. It might be a financial commitment, a family situation, a geographical restraint or something else. And that's ok, that's life.
A secret is to constantly monitor your situation so when your world changes, you too can adjust quickly. This will help you avoid being "stuck on any treadmill" and maintain a sense of inspiration and purpose.