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Last Updated on January 28, 2021

How to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance

How to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance
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Kate is a hard-working manager working at a startup company. She toils at work but gets that nagging feeling that she’s missing out on living her life. And then perversely, when she’s not working, she tries to switch off ‘work-mode’ to enjoy her passions, friends, family. But eventually, she finds that she just doesn’t have the energy.

Many people are like Kate, misunderstanding the true meaning of work-life balance. They try to keep ‘work’ and ‘life’ separate, but this brings undesirable results.

The Mystery of Work-Life Balance

Those who are trying to maintain a work-life balance only by dividing their time – by driving a sharp wedge between work-mode and life-mode – are inadvertently dividing themselves.

When people juxtapose ‘work’ and ‘life’, they unconsciously think in terms of ‘work’ versus ‘life’ – and are constantly forced to choose one at the expense of the other.  In this framework, a gain on one side is always a loss on the other side.

And so, people start to see ‘work’ as the times when they are not living their lives. ‘Work’ is seen as a necessary evil that they must suffer through until it’s time to switch off. But if you encode everything related to work as negativity and suffering while your ‘life’ strains under the weight of unrealistic expectations of enjoyment, there really is no balance there at all.

Rebalancing work and life is possible by seeking out a new and enjoyable job to a certain extent. But no job is perfect. There are always going to be tedious aspects of any job. And before long, you’ll wind up on the same ‘life’ versus ‘work’ see-saw because you haven’t changed the old framework.

How to Achieve a Realistic Work-Life Balance

The true goal is to redistribute the positive (+) and negative (-) evenly across life.

Most people try to make it all positive off work to compensate the negativity at work like this:

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most people's work-life balance looks like this

    If it’s all negative at work and all positive when the work mode is switched off, the work performance will suffer – creating even more negativity. People will lean heavily on their off-mode life for happiness, but they can’t truly achieve happiness because they are not facing the problems at work.

    Conversely, there are those who do strive to put positivity into their work life. Their work-life balance looks like this:

    Some people's work-life balance looks like this

      Unfortunately, if these people are still stuck in the old on/off framework, all the negativity will shift to their off-mode self, and their relationships and health will suffer.

      Gregory was one of these people…

      Gregory is the CEO of a startup company. He loves his work and puts his heart and soul in it. He started to expand his business around a year ago and that gained him more reputation and wealth. However, since almost all of his energy was spent on his work, he had no time to take good care of himself. He couldn’t sleep well, often felt stressful, and suffered from back pain and continuous stomachache because of stress. These health issues even started to affect his work performance.

      He took our Life Assessment and this was his result:

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        Gregory’s focus was solely on his career. He simply neglected other aspects of his life, particularly his health. At that time, his body was warning him to change his routine.

        On the other hand, very few lucky people experience positivity on both sides of the equation. Their work-life balance looks like this:

          If you are one of those who experience positivity from both sides, lucky you! You are one of the less than 5% of the population.

          For the rest of the 95% of the population, here is a cure to having a realistic work-life balance.

          Recover the Sense of a Unified Self

          The solution is to recover the sense of a unified self.

          When you do, you’ll dismantle the competing work/life binary, and you’ll stop unconsciously labeling work as ‘suffering’ and life as ‘enjoyment’. Positive energy will begin to flow smoothly and effortlessly throughout your life.

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          To recover the sense of a unified self, ask yourself: Why do I really do what I do in life and work?

          Your answer to this question makes up your blueprint of a unified self, charged with meaning that relates directly to who you are and what you care about.

          Use your blueprint now to examine your life at work, your leisure time, and your relationships, and see if they align with each other. The new framework is no longer ‘balance’ but ‘alignment’.

          This will reveal to you a number of things:

          1. There are aspects of your work that are not suffering: Look again and you’ll find many positive aspects that reflect what you care about. For example, you may value creativity, and realize that you get the opportunity to show it at work every day.
          2. Things you care about at ‘work’ are the same as what you care about in your ‘life’: For example, you may value friendship in your life, and you also practice this value with your colleagues. Your values exist in all your interactions and serve your unified self.
          3. What you do at work and what you do in your life support and enhance each other: For example, the same generosity you show your friends can forge good client relationships when practiced at work. Your resourcefulness at work can be used to solve obstacles in your personal life.

          Crucially, you never need to use the on/off work model again because you’re constantly acting in accordance with what you truly value. As a result, you’ll find that your positive energy will not be subject to draining or overflowing, off/on, but will instead flow consistently through all your states of being in a perpetual positive feedback loop.

          Going back to Gregory, after realizing how much he had to change his daily habits, he decided to sign up for a programme that could help him effectively. So he enrolled for our Full Life Framework Programme.

          With the Programme and the help of my team, Gregory started to understand the importance of leading a full life – that a life aspect that wasn’t taken care of carefully could bring down all other aspects. He first learned to reprioritized his demands in life and reorganized his schedule. He also made sure that he had sufficient time dedicated for self-care and exercising. In addition, with the help of our Busy Yet Fit Programme, he began doing workouts at home to build back muscle to help relieve his back pain. Since he started to learn how to take good care of himself, even when he felt stressful at work, he knew how to handle this stress. He has since had better sleep and a healthier body and mind!

