Let’s just jump right in.
There IS no such thing as work life balance. There is only life.
This is going to get me into a lot of trouble.
A lot of time, energy and money is spent on teaching, learning and running after the chimera of work life balance. We are led to believe that if we achieve this, then our lives will be perfect, will run smoothly and be fulfilling.
Now I am going to get into even more trouble.
This will never happen — rather, it could even happen a lot — it will just be for short periods of time, and this is a good thing.
I am not a pessimist — quite the opposite. Now I will tell you why I have stuck my neck out to make these two bold statements.
I would like to start with a story.
Olive Oil And A Life Lesson
When I was much younger and living in Florence, Italy, I once hosted Maria, a woman from Madrid I did not know. She had come with her daughter to visit Elizabeth, her daughter’s friend, and who was one of my co-workers. B
Because Elizabeth’s apartment was small and I lived in a beautiful villa in downtown Florence (a story for another day), I was asked to host Maria.
During the time this lovely woman stayed at my home, she told me about her life, where she had worked and how this was the first time she had travelled, not only outside of Spain, but outside of Madrid as well. She did some sightseeing, but she also took the time to teach me how to make a potato tortilla (one of my daughter’s favourite dishes still today) as well as delicious, traditional paella.
One evening, while we were preparing dinner, I dropped a bottle of olive oil that literally exploded all over my linen skirt. I was aghast and had no idea of how to get rid of the giant stain.
With the calm born of experience, she asked for the skirt and then proceeded to clean it until there was no sign of a stain, (please do not ask me how she did that because I have completely forgotten). She then hung it out to dry and ironed it — all in time for dinner.
When I apologized about how much time she had dedicated to this skirt, and that I was sorry she was taking time away from her vacation, she looked at me and said,
“There is no such thing as a vacation. There is only life.”
This struck me at the time and recently the wisdom of this teaching has come back to me again and again when coaching others and working on my own life.
By saying that there is no such thing as work life balance, what I really mean is that it does not exist in the way we have been conditioned to perceive it.
The Ups & Downs Of “Off” And “On”
Some people are “on” when they get to work, and identify so much with the job they are doing that they have difficulties with their sense of self outside the workplace, if they lose a job or retire.
By seeing our jobs as something separate or distinct from our lives, whether as employees or entrepreneurs, we can be tricked into thinking that our “life” is hung up on a peg in the cloakroom when we get to work and that we pick it up again, to “start living” only once we have left the office.
To merely punch in and punch out shuts us off from the many opportunities there are in any workplace for personal growth and true connection.
Every business, no matter how small, is a “society”, and where there is a society there is the possibility to make a difference.
There are ways of being of service by practicing generosity, patience and kindness. There are ways for us to encourage and support others, to be creative and to express our values even if they are not part of the “job description”.
The connection we build with others and how we grow as individuals, not the tasks we perform, are ultimately what will change our perception of the time we spend in a structured workplace.
As coaches, helping our clients to see the incredible opportunities for personal growth in the workplace, even in the same job, is fundamental to their happiness and success.
By facilitating a profound transformation in our clients, incredible changes occur for them in their outlook, in how they perceive themselves and their present situation – whatever that may be. At the very least, they will gain clarity as to why they are in a specific job, what purpose it serves on their path of individual growth, if it is still of service to them or if it is time to move on.
I have more great news!
No matter how hard you work at “juggling” your life, work life balance might be reached temporarily, but it cannot be maintained!
This is completely in contrast with what most people say yet I stand by this statement with conviction. Those of you who have a family, job, hobbies, pets, housework, and a million other things which vie for your attention will get what I mean when I say that those moments of feeling that things have gone well, that you have dedicated the “right” amount of time and energy to the people and tasks most important to you are just that – moments.
Some days are great and then … a bunch of days are a mess.
Because things are constantly changing, each day must be different than the one before and the one after!
“Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible.” Thich Nhat Hanh
With the certainty that all things will change comes the knowledge and freedom that, precisely because of this, everything truly is possible.
We can change how we feel about various aspects of our lives or about other people. Opportunities that we could not imagine existed suddenly can pop up before us. Love, where there was none, can suddenly arise like a wellspring.
The trick is to let ourselves flow, to be open to what each day will bring rather than trying to hold onto something, pin it down, classify and codify your time and your experiences.
You are not the person you were yesterday; you are not even the same person who started to read this article. Why would something you decided days, weeks, months, or even years ago, be appropriate for you, define you or hold you back now?
This does not mean we should not have goals, but it does mean we should learn to flow with the ebb and tide of obstacles and opportunities without being consumed by brilliant successes or spectacular failures.
So, how do we apply all this to ourselves as coaches and to our clients?
I will never get tired of quoting Rich Litvin, who says, “You can only take your clients as deep as you have gone yourself”, so first of all it is up to you to taste, feel and experience what this really means to be able to share it with your clients.
There is only life, and because all things are impermanent, all things are possible.
How freeing! It gives us the ability to let go of what is no longer of service to us and our highest purpose and good. We can start looking at our life as a whole; let ourselves be filled with being not only doing.
J.O.B. or the Joy Of Being
I cannot find the name of the person who first coined this acronym (please reach out – I would love to tag you), but it really sums up the way things should be.
Isn’t this what we desire most for our clients?
Never forget: to know how to lead our clients on this path of self-realization, we need to be on the path ourselves.
We lead by example.
Educators say that children learn from example, but this is something which never stops throughout our lifetime. We all learn from people who know more than we do, from people we look up to.
With our clients it should be no different.
We should lead by our example. Our lives do not have to be perfect nor do our clients need to copy us or our lifestyle, but we do need to show them the honesty, beauty and freedom of living according to our values and purpose.
We should lead them by dreaming big and then by dreaming even bigger.
We should lead them by being vulnerable, by being willing to look deeply into ourselves.
We should lead them by coaching fearlessly.
We should lead them by living fearlessly.
This does not mean we have no weaknesses or that we never make mistakes. It does mean that we give ourselves over fully to the experience of life.
It means that we are connected to our highest self, that we are able to distinguish between obstacles that are an inconvenience and obstacles which require thought and action.
It means that we know how to let go, to trust – ourselves and our intuition.
It means we live with integrity, honestly, with open hearts.
Only by knowing the flavour of these experiences will we be able to guide our clients.
Discover your J.O.B. so that you may share it with others.