A New York Times article from yesterday was the latest of a plethora of articles tying a lack of work-life balance to the CoronaVirus. Within the article, the author Charlie Warzel,cautions about the WFH Revolution (Work from Home) as “it will capitalize on the total collapse of work-life balance.”
As written about earlier on our blog, the lack of work-life balance is nothing new among professionals but Covid-19 had certainly become the new scapegoat. The reality is, if we want it bad enough, we could have work-life balance, but here are five reasons why I believe we are still lacking balance in life.
You Don’t Have Alignment With Your Partner
What kind of life and relationship do you want?
When my therapist asked me this question a number of years ago, one that would seem to have a pretty clear answer, I was stumped. I was unable to articulate to him what I wanted. Furthermore, I could not tell him what Susanne wanted either as we had rarely discussed it. I was far too preoccupied with advancing my career and trying to build my business (something, that in looking back, was not what I really wanted).
What resulted in the lack of communication and dysfunction in our relationship, was a lack of alignment. I was pursuing what I wanted with no regard for what Susanne wanted. Rather than have a thriving and aligned relationship, we were simply just living like roommates and most of our conversations were simply about logistics – managing the schedules of the kids, routine chores that would get done on the weekends, my travel schedule, etc.
With our life today, we talk often about what we want from our life and our relationship. We discuss what we want to do when our youngest goes off to college in the fall, different interests we have, the kind of places we want to see, the travel we want to experience and what passions we want to pursue. And we do more than discuss it; we are in a continuous life design mode so we are then able to get what we want from our lives and relationships.
You want work-life balance? The first thing you need to do is to begin to align with your partner.
You Have No Boundaries
I have spoken many times about the need to establish work-life boundaries to protect what you value i.e. what you have aligned on. Boundaries are clear lines that are drawn that enable you to determine what you are willing and not willing to do.
I recently had a conversation with a coaching client who was telling me that most often his workday gets extended as he spends anywhere from an hour or two helping out his co-workers. This desire to help, which may make him a great employee, is causing frustration at home with his wife and kids as dinners are often missed and he is out the door in the morning before anyone gets up. After he told me about this scenario, we discussed what boundaries he needs to put in place at home and at work in order to protect his time with his family and also ensure he is not falling behind on his own work. In essence, what is he willing to do within his current role and what is he not willing to do? After some discussion, he had a pretty clear picture of it and I am looking forward to seeing what he and his wife have documented the next time we meet.
If we do not define clear boundaries and agreements in our personal and professional lives, then we will easily be pulled off course, chasing things that do not align with the life we want. Defining and documenting our boundaries with our closest relationships and ensuring that we continually review how we are living within them will get us closer to having balance.
It Requires Change and Change is Hard
I often get teased by Susane and my kids about being directionally challenged. Admittedly, if we are going somewhere, even if it is out of the way, I will take the route that I know because it is more comfortable and what I know.
The same holds true for those that are living a life off-balance; a life that is continually busy, a calendar that leaves no room to breathe. It is all you know and to make any changes would be hard because it would be new, unknown and uncomfortable.
I remember my first days after I left the agency I ran for 12-years and during that time will admit I had little to no balance. I remember the first weeks after, sitting in my home office and the uneasy feeling I had by having time, having quiet and not having another appointment to run to, a call to make or a plane to catch. It took me a while to get used to my new life and find comfort in it and now, I cannot imagine going back to living life on the hamster wheel just trying to run faster.
However, there are many who like I was, hate the rapid pace and unbalanced way they are living but the fear of change, the hard work of change is too great for them so they choose to stay in an unbalanced position and white knuckle their way through each day.
There is no doubt that change is hard and can be scary, but I can assure you being on this side and having balance; that it is worth it!
You’re Addicted To Your Work
In recent years we have replaced the word “workaholic” with a word that does not sound nearly as negative; that word is “hustle”. Many hustle evangelists from Kevin O’Leary to Gary Vee talk about the value of the hustle and all that you can accomplish if you just adopt the hustle mentality.
Whether you call it the hustle or workaholism or another name, one thing is clear; it is an addiction to work.
The issue with all addictions, is that no matter what you may be addicted to, you are abusing that thing in order to not deal with something else. The tricky thing about work addiction, is that on the surface it does not appear as damaging as alcoholism, drug, or sex addiction because it is passed off as hard work and evangelized as something glamourous.
An article in The Atlantic from 2019 addressed this idea of addiction and pointed to one of the root causes being that this is now where we find our worth and identity. Within the article the author defines his new term “workism” as follows: “It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.”
If we are going to look at our careers and professions as the place to find our identity and worth, we can surely expect to not only stay off balance but for the addiction to our work to increase far past the 49% who already self identify as work addicts.
While we can get great satisfaction and fulfillment from our work and should always put our best into our work while enjoying the fruits of our labor, the addiction to work and the idea that it is noble and glamorous is toxic and will only further exacerbate your life of unbalance.
For those who desire to have work-life balance, we need to begin with the understanding that it is a choice we can make, that we will have to make changes and will need to align with our partners and begin to define boundaries. This will not be an overnight change and neither was mine but it can be done. The Only thing stopping you from living a balanced life is you.
What’s holding you back? If you want to explore what’s holding you back, let us know and we can spend 30-minutes helping you unlock some things that may help you get better balance. Contact us here