Work & Life & Balance (or lack thereof)

After Anne-Marie Slaughter’s amazing article on what society and corporates need to work on to help more women get to the top, a bit more food for thought on the topic of work, and life, and the balancing of both (if ever really possible…)

When it comes to work-life balance, says author and Sydney TED speaker Nigel Marsh, we need to stop kidding ourselves. Balance is hard. Like many of us when we are faced with the fact that our life isn’t quite working anymore, Nigel Marsh took a year off to think and figure himself out. He discovered something really important during that time: that it was really easy to balance life with work …when you don’t work! It will never be an easy thing when you do. A journey, a challenge, the Holy Grail, call it what you like – but you have to work at it. Be disciplined. Learn to say no. And that’s by no means an easy task for anyone.

Because, for One, some jobs simply don’t allow for balance, so if you’re in one of those, either suck it up – or stop moaning already and go look for something that will really let you explore that wonderful thing called life. There’s simply no point complaining if you work for one of those “abattoirs of the human soul” (I would say banking was one…), or the higher up the ladder you go. If the pace and stress don’t suit you, own up to it and let go. Find something that does. Forget the money and the lifestyle. Because clients will be clients, deadlines will be deadlines – and because some people do manage. So stop telling all your friends how unhappy you are right now if that’s what you’ve been doing for years and you still don’t plan on doing anything about it – you’re probably ok with the lack of balance in your life, or it would have killed you already.

Two: (my Dad will be really unhappy with me for writing this but hey…) your boss will never really want to give you all that much balance when pressure dawns and push comes to shove, I think. After all, it’s you or them. Also, we may all be missing the point that corporations are wired to make money. It’s not that they’re mean per se, really – it’s just their intrinsic goal. Otherwise they would be called non-profit organisations. So don’t blame them, and don’t wait until they finally serve balance to you on a platter – set those limits for yourself, and try to remember what you value more in life: snuggling up with your boyfriend on the sofa at night, arriving home in time to read a bedtime story to your kids, – or re-writing that note on the Eurozone (is it going to crumble? is it not? is it?) for the 32nd time, so that it’s really perfect and your boss perhaps mentions you to your boss’s boss. Because it’s up to you to decide what balance means for you at the end of the day – control is in your hands, no matter how uncomfortable the idea might be (I personally find it much easier to blame everyone else!). What type of life do you really want to lead?

Threewhen do you want to lead it? if you can’t quite, surely, manage to work hard, play hard, see your kids, sleep long, work out, have sex, go to dinner with your wife and meditate all in one day (that wouldn’t be quite so balanced anyway…), one question you have to ask yourself is when you plan on doing some of these things? after you retire is too late. If you ask me, in ten years is too late, too. Going back to uncomfortable, none of these things will happen by themselves in the “Great After” – you need to decide that they will happen to you now. Leaving aside slightly annoying hippy happy carpe diem considerations, early menopause, cervical cancers, crashing with planes and vespa accidents do happen. All around us. You know them. I know them. And in those cases the richest man (or woman) in the cemetery isn’t really the happiest.

Four – and that’s the really good bit – it’s a lot easier to introduce balance in your life than you might think. As Nigel Marsh explains, a radical overhaul of your life is hardly necessary. It’s a certain reshuffling of the small things that sometimes has the biggest impact. I’ve wanted to write about reframing for a while (another really good TED talk and a key principle of CBT, which again is something I’ll write about soon), because reframing helps with pretty much everything; in the case of achieving work-life balance, sometimes all it takes is a good hard look at what makes you truly happy, and the strength to declare yourself satisfied in the face of other people’s lies about how much better their life really is. I think Nigel’s son’s story trumps a trip to the Maldives. Then again, maybe that’s just me.

This video is also just funny! and one of my favourite TED ones. Enjoy!

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