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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

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!

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            More by this author

            Leon Ho

            Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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            Last Updated on April 19, 2021

            How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying

            How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying

            We often hear people talk about the importance of living in the moment and the different ways it will benefit us. It all sounds wonderful, especially the lower levels of stress and anxiety, but how exactly can we live in the present when our mind is constantly worrying about the past or planning for the future?

            In this article, we’ll discuss some of the benefits of learning how to live in the moment you may not be aware of. Then, we’ll look at some of the obstacles and why we worry. Finally, and most importantly, I’ll show you how to live in the moment and stop worrying using some simple practices that you can easily incorporate into your busy schedule.

            The result: a happier and more fulfilling life.

            The Importance of Living in the Moment

            “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” -Buddha

            While it can be difficult to live in the moment, it has innumerable benefits.

            Here are just a few that will enhance your life tremendously:

            Better Health

            By reducing stress and anxiety, you avoid many of the associated health consequences, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Studies have shown that being present in the moment can also improve psychological well-being[1].

            Improve Your Relationships

            Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but mentally s/he’s a million miles away?

            Being with unavailable people is a struggle, and building relationships with them is extremely difficult. How about being with someone who is fully present? We enjoy being with her/him because we can make a much deeper connection.

            By living in the moment, you can be that person other people enjoy being with, and you make relationships much easier.

            Greater Self-Control

            You have greater control over your mind, body, and emotions when you are living in the moment. Imagine how much better your life would be if it weren’t at the mercy of a racing mind and unpredictable emotions. You would certainly be more at peace, and much happier[2].

            Why Do We Worry?

            Before we answer this question, it’s important to distinguish between worry and concern.

            When we are concerned about something, we are more likely dealing with a real problem with realistic solutions. Then, once we do whatever we can to address the problem, we’re willing to live with the outcome.

            Worrying, on the other hand, involves unrealistic thinking. We may worry about a problem that doesn’t really exist, or dwell on all the bad things that can happen as a result. Then, we feel unable to deal with the outcome. Either way, we have difficulty dealing with uncertainty, which is a normal part of life.

            Certainly, some of our problems may not have desirable outcomes, such as a serious health issue. Some problems may be beyond our control, such as civil unrest or economic downturn. In such cases, it can be hard to avoid worrying, but not impossible.

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            3 Steps to Start Living in the Moment

            Follow these simple steps for more balance and clarity.

            1. Overcome Worrying

            In order to overcome worrying, you need to do two things:

            Calm Your Mind

            When you calm your mind, you are able to see more clearly.

            The reason some problems seem so daunting is that our mind is racing so fast that we cannot see things as they truly are. Then, we make up a bunch of possible scenarios in our mind, most of which are unlikely to come true.

            In addition to seeing more clearly, a calm mind will help us think more realistically. Unrealistic thinking is fueled by confusion and uncontrolled emotions. Calming your mind will reduce confusion and calm your emotions, allowing you to live in the present.

            Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

            Some people tend to be more solution-oriented, and others more problem-oriented. Some of the factors that may determine this are gender, upbringing, and education.

            People with more education tend to be problem-solvers. That is what their years of education train them to do. In addition, their jobs probably reinforce this way of thinking.

            If you’re not problem-solving oriented, don’t worry. You can train yourself to worry less. We’ll discuss that soon.

            2. Identify Obstacles to Living in the Moment

            In today’s busy world, it can be a challenge to live in the moment. The reasons revolve around how our mind works, as well as outside influences.

            Racing Mind

            Many busy people have a racing mind that never seems to slow down. Their mind gets so agitated from too much sensory stimulation.

            You see, anything that stimulates any of our five senses will trigger a thought, and that thought leads to another, and then another, and so on.

            If you have a busy life, all your activities will overstimulate your mind and make it seemingly impossible to slow it down.

            If you find that you’re easily distracted, you can begin to tackle this with lifehack’s Free Guide: End Distraction and Find Your Focus.

            Unpleasant Situations and a Troublesome Past

            None of us want to be in unpleasant situations or remember those of the past. They can bring up painful emotions, which we don’t want to feel.

            So, how do most people cope with painful emotions? By doing whatever we can to avoid them, we can take our mind to another place and time where things are more pleasant.

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            In other words, we avoid living in the present moment.

            Some people resort to things that stimulate sensory pleasure, such as food, alcohol, or sex. Others will consume substances that dull their mind and keep them from thinking about unpleasant or stressful situations.

            A Wandering Mind

            From the moment we are born until the time we die, our body and mind are actively performing some function. Therefore, it’s natural for our mind to have some level of activity, whether conscious or unconscious.

            Generally, a wandering mind is unproductive. One thought starts an endless chain of thoughts, and this process can go on until we need our mind to perform a specific function or get distracted with something else.

            Now, there are times when a wandering mind can be productive, such as when creating works of art, or trying to find creative solutions to problems. In such cases, we need our mind to explore different possibilities[3].

            Outside Influences

            Most of us are not fully aware of how our environment and social norms influence our thinking and behavior. People and institutions are constantly competing for our attention. The media draws our attention to the past, and advertising usually to the future[4].

            Many people around us who dwell on the past or future try to draw us to their way of thinking. Even the whole concept of the American dream is geared toward the future. It tells us that if we acquire things like a good career, family, and house, then we’ll be happy, which does nothing to help us learn how be present.

            3. Practice Mindfulness

            How can we start living in the moment in a world that is constantly trying to draw our attention to the past and future?

