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Work-Life Balance: Waking Up To The Real Problem (Part II)
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Michael Van Osch of ThinkTankMen.com.
In Part I of this series, I talked about the real issue behind what we commonly call a lack of work-life balance. In many cases, work-life balance is referred to as the root cause for being unfulfilled, unhappy and burnt out, when in reality, it’s a lack of alignment of who we are with what we do that leads to this malaise.
Working at something that is “right” for you (meaning more closely aligned with your natural strengths, talents and preferences), is a very motivating force. It gives you energy as opposed to draining you of it. You don’t find too many people who love what they do complaining about work-life balance. Ask yourself these two crucial questions to gauge your own level of alignment: do you get ideas, energy and some level of excitement from the workweek ahead of you? Or do you get stressed, scared and try to put it out of your mind?
Of course, everyone has stressful times; it’s a natural part of moving forward and pushing the envelope. The difference between situational stress and an underlying nagging sense of discontent has to do with your level of alignment.
How Can You Become More Aligned?
Life is nothing like a paint-by-number set, but here are three things to take a look at if you’re not exactly energized by what you’re doing with your life and want some permanent changes.
1) Remember Who You Really Are
You can’t become aligned with what is right for you until you take the time to remember who you naturally are. Start by excavating what’s most important to you. Make the time to sit with this alone, uninterrupted, sometime in the next few days.
Reflect on the times when you’ve been “on-fire” or most joyful in your life – what were you doing? Silly as it seems, think back to you as a child - what did you want to be when you grew up? And the key question here is, “why?” I don’t mean the stuff that was drilled into your head by adults, I mean you, the essence of you, the daydreams that came naturally to you – what were they?
Now before this gets all “woo-woo, crazy, you-can-be-whatever-you-want, fantasyland”, there are two levels to look at here:
The Surface Level – You wanted to be a cowboy. So why was that? Maybe because you were crazy about horses. Okay, cool, but…
The Deeper Level – beyond the surface, what intangible reasons made being a cowboy important and exciting for you? Perhaps it was being outdoors, being alone in the elements, taking care of animals, being your own boss, etc. These deeper desires are more important than the surface elements and are real keys to authentically identify who you are. Give this some focus and see what comes up for you.
2) Listen To Your Life
Every day you make a million decisions. And every time you make one, you get instantaneous feedback in your mind that’s either positive or negative. These little messages and nuances are often overlooked or brushed off without much notice. What if you started paying attention to them? For example, you’re at your favorite coffee shop and see an ad on the bulletin board looking for speakers on a topic you happen to know a lot about. Are you drawn to that and take down the phone number, or do you think to yourself, “damn, I wouldn’t go near that with a 10-foot pole.”
If you really listened to this internal feedback, even for one day, you’d be getting a great picture of what’s “right” for you and what isn’t. Try it today! Jot down what you find. By listening closely to your daily life, you find out what lifts you up and what tears you down.
3) Don’t Try To Convince Yourself To Believe
Yes you read that right. I’m not going to give you some load of hooey that says “just believe and it will happen”. Let’s keep this practical and real, shall we? If you want change, then you, and only you, have to make some changes. We all know that, but it is such a clichÃ© that it’s easy to blow it off and say it doesn’t apply to your life. The choices are: blow it off and stop reading this, or, agree it applies to all of us and take more control of where you’re going.
So if I’m not telling you to merely believe you can change, what is my point? Very simply put it’s Dare. Dare to think that you can try something new and be more of who you’re meant to be. Let the thought of what you might do, of what you could do, enter your mind and roll around for a while. Don’t blow it off as soon as you think it. Keep it there, and dare to focus on it and think about it. It takes guts to entertain entirely different possibilities for your life – but daring to think it is the first step. And when you dare to think about a certain change, notice how it feels physically. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you start to feel some butterflies or what we call “positive nerves”, even though it may scare the hell out of you.
Now, are there a lot of steps between daring to think about starting your own coaching business, art studio or wellness clinic and actually doing it? Of course there are, we all know that. But daring to think about it comes first – so I dare you. Dare yourself.
Again, remember that fulfillment and happiness are by-products of being in alignment: remember who you are, listen to your life, and dare to think new thoughts.
You’ve all heard a phrase similar to: “If you died tomorrow, would you have really lived?” Hmm. Good food for thought I suppose. But what if you don’t die tomorrow? What happens if you live another 30 years? Would you be happy with what you’re doing and giving to the world right now? Only you can dare to answer that.
Photo Credit: rachaelvoorhees