Many people seem to view work-life balance as unrealistic, or possibly useful for others but not themselves. But here’s why you hate the idea of work-life balance: because you believe it’s nothing more than shuffling a deck of cards and rearranging how you spend your time.
Work-life balance is all or nothing to you. And deep down, you may see it as something that can have an impact for others, but that won’t work for you or your situation.
There is one goal of work-life balance, however, and it’s not to shuffle your hours around so that everyone in your life is happy. That’s not possible.
The goal of work-life balance is to achieve peace of mind in all of life’s arenas.
You Deserve Peace: How to Make Work-Life Balance Work for You
True success is doing the best with what you have.
– Tyler Clary, Olympic gold medalist
Those in need of a healthy relationship with their work and their personal lives are the ones that resist it the most. I hear from people all the time about how unique their own situation, and how it prevents them from doing what they should be doing.
I’m not here to throw stones. If you work a lot, that is hard. I know you’d rather be working on your goals or spending time with your family. You are 100% validated in your belief that finding a balance with other things in life is going to be challenging. But it doesn’t mean you should feel sorry for yourself.
I hope this story gives motivates you to take action.
Even Olympic gold medalists can’t always win
Last year, I sat down for an interview with Tyler Clary, who won an Olympic gold medal in the 200m backstroke at the 2012 London games. He had recently not qualified for 2016 and was shifting gears towards his new passion of becoming a professional racecar driver.
Kind of crazy, right? A guy that mastered one sport, who decides to end a 20-year pursuit to try his hand in another arena. During that conversation, Tyler shared a perspective that I had heard many times. It may not be new to you, either. But something about his story and the way he said it made it “click.” He said to me, “True success is doing the best with what you have.”
Tyler went on to explain that in racing, many of the drivers show up to the track knowing they will not cross the finish line in first place that day. The equipment and crews of their competitors are simply too much of a match for someone just getting into the sport. As an all-or-nothing aficionado, this baffled me. I thought to myself, “Why do it if you can’t win?”
He continued, explaining that success looked different on the racetrack. They measured their results in terms of how many places they moved up from their past race. From 42nd place one weekend to 30th the next was something to be celebrated. And sometimes, the crew would choose to forget their placing altogether, focusing on the team’s high level of performance that day.
Racing is an example of an arena in life that you can’t always finish first in, because there are too many variables that make it impossible to assume you will win each time. Work-life balance is another arena where you can’t always win.
The lesson for work-life balance: better, not best
Instead of getting frustrated or upset, your target should be simple: to do better than you did before. Your goal? Achieve peace of mind in all of the arenas that matter to you.
If you work 12-hour shifts and rarely see your kids or get to the gym, you’re not going to change everything overnight. If the list of things you’d like to be doing is long enough to touch your feet, you may be setting yourself up for failure by simply assuming you can do it.
But not trying or giving up is not the answer, either. Here are a three ways you can start doing better than you did last week.
Know your goals in each of life’s arenas.
You want peace of mind, not overwhelm.
True work-life balance is not about how you divide the hours in your day. It’s actually a diverse equation that represents your desires, with specific periods of time set like prescriptions to help you reach your goals.
If you’d be at peace with spending a total of five hours each week at the gym, then that’s all you need. Figure out a way to block it into your schedule.
Audit where you spent your time at the end of each week.
Be efficient and effective, not task-oriented.
Many people find themselves needing more time in the day. As this isn’t possible, your goal should be to make better use of the time you have. Can you cut anything out of your schedule that isn’t serving you?
Ask yourself what isn’t helping you to achieve peace of mind anymore. It’s okay to let something go that is no longer contributing to you living an effective life.
Bring the people in your life in on your plan.
There’s strength in numbers, not in aimless wandering.
“I’m committed to spending more time (at home, on this project, doing x), and I want to let you see my plans.”
Can you think of a better way to make yourself more indispensable at work or home than by showing the people in your life that you’ve committed to being better?
The bonus of showing people what you’re doing is that you may be able to kill more birds with one stone. If your significant other knows when you’re trying to plan time with them, you can make it work for the two of you. If your boss knows you’re trying your absolute best, maybe you can get an extra day off here and there to work on a project. You won’t know until you try.
If you settle for living behind the facade of “It can’t be done,” the lack of work-life balance will eventually lead to regrets in many arenas of life. Just remember, you can’t win the game each time. You absolutely cannot win on day one.
True success is doing the best with what you have. Know what you truly want. Be more efficient with your time. Tell the people closest to you what you’re up to.
It’s not a gold medal, but it’s closer than where you were yesterday.