          Eventually, Gregory is able to lead a realistic work-life balance like this:

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            Your renewed conceptualization from ‘balance’ to ‘alignment’ is an inner transformation that can empower you whatever your current circumstances are.

            For example, it may reveal that you truly are suffering in your current job. But now you can unroll your blueprint to identify the cause of the negativity (i.e. what isn’t aligning with what you value?) and either remind yourself why you’re really doing what you’re doing, make a tweak, or change your job.

            Even in the latter, you can still be sustained by positivity until you find that new job. You may hate your everyday tasks, but one of the things you value is to be a good provider for your family – so you’re spurred on, knowing that you’re doing that every day.

            Or if you’re a workaholic, your blueprint may reveal that what you previously undervalued as ‘off-mode’ (relaxing, having fun, pursuing a passion, spending time with family and friends) actually contains a wealth of values that support – and even enhance – a well-rounded working life.

            If you want to find out how balanced your life is, take the Life Assessment here for free now, and get a customized report!

            Final Words

            A value-rich and optimally tuned work-life alignment helps maintain a flow of positive energy and happiness in all aspects of being. So go ahead and make the blueprint for yourself!

            More Tips About Work-Life Balance

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            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            1 What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It 2 7 Daily Habits to Balance My Day (And My Life) 3 How to Balance Time for a Truly Balanced Life 4 How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying 5 How To Relax Quickly When You Are Addicted To Work

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            Published on June 11, 2021

            What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It

            What Is Well-being: A Guide On How To Measure And Improve It
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            Well-being is a term often utilized in psychology literature to describe healthy individuals. It is often associated with contentment, happiness, or fulfillment. However, there is debate about what well-being really is and even how to spell it.[1] With so much confusion around the definition, individuals are often left to wonder what well-being is and how to achieve it.

            This article will unlock the answers to three questions:

            • What is well-being?
            • How is it measured?
            • How is it improved?

            What Is Well-Being?

            Well-being includes a combination of feeling states and lifestyle factors. Feeling states associated with it may include happiness and contentment. Lifestyle factors may include feelings of fulfillment, achieving one’s potential, having some control in life, and engaging in meaningful relationships. Well-being is also associated with positive mental health.[2] In simpler terms, It is a construct used to describe many facets of life including psychological, physical, and social health. Synonyms for it include happiness, health, positive feelings, welfare, and wellness.[3]

            It may also be defined as a state of balance or homeostasis. This balance is achieved by having enough resources to cope with life’s challenges.[4] Both challenges and resources may be prevalent in three areas: physical, psychological, and social.

            When there is an abundance of challenges and inadequate resources, well-being is lost. However, humans are designed to work towards achieving a state of balance. Well-being is linked to interpersonal, professional, and personal success. It often results in greater productivity at work, increased learning and creativity, prosocial behavior, and fulfilling relationships.[5]

            Why is well-being difficult to define? Likely because it encompasses a variety of life experiences and feeling states that may vary among individuals. To help individuals assess themselves, several measures have been created.

            How Is Well-Being Measured?

            Researchers need to agree on a standardized definition of well-being to accurately measure it. An adequate measure must therefore encompass every facet of well-being, including as a feeling state as well as a lifestyle. In other words, an effective measurement takes both life satisfaction and functioning into account.

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            Well-being can be broken down further into two categories: objective and subjective.

            Objective Well-Being

            Objective well-being looks at standards of living. This is useful for research looking at cultures, countries, or groups of people. It includes measuring education, income, safety, and life expectancy.[6]

            The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United National Development Programme, and the Italian Statistics Bureau have identified six areas for study related to objective well-being:

            1. Health
            2. Job opportunities
            3. Socioeconomic development
            4. Politics
            5. Safety
            6. Environment

            Subjective Well-Being

            Subjective well-being includes an emotional and mental assessment of an individual’s life. Two prominent subjective measures are life satisfaction and happiness. Measuring subjective well-being is useful for predicting mental health patterns.[7] It is determined intrinsically by the individual. Regardless of how their life might be perceived by others on the outside, this measures how individuals feel on the inside.

            Subjective well-being can be broken down further into two categories: hedonic and contentment. The hedonic component relates to feelings, emotions, and moods. The contentment component relates to thoughts and whether an individual feels their life has been fulfilling. Individuals often measure their thoughts and life fulfillment against social and cultural backgrounds.

            In other words, it is important to consider the context in which an individual lives. Individuals may perceive their lives differently based on social and cultural expectations. Furthermore, individuals cannot be measured without taking their environment into consideration.

            In 2013, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development determined subjective well-being to be an important factor in assessing well-being. Because it is perceived by the individual, it is often assessed by self-report measures. In other words, individuals rate their own level of well-being through psychological tests.[8]

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            There are five areas associated with subjective well-being:

            1. Genetic factors
            2. Basic and psychological needs
            3. Social environment
            4. Economics and income
            5. Political environment

            How to Improve Well-Being

            There are many ways that individuals can improve their sense of well-being. It is a complex construct with a variety of factors at play. Therefore, there is no one, perfect solution for it. Instead, the goal should be to engage in a holistic approach the incorporates a variety of factors.

