Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
There is no such thing as work-life balance. There I said it and I wasn’t struck by lightning nor did the house shake. Though the inspirational-speaker-gods might be angry with me the ground did not swallow me up. The work-life balance misnomer has floated around for quite a while and it has been the cash cow for a lot of speakers, including me. Everybody seems to want to know how to find the magic balance. It is the holy grail of our era. But just like the holy grail of old, it is just a legend, a myth. It doesn’t exist.
Arianna Huffington’s Third Metric Conference recently focused on redefining success. She identifies that there needs to be a third way of defining success. She believes the first two metrics of success are money and power. Then she offers that the third metric needs to be about well-being. Reading about the conference I agreed with her up until this point. There needs to be a redefinition of success and that is great fodder for another blog. But as I read further in the article I believe the conference just made it more difficult for everybody. They said that the way to find success is to balance money, power and well-being. Okay, now they have just guaranteed that those who attended the conference and those reading about it just added tremendously to their stress level.
Work-life balance is not possible. Mathematically it is almost impossible to balance the hours in a day so that there are precisely enough for work and leisure. More importantly to separate work from life is ridiculous. Most of us have to work for a living. (Perhaps unless you are Arianna Huffington.) Work is integral to our lives. So, what do we have to do?
The challenge of work-life imbalance is stress and guilt. We spend more time on one side of the equation at the expense of the other and we feel stressed out and guilty. We believe we should be focused more on one element than the other whether it’s work or leisure. So the answer is choosing our imbalance.
Some of us actually enjoy the work we do. We are passionate about it and we gain joy in our creativity and success. Others love the power or connection their work brings. And it pulls us away from our family and loved ones. But if we choose the “work” side of the equation to focus on, and accept the fact that it will demand our time, perhaps we can relax so that when we spend the time with our loved ones, or in leisure we can savor the moment rather than feel torn about getting back to work. Or conversely, if we identify that we want to spend the majority of our time with our family and loved ones we set that expectation in our mind, work as little as we can and accept the consequences.
The challenge with work-life balance thinking is the fallacy that we can “have it all.” In reality we can’t have it all, but we can have more of what we want if we stop searching for the grail of balance and just accept whatever imbalance we choose.
Friday, June 7, 2013
Many years ago when I first began speaking to audiences I would become so nervous I'd want to vomit. I was given some great instruction and wonderful advice that has helped me transition to a much calmer and more professional speaker. One of the key pieces of advice was to create a "ritual." Seriously? When I first heard the word "ritual" I thought of incense and prayers since as an ordained clergyman I've participated in many rituals over the years. But what was suggested to me was using a physical movement that would trigger my body when I was about to speak. My body would then react by moving the energy to where I needed it and not leave it in my stomach. All these years later I still use that same quick ritual before I speak and I feel myself gaining control.
Recently Forbes Magazine ran an article about two associate professors at Harvard, Michael Norton and Francesca Gino, who are researching the effects of rituals. They discovered that rituals help alleviate grief and also enhance the experience of eating. Well, as a clergyman, I know about alleviating grief, but had to smile at rituals enhancing eating. Yet what I wondered is why it has taken so long for many of us to catch on to the power of rituals.
Rituals enhance, assist and invigorate most activities. Actors, singers, athletes and business men and women use them effectively every day to be better at what they do. A ritual helps them prepare, focus and be energized throughout an action. We now teach professionals to create their own rituals so that they can quickly engage in an activity rather than be hesitant or distracted.
For example, when I am writing something new I prefer to create the idea long hand. Only once the idea is on paper do I sit at my keyboard and flesh it out. But the ritual I use before I write brings my mind into focus and relaxes me. First I purchased some very nice pens. My favorite is a fountain pen which I purposely fill with ink each time I want to start a new article, or book. The movement of deliberately picking up the pen, opening it and filling it with ink relaxes and focuses me. It's as if my mind and body know what's coming and so they are ready.
What rituals do you use in your life and work? How do you prepare your mind and body so you will be more relaxed and focused during any activity? Remember, you can create rituals to enhance anything you do. Just as long as they are followed every time by that activity your mind and body will be more in tune and more focused as you start. And you can even use them to enjoy your meals more.