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Last Updated on December 3, 2020

How to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance

How to Achieve a Realistic Work Life Balance

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.

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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:

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:

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    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.

      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.

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        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.

        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.

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        This is how a realistic work-life balance is like:

          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.

          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

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

          6 Ways to Finish Strong (When Your Momentum Is Low) 20 Things Life Is Too Short to Worry About How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up Does Less Discipline Equal More Freedom? The Endless Battle Between Good and Popular

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          Last Updated on January 14, 2021

          13 Ways to Seize the Moment and Enjoy Life More

          13 Ways to Seize the Moment and Enjoy Life More

          A life filled with joy is the one thing everyone wishes for. There are countless ways to reach for what you want, but when it comes to happiness, little things make all the difference. You have no idea how the simple joys of life can skyrocket your mood levels. But since you are here, you will find these 13 ways easy to practice, easy to apply in your own life and actionable in order to enjoy your life more.

          By using these methods, short moments of bliss will compound over time in huge amounts of happiness. The smallest changes recommended in this article, practiced as a way of life, will make you stand out from the overworked, overbooked, and somehow bored crowd that seems to fill every street and every room nowadays. Focus on what matters and everything else will just fall into place.

          Make sure you take the time to read all 13 tips and tricks to seize the moments. Even if you only take what resonates with you – based on your personality and bigger life purposes – you can still highly improve your life starting today.

          1. Say Yes and Say No

          Both are equally important.

          First, saying ”yes” more often can expose you to tremendous new experiences. You can think big – like finally taking that trip, or more local – like going to an improv show. Both are equally effective in transporting yourself to new states of mind.

          The other side of the always saying ”yes” coin tells a different story. You know what I’m talking about. The one that Jim Carrey got himself into in the movie ”Yes Man”. While at first saying ”yes” transformed his life in this wonderful adventure, by the end of the film, he couldn’t take it anymore. It was too much.

          This is when ”no” comes to stage. In order to be able to say ”yes” to the things you want, you must also be comfortable saying ”no” to anything and everything else. Here I include: that informal get together, that wedding, that deadline no one asked if you can make it, that shopping list and so on. You know better than I do what I am talking about and I bet you can already think of a few examples.

          Need help in saying no? Leo Babauta has this advice: The Gentle Art of Saying No

          2. Take Care of Yourself

          There is a reason why we are instructed to put our oxygen masks first in case of an emergency. If we don’t, we can’t function. If we’re not able to function, we cannot help others. During a normal week, helping others can translate to doing your job or going on with your day.

          This tip goes even further. Think about it. When you take care of yourself, you feel good. You feel good about yourself and about the day ahead. You feel like you can take on any challenge that might come your way.

          Try to look like you care about yourself.

          The quote above is from a 90s TV show. Just start there. Clean yourself up, put fresh clothing on, comb your hair and that’s it. You are ready to face the world.

          Do this every day and you’ll be ready for anything at anytime.

          Try to recall a day when you didn’t shower, didn’t change clothes and your big plan was to stay in, watch TV and indulge in some junk food. The only problem was that you needed something from the store, so you left the house looking like a mess, secretly hoping you won’t bump into anyone you know. But you did.

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          What happened then? You tried to hide behind the shelves. When that failed, you felt uncomfortable even making eye contact and you tried to shorten the conversation as much as possible, so you could return back to the cave as fast as possible.

          Now imagine the exact same interaction with you looking nice and smelling like someone who cares about themselves. Much better, right?

          If you need more advice on how to take better care of yourself, here it is: 30 Self-Care Habits for a Strong and Healthy Mind, Body and Spirit

          3. Make a Bucket List

          You’ve seen the movie (the Bucket List, if it wasn’t clear!) You know what happens. Two elderly, facing death, decide to cooperate on one last special adventure.

          Now tell me: Why is it that only when we’re in front of something terrible do we realize how finite our life is?

          Why, when making plans, are we always thinking ”some day”?

