Balance, Balance, Balance
Choices, choices, choices. Employers who have cut expenses encourage us to work longer hours. Our own desire to get ahead, a raise or the next promotion, or to expand our business ventures, focuses our attention on making it financially better with the added sense of our own real value to our workplace and we believe to our families and of course to ourselves.
Children demand more of our time until they get old enough to cart themselves around. This is accompanied by another car in the family with all of its direct expenses. Spouses, sooner or later, want more out of their lives, even the most dedicated soccer mom (or dad). This also creates additional expenses.
The driving forces behind the imbalance within our lives are the economy, our investment decisions (homes, the stock market, our personal sense of consumption) and of course the stability of our income. We work hard to retire, hard to provide for our families, and hard to accumulate wealth (each to our own abilities and whatever luck comes our way).
It looks like imbalance in our lives is guaranteed not an optional condition. What is this imbalance? If it comes down to choices, do I actually have any as the primary provider for my family.
I guess all of this is not really a pretend scenario. It is real and sometimes has very negative consequences.
A little while ago a company brought all of its employees together to hear a speaker talk about how to achieve balance in their lives. This company obviously recognized that the stress of the workplace was having a negative effect on productivity, attitudes and relationships. The speaker was powerfully motivating and most if not all came away from the weekend with the desire to rebalance their lives. I learned of this from a friend of mine, so I was not present but I did get the essence of what this friend brought back from the seminar.
Some of the key ideas and personal changes that this person came away with. Get up in the morning and take a moment to center yourself. If it is coffee and the birds outside your window, enjoy the coffee and the birds. If you meet a friend as you are leaving the house, stop and engage that friend. Do not rush to work with anxiety, plan your day with a sense of comfort that you will be able to handle anything that comes up. Slow the family's charge out the door with a daily ritual of beginning the day with anticipation, not dread.
At work engage your fellow workers. Find ways to create friendliness in the workplace. Guide with confidence in yourself and others and forgo the pressure treatment. As a member of the team refine your skills and the knowledge and skills of others. All day when you interact with another employee or engage a customer, pause and consider - What message you are sending, what behavior you are trying to encourage, what needs to be accomplished right now or maybe tomorrow is ok.
As a manager or executive insure that all below you know your mission and vision. Do not encourage filtering out the bad news. Do not pit one employee against another. Show by example that competition is good but cut throat behavior will not be rewarded. Ask from others only what you are willing to ask of yourself.
If you need to work overtime, work overtime. Do not however make overtime a career. Go home to your family, they need you as much as your workplace does. Be a good listener when you do arrive home. If you are presented with problems, non emergencies, pause your first response. Problems at home are no different than problems at work, deal with them with humor if possible, enlist help if possible, approach them with calmness and confidence. Many arguments at home are just frustration at having to deal with stuff at home after you have had a hard day in the workplace.
If a stay at home mom shows up at the door and welcomes you with attitude, stop for a moment, listen, and do not engage her frustration with your own. Many family disasters begin with both parties airing their frustrations at the same time. Taking time to listen and waiting your turn can avoid these type of conflicts.
So what does encouraging balance in your life really mean? Understand that you are choosing the next step with what you do now. Priortizing the workplace over your personal life as a consistent behavior pattern is creating imbalance. Not eating correctly affects your physical and mental well being. Ignoring the family, for whatever reason breeds all kinds of problems at home and by default the workplace. Pause and smell the roses, smile at strangers, notice your family's contribution to your life, and yours to them. Choose accordingly.
Really Trying to Balance a Life
The Corporate world or the entrepreneurial world makes some heavy demands on our time and on our loyalties. These demands are many times exciting and many times a heavy burden. The folks at home (spouse and children) support these demands for a while, but sooner or later if the working spouse (one or both) is away slaying dragons by themselves the family separates. Over time children and sometimes the spouse leaves the reservation. At a minimum all parties begin to rethink their situation and begin the long road to a different life. If this separate existance is what we desire then we continue what we are doing, if it is not then a rebalancing effort is called for. Hopefully, before disaster rewrites their hopes and dreams of what a family life is supposed to be, someone begins to reconsider their loyalties.