            The following methods are not comprehensive. What works well for one individual may not be the right approach for others. Instead, these approaches should be considered suggestions for improving well-being.

            Individuals looking for a truly comprehensive assessment of well-being should consider scheduling an appointment with a psychologist, therapist, or medical doctor. These individuals may also provide resources, prescribe medication, or share tips for making lifestyle changes to assist in overall improvement.

            1. Spend Time in Nature

            There is evidence to support the claim that interactions with nature increase well-being. This includes an increase in positive emotions, happiness, and subjective well-being. Time spent in nature is also linked with an increased sense of meaning and purpose in life as well as the ability to manage challenges in life.[9]

            One study found that spending at least 120 minutes in nature each week was associated with greater health. In the study, it did not matter if that time was spent all at once or stretched out over the course of a week. Peak gains in well-being occurred between 200 and 300 minutes of nature time, weekly.[10]

            2. Practice Gratitude

            Individuals who experience gratitude as a trait experience increased well-being. Trait gratitude refers to the willingness to see the unearned value in one’s experience. State gratitude is a feeling that occurs after individuals experience an act of kindness and, therefore, feel motivated to reciprocate.

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            One study assessed state gratitude, during Covid-19 in China. Individuals were instructed to journal while practicing gratitude for 14-days, which included a one-month follow-up. The study found that gratitude practiced in a natural setting during times of increased stress and anxiety resulted in increased positive feelings and increased life satisfaction. However, increased life satisfaction was not sustained after one month.[11]

            As a result of the aforementioned study, there is evidence to support a daily practice of journaling and gratitude for increased well-being. Individuals should practice both trait and state gratitude, whenever possible. Over time, these practices will become a habit and lead to lasting improvement.

            3. Develop Increased Awareness

            Increased awareness is associated with improvements in positive subjective experience, increased self-regulation and goal-directed behavior, and successful interactions with others.

            Increased awareness can be attained through meta-awareness. Meta-awareness is the ability to consciously notice an emotion, thought, or sensory experience. It is a skill that can be taught. Mindfulness-based meditation and psychotherapy are two ways in which meta-awareness is learned. Kindness and compassion meditations are both linked with improved well-being. Both Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) may help increase awareness.[12]

            4. Achieve Work-Life Balance

            An individual’s workplace has the potential to either help or harm them. Workplace factors that negatively impact well-being include:

            • Work-related pressure or demands
            • Lack of autonomy or flexibility
            • Poor coworker and supervisor relationships
            • Shift work
            • Longer workday length

            Employers can directly improve their workers’ well-being by providing paid leave, opportunities for salary growth, support for individuals with disabilities or those returning after injury, and access to health care. Improvements in the work environment and job structure may also be helpful.[13]

            Worker well-being is beneficial both for workers and their employers. It is associated with improvements in:

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            • Performance at work
            • Coping with stress and self-regulation
            • Satisfying relationships, prosocial communication, and cooperation
            • Immune system functioning
            • And physical and psychological health

            Workplace well-being is also associated with a decrease in burnout, stress, and sleep-related issues.[14]

            5. Seek Out Positive Relationships

            Individuals with caring and positive connections often rank higher in well-being. On the flip side, poor social relationships can be more damaging than excessive drinking and smoking. Positive social relationships also help to protect against mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

            Prosocial behaviors are important for forming social connections that lead to increased well-being. Appreciation and gratitude are both pro-social traits. For example, focusing on the positive qualities and actions of others. Empathy for others also contributes to higher levels of well-being. Lastly, generosity is also a strong predictor of life satisfaction.[15]

            6. Stay Hopeful

            Hope is a concept often related to spiritual and religious traditions. However, it entered the world of psychology around the 20th century. It is now an important construct in positive psychology. Hope can be defined broadly as the belief that things can get better, and that goals are achievable.

            Hope is associated with an increase in:

            • Emotional adjustment
            • Positive feelings
            • Life satisfaction and quality of life
            • Social support
            • A sense of purpose

            Takeaways

            Well-being is a construct that is hard to define, yet widely cited in psychological literature. It is linked with feelings of happiness and contentment. It might also be described as a sense of purpose or satisfaction with life.

            To accurately measure it, there needs to be an agreed-upon definition. In general, it has been separated into objective and subjective categories. Objective well-being considers social and cultural constructs. Subjective well-being refers to the individual’s felt sense and internal assessment of their own.

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            There are several things that individuals can do to improve their well-being. However, no one thing will improve everything. Rather, this requires a holistic practice of mental and physical health. Nevertheless, individuals who spend time in nature, develop positive connections, practice gratitude, stay hopeful, and develop awareness have a greater chance of experiencing better well-being.

            More Tips For Your Well-Being

            Featured photo credit: Mor Shani via unsplash.com

            Reference

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