“I need a better work/life balance.” Is this something you’ve heard someone say or perhaps you’ve said before? What does that mean for you?
In our society, we have defined “work/life balance” as an ability to work well at work, take time for yourself to rest, take time for your family and friends, and take time to play and enjoy life. This mythical work/life balance promises that if we even things out, then we will feel balanced and whole. The pang of giving up time with yourself or your family due to work will magically disappear because you have somehow balanced all the chips in your life.
Do you suddenly stop living when you go to work? Life doesn’t stop, until it does. Let that sink in. Your life doesn’t stop while at work, or when you’re on vacation, or when you’re at the grocery store, or when you are watching TV. Life stops when it all stops. If you’re reading this, you are living, so take a moment and enjoy the breath that you have. YOU ARE ALIVE.
The idea of work/life balance implies that we can compartmentalize ourselves and our lives. It implies that work brings about negative emotions and that life brings about positive emotions. It suggests that work stays in one place, and then we can counteract and balance whatever stress we felt at work with “life.” So, what counteracts the stress of “life?” Jeff Bezos is famously quoted for saying “work/life harmony,” and I find that statement works better.
Balancing life is impossible; life is a somewhat organized chaos. We can only control so much until we no longer can. Work/life balance implies that you can control all the chips. We don’t know when our health will fail us, regardless of how well we take care of ourselves. We can’t control when it will rain or whether our flight will arrive on time. We can’t balance all the chips because “life” is throwing chips at us and taking chips away without us knowing.
What can we do to get that feeling? That sense of balance or harmony? We show up. We show up to work. We show up with our families and friends. We show up with ourselves. We show up when folding laundry. We show up when waiting in line. We are present to our lives.
How? What do we do to be present in our lives? First, begin by being present with yourself. Noticing your breath and your “aliveness” is something we take for granted. Stop each day and connect with yourself, even if only for one minute. Pause and notice your “livingness.”
Next, become aware of where you are and where your mind is. Are they in the same place? Are you at work while your mind is worrying about your kids? You aren’t at work then. Your mind is stuck trying to solve something in a location where you can’t do much. Be present and show up to your work or leave work, and be present with your kids. Since you can’t do both, do ONE, and fully show up to it.
Lastly, when facing something stressful, find the moments of gratitude. Show up to the stressful and difficult moments as you would the positive ones. Face them head on, show up, and find something to be grateful for. When in doubt, be grateful for this breath and for simply being alive.
Natalia Foote is the owner of threeR, a company bringing mindfulness, meditation and yoga practices to the workplace. Her mission in life is spreading love and light in the world. When not spending time with her family, you can find Natalia taking and teaching yoga all around Lake Nona.