I was watching a movie yesterday (The Day the Earth Stood Still). The words that grabbed me were (paraphrased) "We only change when we are at the precipice". Most often a lot of damage has been done before we realize we are at the brink. Do your loyalties and priorities need a new look? Only you know.
All we have talked about, in a dozen different ways, is awareness, noticing, choosing. These three allow us to change before we are at the brink. Allowing ourselves to go over the precipice without pausing at the edge is not good, not good at all. You may continue to choose the path you are currently on, but a valid question arises. Why did you start a family in the first place?
Some are trapped by circumstance. But, enlisting the help and support of the entire family can bond the family together even more. Hard times are hard times, all of us at one time or another have felt them. The key is the family unit and how each contibutes in their own way to getting though them.
Most of all everyone of us needs to practice this rebalancing. Before disaster is written on the soul of our lives.
We go from home to school, from school to work, from work to retirement, from retirement to the end of our lives. We cannot change the Birth to Death thing, but we can strongly influence everything in between. But our lives, no mattered how centered, relaxed, and self sufficient we are, are impacted by everyone else on the planet. We are imbeded in a web of life that affects us for good or bad all the way through.
Each of us, if we wish our lives to be all that they can be, has a job to do. Find and keep the place within that no matter what happens we respond as the moment requires and not with our load of frustration, disappointments, injuries, angers, and lost dreams. Each day is a new day to experience the power of life and our part in it. The quality of your life is not determined by the outside, it is determined by the inside. I watched a movie "Peaceful Warrior" from the book "The Way of the Peaceful Warrior" by Dan Millman and was again struck by the simplicity of the comment by Socrates "Take out the Trash", "Where are you....Here, what time is it....Now". We fill our minds with trash and often do not notice everything going on around us...."There is never nothing going on, there are no ordinary moments". In order to pay attention we must take out the trash, in order to hear the grasshopper at our feet our minds cannot be clouded with yesterday or fretting about tomorrow. There is no way I can tell you I am in the "Now" every day. I can say that I stay focused more and more on the journey than on any destination, and that I stay present more and more with each passing moment. Anger, frustration, irritation do happen but are fleeting things easily noticed and let go of. The word peaceful comes to mind.
The structure you walk around in, your body and all of its billions of cells, is just plain awesome. You cannot tell each cell what to do or how to do it but you can do the most important thing to help all of the processes of your body function as best they can.
You can get out of your own way. Everytime you allow the outside world to anger you, depress you, feel sorry for yourself, abuse yourself, and a few dozen other behavior patterns (physical or emotional) you impact the ability of everything to work together, communicate, and do their job. For now we cannot alter the aging process but we can choose to make each day as good a day as we can so that marvelous biological machinery we call home can function at its best.
Teach yourself to feel the energy flow throughout the body. Learn to sense tenseness and learn to relax it. Learn to let go of things that you can no longer do anything about (constructively that is). Learn to plan for the future but do not live in the future. Learn from the past but do not live in the past. Find pleasure in small things and always keep your awareness of the life around you.
Temporary fear or anger keeps you alive, long term fear or anger destroys you. Choosing the right path for you and your well being is a daily exercise. Learning the wisdom of the choice is an ongoing joy. Life is not a problem that requires a solution. Life is a joy that must be experienced. This is only possible if we are here now and not someplace else in our heads or in our hearts.
We have added a couple of extra things to make our lives better, happier and more open to the mystery around us.
Feeling the energy flow within the body. For me it is a wave accompanied by chill bumps. Feel the connection with the Universe. The molecules and cells in your body may be only a few days, months or years old, but all of the atoms that make you up are billions of years old, every one of them. Feel the awe and mystery behind life and and all that has made it possible. Keep your awareness open, let go when you need to, pay attention, show up and have fun.