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Work-life balance is the number two concern I run into in everyday conversations I have with managers these days (number one is conflict resolution with someone they manage).
The tightrope of walking the fine balance between what needs to be done to sustain the business vs. the self (from eventual decay of health) remains an enormous continued struggle.
Falling off the tightrope in my definition is: If there’s disparity between honoring what your true life goals are with what you’re actually spending your time achieving. For example let’s say that your life goal is to find a husband and start a family in a year. If you’re spending zero time in pursuit of one and instead, all your time is spent getting a promotion at work and achieving the corporate objectives of your employer, you are falling off the tightrope of work-life balance.
Most working professionals today know exactly what the dire consequences of not maintaining this tightrope balance between self/family and work are. They are surrounded by rampant cancer scares and the continual breakdown of the family unit directly as a result of this inability to balance on the tight rope.
How is it then that these extremely intelligent and knowledgeable humans continue to fall off the tightrope? How is it that they live lives they know should be different than what lies in their heart? I personally think that the answer is that from early on in life, we are led to believe certain rules about happiness and how to attain it. These rules unfortunately, in many cultures including ours are equated with having more and continually striving for more.
I challenge you to think the following schools of thought.
It’s ok to be average
The mere thought of being average in the minds of over achievers and constant strivers is equated to a certain death in most managers. However, let me assure you that my best personal moments in life came when I started to believe this—that it’s ok to be average. I don’t mind that others are better or have more. Once I let go of the quest for perfection, the guilt, anguish and self-flagellation stopped and wonderful things started happening in my life and surprisingly career.
You aren’t what you do or what you have
Your kids and pets know a secret—you aren’t the VP of Finance to them, nor do they love you more because you’re a Lexus driver. In research after research, happiness is found to be disproportionate to extreme wealth and social position. In fact, you’ll find most recent notorious cases of white collar crime being committed not by regular Joe’s in cubicles but by the guys and gals in the corner offices. That’s because they will never have enough title, money, and success to satisfy the mental suffering that continues to scream ‘get me more’ in their head.
What’s really important?
The legendary Japanese warriors called Samurai were trained as lethal weapons of power and destruction. Surprisingly, they often didn’t die uttering words about country and freedom but rather with the word ‘mother’ on their lips. When we age, our bodies decay and we’re stripped of our jobs and titles and at that point, there are two choices—to realize that what was important was really about loving yourself and your family or to get angry and depressed about all the things you no longer have. Go to any nursing home in Toronto and I’ll bet that nobody remembers the extra hours that frail man in a wheel chair worked to finish his project on time or the award winning campaign he produced. There are a thousand other award winners out there. To your family and friends though—there is only you. Ask yourself this question everyday, ‘what is really important’? and you will find keeping yourself on the tightrope much easier.
Staying on the tight rope in the short term vs. the long term
The greatest irony that I see in tightrope balancing is that those who feel that is’ ok to fall off the tightrope in the short term think that somehow they will manage to stay on the elusive tightrope once ‘my kids grow up’ or ‘I get the promotion’ or ‘the season ends’ or ‘I find a better job’. It requires the same skills to walk either a short rope or a long one. Those skills are: core strength, the power of focus, concentration and balance for an acrobat. What makes life so different? If you can’t prioritize what’s important and how to achieve your short term goals with the given parameters, how will you be different in the future?
Have the courage to step away from the thinking that’s causing you to fall off the tightrope. Be the Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom where he has to take a leap of faith and step off the ledge to the darkness below that he cannot see.
With kindness as always,
Chala

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