Dispelling the work life balance myth
In September this year I was asked to speak on the elusive topic of ‘work-life balance’ at the Women Lawyers Association Newcastle. As a Performance Coach with a strong background in wellbeing, I could have stood up and preached about how to achieve a balance between work and life. However, I would have felt pretty inauthentic doing this and to be honest, it would not have served the room of women I was speaking to.
Instead I took a different approach that I felt in my gut would have far more impact.
I set about dispelling the long held belief that as career women we should strive for this balance as it is what will bring us a sense of success, fullfilment and happiness.
I know first-hand how challenging it can be to separate the two. Six years ago I decided to go back and do some further study in the area of coaching. At the same time I was running a successful personal training business and also juggling the lives of two small children and a husband who worked really long hours. I was constantly feeling a sense of not being present when at home with my family because my head was either in a laptop studying, or thinking about things I had to do in my business. I found it really hard to switch off at night, and sleep was a challenge between the kids waking up and my mind spinning a hundred miles an hour. I craved sugar, especially at 3pm and after dinner and as a result I gained over 5kg even though I was exercising and eating well. To be honest, I didn’t want to admit I wasn’t coping because I was meant to represent someone who was fit, healthy and balanced…after all that’s what I talk to my clients about! I told myself I needed to handle it all myself and at the same time put a huge expectation on myself to be everything to everyone else. I pushed through life like this for 3 years and then crashed in a heap, developing adrenal fatigue and needing to take 5 weeks off my work and life where it was even a struggle to go for a walk or play with the kids. Thankfully my clients understood and were there when I came back…but that’s only because I had developed a really strong relationship with them over time. I am eternally grateful for their support to this day.
I know I am not alone in feeling that there is a pressure to have it all – the thriving career or business, happy healthy kids, lots of money to travel and buy beautiful things, and of course to maintain that perfect youthful body. I think as women we are great at saying “I’m fine” and putting on a mask, yet this isn’t the case underneath. I know it’s tough to be vulnerable and as the eldest daughter in my family I always assumed I needed to take control and just push through. This vulnerability really means that there is a deep seeded fear of not being enough, not being loved, or not belonging if we show we need support. Often short term fixes like alcohol, and chocolate in my case, are used to numb the pain. We are great at showing compassion for our girlfriends who confide that they are struggling, but we rarely have the same level of compassion for ourselves.
The term ‘work-life balance’ isn’t helping with all of this.
The definition of balance adds pressure to our lives and the external pressure of things and people often drive our decisions. Social conditioning defines success and so we push harder. It is challenging to unplug, to manage the negative self-talk in our minds, and stop feeling guilty for all the stuff we think we ‘should’ be doing.
As a result our performance suffers because there is no down time to re-charge and we push our own wellbeing to the back seat to cope with life’s pressures.
I think all of this happens because we follow someone else rules. We look for external validation for success and we push aside what’s important to us as individuals.
And the result is often burn out.
So what’s the solution then?
From working with many women over the past few years helping them to achieve peak performance by using targeted strategies that fit their life, I know that the solution is to change the definition of what work and life means to you.
To do this I ask my clients three questions that take them to a deeper level:
- Are you clear on your goals, what you are passionate about, and do you feel you have a purpose in life?
- What do you really want your work and life to look like?
- Where do you think boundaries could be set to create more ‘flow’ in your work and life rather than balance.
The answers to these questions often come from what we value, what we believe, and the rules we run our lives by. However, these are often not clear on a conscious level. In fact, 90% of what we do every day is unconscious. Hard to believe but very true. We are on autopilot with much of how we think, behave and act and these are the things that dictate how we live and how we work.
The power is in awareness (or what I call ‘fact finding’) because this helps you identify your risk areas, your strengths and gaps, and defines exactly what you want out of work and life.
The biggest dis-service women can bestow upon themselves is to say no to their yes’s and yes to their no’s.
Not everyone has to follow the same definition of success and happiness.
The power you have is to define YOUR OWN PATH and then have the courage to live this way.
I have been inspired by many successful women who have done just this. Two of my favourites are Brene Brown and Ariana Huffington. Both these women have had their own form of burn out and as a result have a passion for teaching other women how to avoid the same.
What I want personally for you is to go one step further than simply reading this blog and possibly thinking “I haven’t got time to hit pause and answer these powerful questions”. I want you to take one small step toward getting clear on your definition of work and life.
CLICK HERE to check out Brene Browns website, especially the books and CD’s tab.
CLICK HERE to find out more about how Ariana Huffington turned her life around and wrote two amazing books called ‘Thrive’ and ‘The Sleep Revolution’.
Or if you want to fast track your definition and get a bespoke plan, shoot me an email and we can connect for a 20 minute fact finding session to identify your weak spots that could be leading you to burn out. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
You deserve to thrive, flourish, feel fully alive and fire on all cylinders…and it is possible when you choose your own path.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa consults for Being More Human as an Executive Wellness and Performance Coach. She describes her role at Being More Human simply as giving people the opportunity to shine at work and in their personal lives.
Lisa motivates, inspires, empowers, teaches and encourages professionals to build their physical and mental strength to help them succeed both at work and in their personal lives. She approaches holistic health with the belief that people can achieve the goals and aspirations that they never thought possible by changing their mindsets and through holistic wellbeing. Using 24 years of experience to guide her very successful approach, Lisa helps clients to understand the blocks that are holding them back from thinking and feeling the way they want, and works with them to develop a bespoke approach to overcome these obstacles in the easiest way possible.