Before you read this post (which is publishing as I am on the plane to Costa Rica), let me suggest that you read two other posts:
Rand’s post – http://moz.com/rand/there-is-no-worklife-balance/
Jerry Colonna’s post (language not mom-friendly) – http://www.themonsterinyourhead.com/2011/05/05/work-life-balance-is-bullshit/
These words especially resonate:
“I’m scared,” I’d told my Buddhist teacher on Monday. “I find myself doing more and more…the calls and inquires for coaching are so much more than I can handle.” He smiled in that way that says, “I’m not going to say anything. You have to keep going.”
“I’m afraid I’ll lose myself…again. I’ll find myself overweight, sickly, disconnected from my body, my family, and back at the point where the subway tracks seem like the right answer.”
“It is different now,” he said. I waited for more and then realized I wasn’t getting any more.
It’s different now, said my teacher, because right livelihood. What I’m working towards now is less about my own ego aggrandizement (although that temptation is always there) and more about helping.
Both of those posts express well the thoughts that come when you are overworking and stressed out.
Don’t get me wrong – I love working and working hard, but in the back of my mind comes the “I don’t want to do this forever” thought. I want to live in a place like this:
I was in London for a week and a half recently for work, during which time I stayed in the extra bedroom of an ex-Distiller. Almost every night she was back to the apartment before me, and always when I came in I needed to get on my computer to do something – emails, blog posts, something. At one point in the week she said to me -
“Goodness you work a lot!”
That made me think. I had never realized how much I work until I got an apartment-mate back in June. And even then, I’ve cut back a lot on what I do, so did I even have a life before now?
Finding Balance and Integration
When you work a lot, and have a demanding job (even one you enjoy), you must find ways to work the things besides work that bring you joy into your daily routine. I love Joel Gascione’s take on what it takes to have a good day consistently. And Jerry’s take on work-life integration changed my paradigm in thinking about work and life.
No longer is my goal to have a work/life split. That leads to fracturing of a person, or at least of my person. I seek continuity, not discontinuity.
What have I done to start seeing this work/life integration take shape? For one, I’ve started, in the past year, enjoying things such as food/wine, sports like rock climbing, and other activities with coworkers or others in my industry that enjoy these things. And we bring along other friends who care about what we care about (tech, whatever) but who also open up my eyes to new ways of thinking.
I’ve also tried to start leveraging pursuits that I know make me happier and a better person, such as exercise, into my routine. Joel from Buffer wrote about this. I’ve begun riding my bicycle to work a few days a week, days that I do not have something scheduled in the evening. This way, even if I go directly home, eat a quick dinner by myself, and get back to work I’ve also had a workout. And if I’ve not ridden my bike to work, I know that there is another activity scheduled that I take delight in.
I will grant that some of these are easier to realize in a city such as New York where opportunities are endless, but I’d also challenge you to think of how you can better integrate your work and your life. Coworkers with kids the same age? Do a barbecue together. Coworker who is service-minded? Go on a service trip together with a relief organization. The opportunities are endless if you use a little imagination.
At the end of the day, I was scared a few months ago that I was slipping into a stage of being unhappy and depressed like I was back in 2009 when I quit my job and moved to Switzerland to do a new venture.
Point blank, I was sad to see this starting but I love my NYC life too much to let it go. So I started to dig into these ideas and I realized this:
I had been thinking of work as something that should have limits. But actually, we are meant to derive meaning from our work. I’m not talking about living to work, nor am I talking about working to live. I’m talking about breaking down the idea that working and living are or should be separate.
Once I realized that it’s good and redemptive to derive some happiness from your work, work stopped becoming another thing to do so that I could do other things I love (travel and food) and became something to look forward to once more.
I will say that I think it is important to turn off from work for a period of time (vacation comes to mind) but when you live from vacation to vacation, there’s no fun in that. The in-between sucks with that mindset.
What do you think? Am I on to something? Would love to hear your thoughts.