          Why is the future always better for our most desires and the present is only good for our day-to-day tasks and responsibilities? You know: mopping the floor, grocery shopping, doing laundry.

          If you never wrote a Bucket List, don’t freak out. It doesn’t have to be filled only with life changing dangerous experiences or expensive stuff. Start small instead.

          Make a Summer Bucket List: wine in the park, that free outdoor concert. Write a Winter Bucket List: go on a sleigh ride, build a snowman.

          The idea behind this tip is to write it down. Read it every day and seize the opportunity when an item can be checked off the list. At the end, you’ll find yourself smiling every time you do it. And that’s how you turn your mundane day-to-day life to something that’s exciting and outgoing.

          4. Find a Form of Exercising That You Enjoy

          One of the best ways to seize the moment and to enjoy your life more? Exercise!

          Now, I’m sure you’ve already read this tip before, probably a gazillion times. But you have to know that it’s simply true. I’ve met so many people who have turned their life around by finding a form of exercising they enjoy. I’m a pretty good example myself as well!

          Finding a form of exercising that I like (running) has transformed my life. It has helped me cope with stress, anxiety and boredom more often than I can remember. It is both an outlet and a source of fulfillment for me, and I can’t imagine my life without it.

          And I’m not even that good of a runner! I’d call myself a passionate hobbyist. I don’t really care about racing and being the fastest, because I’m obviously not able to compete on that level. I mean, I have a friend who runs 15K in under an hour and I still find it hard to believe that such speeds are possible. I run purely because it allows me to do one of the following:

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          • Feel good about myself
          • Challenge my body
          • Meditate
          • To blow off steam when stressed
          • To burn calories (I would probably be obese if I didn’t run, considering the amount of food I consume)

          So whenever I have a busy day at work, I go for a run afterwards and feel great.

          Feeling bored? I go for a run and feel energized again! Feeling energized and want to feel good about myself? I go for a run!

          Simply put, running always has a positive effect on my happiness. That’s why exercising is ALWAYS featured in guides on how to be happy![1]

          Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

          5. Go off Your Usual Path

          There is nothing more simple than this.

          Think about changing your route to work and back home from time to time. Think about trying that food on the menu you don’t even know what it is. Think about getting that new soda flavor. Think about listening to people you usually dodge.

          Everyone has a story to tell and most have mind-blowing ones to share. You can learn something new from every person you meet and every single new experience you try. Be prepared that sometimes the lessons come in the form of a ”no-no” example.

          6. Spend Time Outside

          You heard this one before. I know.

          But let’s try another exercise. Think about your life from the last months. I will share with you mine, so I won’t make any assumptions. I mostly work from home. Sometimes I have meetings with others, usually at their office. My parents live in an apartment, so are my friends. I shop at the mall, because I find everything I need in one place. During the summer, the days are so hot where I live that I can not stand the heat, so I avoid it. During the winter, the city is mostly grey than white, and unbelievably cold.

          What do you think these items have in common? The fact that my normal days are spent mostly inside. Even if I go to the theatre or to concerts, most are organized under a roof.

          All of us who live in the city are lacking sun exposure, some fresh air and the peace that comes with it. Just make sure your days include some down time in the sun.

          If you say it can’t be done because of your busy schedule, try walking more from one building to the other. Or just going outside while taking those short breaks from work.

          Little moments like these count and they add up in the long run. Don’t overlook them and don’t underestimate their power.

          7. Whatever You Do, Don’t Plan Every Minute

          Yes, I understand. We all have so much to do. We’re always feeling like we’re running a marathon, sometimes like we’re in the army. But we are not. And we don’t have to be.

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          Let life happen a little bit.

          If you are reading this, chances are that you have at least some control over your schedule. Don’t book every minute with activities. Leave time for leisure, for spontaneity. Your brain will thank you for this. Your energy levels too. And even your moods.

          This way, you also make room for the unexpected. For being able to say ”yes” to that impromptu invitation to see a street performance, to enjoy a picnic or simply a walk in the park or a coffee date.

