3 Ways to foster Improved Work-Life Balance
Our modern work world is one that is focused on massive productivity, quick results and the rapid obtainment of profitable outcomes. And across many sectors the people supporting them are suffering from exhaustion or close to burnout. This post relays my insights and observation on what's needed for that to evolve. But before we begin, I want you to know something:
Your productivity is not a measure of your value. You're valuable even when you say and do nothing. Please, take that in.
This is something many of us need to be reminded of on a regular basis. But what does it really mean? How is that even possible?
What we do versus what we are
Our skills and roles may hold a certain value to our family, a company, or an organization we work for. But your personal value, the value of the life you represent… remains unchanged even on days when you can’t get it all done.
Whenever I talk on this subject, a few questions naturally arise: what about motivation and drive, don’t all humans need that so we don't turn into motionless, do-nothing piles of goo? Does this mean that we don’t have to contribute in any way in order to be valuable?
And my short answer is yes – who you are as a being, your life…is valuable regardless of the deeds, service or skillset you offer, or how frequently you offer it. In other words, there is no need to prove your inherent personal value through your actions or 'doings'. You are a gift simply because you exist.
And you as a living being, are worthy of love, peace and happiness whether you work at a movie theatre, are unemployed, are a full-time parent, work a 12-hour day or a 2-hour day, are living on the streets or are an executive creating some worldwide, legacy institution. You can 'do' or 'not do'....and your personal value remains the same.
I'm also going to suggest that ‘doing nothing’ over a long-term basis is pretty much impossible as a living creature. I mean, look all around you.
Forward movement is natural
Life in any form, is naturally about creation, expansion, connection and growth. We’re surrounded by countless examples of this every day.
Small things, big things and every interaction in between. All living things are in a continual overall state of growing, expanding, creating and connecting. I sense it can't be helped. It's the nature of all living things to be in motion, moving forward, creating and 'doing' in some way. Even if it's small.
We humans just need to free ourselves from the ‘shoulds’ of our life and align ourselves more often with that more natural state of being and doing. Once we do that, we tap into a more sustainable, internal source of 'drive'. One that keeps us naturally in motion, moving forward, doing, contributing and creating in some way - and doing so without physical or mental exhaustion. We won't become lazy. It's not in our nature. We'll be rested, happy and healthy while working in a more peaceful, yet still profitable way.
What's getting in the way
So, what’s stopping us from doing that if it's natural? In part, it's our conditioning - or the way we've learned to think and operate, done so often that our brains and bodies have adopted it to run automatically. And the other hinderance is the impatient, fast-paced, quick-gratification work world that we've (unknowingly) created right along side that conditioning. Let's start with us.
As much as we can argue that we are energetic beings at our core, we also can't deny the fact that we're encased in physiological flesh-and-blood bodies - bodies that are designed to serve as 'conduits' or mechanisms of delivery for that energy.
And these brain-body 'conduits' or whatever you want to call them...are neuro-physiologically designed to adopt patterns - patterns of thinking and patterns of behaving, all for the sake of energy-efficiency. And over time and exposure to people, beliefs and scenarios... our brains and bodies have adopted some operating patterns that are helpful, as well as other patterns that are not so helpful - one of which is believing that objectives, deadlines and outcomes always need to happen rapidly, continuously and at high volume. They don't.
Even in other forms of life, there are times of restoration, play and dormancy in between periods of growth and expansion. The pace that most humans work at is a bit of a learned distortion of what's 'natural'.
So what do we do? We can't all just suddenly quit our jobs in some rebellious burst.
That's true. And although we may all get a big, yet short-lived dopamine rush from doing that, sustainable change in any area actually requires a slower, more consistent approach. Which means if we do want to work towards getting back to that more natural, relaxed-yet-dynamic, sustainable source of ‘drive’ …we need to clear and amplify from within ourselves while also..... slowly, peacefully and sometimes uncomfortably... holding ground in our work environment in order to foster its growth.
Some may call this non-violent resistance. I call it setting clear and kind boundaries around how we work and live... while cultivating an emotional state that can calmly and confidently protect it so we can experience the work-life complement we really want.
Breaking it down
If we want to evolve our workplace or how our society approaches work in general, I sense we need to approach it in 3 ways - and if possible, at the same time: through clearing, amplifying and holding ground.
Clearing - this is about letting go of the patterns of thinking and behaving that are blocking and separating us from that more natural source of ‘drive’ that our living bodies are designed for. That natural, more powerful state operates at a slower pace, and a slower brain speed. But the quality of what we do at that pace is consistently much higher.
Amplifying – this entails expanding and adding patterns of thinking and behaving that cultivate a more calm-confident center as our new emotional ‘home base’ or our new default way of operating. It's an emotional response range that is varied, anchored in moderate activation, flexible and appropriate. Our emotional default state is what directs all our behavior. And you can begin to cultivate that more centered 'home base' today.
Holding ground - this involves setting and enforcing reasonable boundaries around work. For me, this is coming more easily over time as my 'new default' emotional state is becoming more centered. In the beginning, it took awkward, uncomfortable practice - almost forcing myself to practice saying things like, "no" or "not this time" to requests and making myself awkwardly express my needs more clearly. I had to courageously and uncomfortably step up to challenge old patterns or what had become 'the norm', while offering alternative solutions.
This is what I sense needs to happen in our general work world over time - a slow, consistent recreation of a more relaxed, yet dynamic pace that naturally yields consistent, high-quality results...without exhausting or over-burdening us as humans.
Of course, there may always be occasional need for fervent bursts and fast-paced action. But it's our default pace of working that could stand to become more moderate and centered. Are those words becoming familiar? Are you starting to see a connection?
A loop that needs interruption
Our current work world - with its pace and fixation on rapid growth - is both an unknowing reflection of our own emotional state as well as a source that feeds back into our emotional state. A cyclic loop with two ends, each one serving as both 'chicken' and 'egg'.... each one serving as both beginning and end. So if we really want that to see change....if we want to create a work world where humans can function, create and produce at a sustainable pace while enjoying their non-work life as well....we need to slowly, consistently interrupt that 'loop' from both sides. Said differently, we need to moderate, differentiate and center our own internal emotional state while....moderating, and centering the state of our work world. So let's talk about what that looks like.
The first part is an 'inside job' that requires a willingness to learn how to do the consistent daily work to fully develop and refine our emotional response. No one else can do it for us. And it is part of the equation. And the latter we do by calmly and consistently holding ground at our workplace, through the use of reasonable boundaries and learning to confidently express our needs. Neither task is easy. But neither is suffering from exhaustion, burnout or loneliness because you don't have time for friends, family or yourself.
Both are long, intertwined processes. Neither will come overnight. But you do start to see benefits along the way that motivate you to keep going. And it doesn't have to begin with a dramatic, big surge of action. I mean it can start that way, if that's your style. But it can also be a series of small, consistent micro-moments that you build from. Like right now.
Sit back. Breathe deeply. Use the 1-minute video below if you'd like…
But even for just for a moment.. pause, feel your body, sense the life that’s running through it and begin by allowing yourself to know that you are valuable. And that doesn’t change whether you get what you're doing done today, or not.
(turn up volume for sound)
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