          8. Ditch the Digital

          Hear me out. I’m not saying to go completely off-grid. I do benefit from the advantages technology has to offer too. But I keep it under control.

          The studies are clear on this. The World Happiness Report that comes out every year backs it up. People spend more time online than interacting in person with each other, which has unprecedented negative side effects on our happiness levels[2]

          The logic is simple. If you want to keep your happiness level up or to give it a boost, all you have to do is go old-school. Pay someone a visit. Read a magazine. Instead of watching a movie at home, look for an art exhibition. Possibilities are endless once you focus on the little things.

          Try these 5 Simple Ways to Unplug and Be More Mindful In Your Life.

          9. Ditch the Map, the Clock and the Reviews

          Just go. Aziz Ansari did a stand-up where he pointed out to the fact that recently we all feel complied to make the best possible decision every time. Even if it’s all about buying a toothbrush.

          I know this applies to you too. When leaving for a vacation, I bet you already had an itinerary planned for every day of your stay. Right? If not, my apologies. But if that’s you all the time, I will make a bold recommendation.

          Ditch the map of the city. Don’t read the reviews for the restaurant, just sit down at a table and order. Don’t look at your watch, do what you feel like, be it 2 in the morning or afternoon.

          10. Learn Something New Continuously

          Don’t get comfortable in your ways. ”You don’t know where the rabbit is jumping from” is a saying in my country, referring to the fact that we don’t know where or when the next opportunity will show itself.

          If you always wanted to cook better, but don’t have the time, the energy, or the skill to organize yourself to do so, look for a cooking class. You don’t know where the rabbit is jumping from and maybe you’ll meet someone who will change your life.

          Don’t wait for others to do things. I know we all wish to do things with our friends, but sometimes they don’t share the same interests. Don’t let that stop you. And remember, there’s no better time like the present, no perfect time in the future.

          You’ll thank yourself and you’ll have some good stories to tell next time you chat with someone new in one of your adventures.

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          Some inspirations for you: How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart

          11. Reward Yourself

          This is for you and for you only.

          Reward yourself for every little thing you do the way you want. You had a good work day when everything you planned was done? Buy yourself an ice cream.

          Rewards have double powers. First, the more obvious one – you give yourself a moment, be it in the form of an ice cream, a new pair of shoes you had your eyes on, or movie tickets.

          The second power of a reward is that it acts as a motivation.

          Everything on this list is connected. You try something new, you meet someone new. You don’t wait, you make it happen. You challenge yourself, you reward yourself.

          12. Volunteer

          The correlation between volunteering and happiness is undisputable. The World Happiness Report says that even just giving time to others increases one’s whole well-being.[3] Prosocial behaviour, like volunteering, is a double edged sword.

          First, it makes you feel better which will make you act in the same positive way in the future; and second, it spreads happiness to someone else.

          You can volunteer to do thousands of activities, but remember, we’re talking about the smallest possible actions you can take to boost your joy. Think about holding the door, giving flowers, paying compliments, smiling, returning a lost item. These small things all do wonders when trying to spread other people’s happiness, and paradoxically, this also increases our own happiness.

          13. Sleep

          Now, this sounds a bit counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Yes and no. The same principle from using the oxygen mask first applies.

          There are countless studies that state the same thing. Without getting enough sleep, we are more prone to errors, we fail to retrieve memories or to finish a basic task, even thoughts. The amount one needs differs from one person to another.

          I need an average of 8+ hours. I stopped trying to change and feeling guilty about it, I just work my life around the fact that I sleep more than most. Otherwise, I don’t function at full capacity and it keeps me from enjoying the hours when I’m awake.

          Why do that?

          The Bottom Line

          Being happy is a state of mind that can easily be influenced by the smallest actions we take every day. Make a commitment to yourself, cover the basics, set some principles – easy to follow, and breathe. What you need to remember is that you have to make your life work for you. As long as you know what you value, you’ll know what to do to seize the day and enjoy life more.

          More About Happiness

          Featured photo credit: Donald Giannatti via unsplash.com

          Reference

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