            Before we get into concrete actions you can take, it’s important to understand what mindfulness is. You’ve probably heard the term before, but may not fully understand what it means.

            What Is Mindfulness?

            The concept of mindfulness is actually quite simple. To be mindful is to live in the moment.

            When you are mindful, your attention is focused on what is happening in the present moment, and you are fully in touch with reality[5].

            You are aware of what is happening in your body, mind, emotions, and the world around you. This is different than thinking about these things. To develop greater understanding, you don’t have to think about them so much, but rather just observe them.

            This may be counterintuitive to many people, especially intellectuals, because they’re so used to using logic to develop greater understanding. With mindfulness, we calm our mind and emotions so we can see clearer. Then, much of our understanding will come from simple observation. When we develop mindfulness, we literally expand our awareness.

            To develop mindfulness, we need to train ourselves to observe things more objectively, that is, without our emotions or preconceived ideas influencing our views.

            If you’re ready to live a better life, read on for some simple mindfulness practices that you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live in the moment.

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            You don’t have to do all of them, but rather choose the ones that appeal to you and suit your lifestyle.

            Mindfulness Meditation

            Mindfulness meditation is the mainstay of developing mindfulness and living in the moment. To practice mindfulness meditation, all you really have to do is sit quietly and follow your breathing. When your mind wanders off, just bring it back to your breath.

            Notice how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural.

            You don’t have to do it perfectly. The idea is to start spending time away from the constant sensory stimulation of all your activities, and just allow it to settle down naturally. Start with about 5 to 10 minutes per day, and work your way up to about 20 minutes or longer.

            This practice is highly effective and can have both short-term and long-term benefits.

            If you want to learn more about mindfulness meditation, take a look at this article: What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

            Mindful Breathing

            While this may sound the same as mindfulness meditation, all you’re really doing is taking short breaks occasionally (10 to 15 seconds) to observe your breathing. Stop whatever you’re doing, and take a few mindful breaths, then resume your activity.

            You can do mindful breathing at any time of the day during your busy schedule. What it does is interrupt the acceleration of your mind. It is like taking your foot off the accelerator while driving. It’s a nice refreshing break you can take without anyone noticing.

            Here are some breathing exercises you can try to learn to help you: 5 Breathing Exercises for Anxiety (Simple and Calm Anxiety Quickly)

            Mindful Walking

            Walking is an activity that you perform several times throughout the day. We often think we’re being productive by texting or calling someone while walking, but are we really?

            Instead of getting on your cell phone or letting your mind wander off, why not use your walking to train yourself to live in the moment and focus on the task at hand?

            Mindful walking is similar to mindful breathing, but instead of focusing on your breath, focus on your walking. Pay attention to each footstep. Also, notice the different motions of your arms, legs, and torso. When your mind wanders off, just bring your attention back to your walking.

            You can even make a meditation out of walking. That is, go walking for a few minutes outside. Start by slowing down your pace. If you slow down your body, your mind will follow.

            In addition to paying attention to your walking, notice the trees, sunshine, and critters. A mindful walk is enjoyable and can really help your mind settle down.

            You can discover more benefits of walking in nature here.

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            Mindful Eating

            Eating is an activity that most of us perform mindlessly. The reason is that it doesn’t require your attention to perform. Therefore, many of us try to multitask while we eat. We may talk on the phone, text, watch TV, or even hold a meeting.

            The problem with not eating mindfully is that we don’t eat what our body and mind need to perform at an optimal level[6]. We may eat unhealthy foods, or too much. This can lead to various health problems, especially as we get older.

            Live in the present with mindful eating.

              Mindful eating has many health benefits, such as reduced food cravings, better digestion, and even weight loss[7].

              So, how do you eat mindfully? Start by slowing down, and avoid the temptation to distract yourself with another activity. Here are 3 different aspects of eating where you can practice mindfulness:

              • Eating itself: Focus your attention on choosing a portion of food to insert into your mouth. Notice the smell, flavor, and texture as you chew it; then finally swallow it. As with following your breath during meditation, pay close attention to every aspect of eating.
              • Choice of foods: Although you’ve already chosen your food before you have begun eating, you can still take the opportunity to contemplate your choices. Think about the nutrients your body needs to sustain itself.
              • Contemplating the sources: Most of us don’t think about all the work it takes to provide us with the food we eat. While you’re eating, consider all the work by the farmer, shipping company, and the grocery store. These are real people who worked hard to provide you with the food necessary for your survival.

              You can find more tips about mindful eating here: 7 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

              Mindful Activities

              Choose an activity that you perform regularly, such as washing dishes. Focus all your attention on this activity, and resist the temptation to let your mind wander,. When it does, just bring your attention back to washing dishes.

              Notice some of the specific movements or sensations of washing dishes, such as how the soapy water feels on your hands, the circular motion of scrubbing the dish, or the rinsing. You’d be surprised at how such a mundane activity can truly expand your awareness.

              You can choose any activity you like, such as ironing, folding clothes, mowing the lawn, or showering. Over time, you will begin doing all these activities with greater mindfulness.

              Final Thoughts

              Practicing mindfulness is like regularly putting small amounts of change in a jar. They will all add up over time, and this will add up to greater peace and happiness as you start living in the moment. 

              Remember, you don’t have to do the mindfulness practices perfectly to get the benefits. All you have to do is keep bringing your mind back to the present moment when it wanders off.

              The benefits of living in the moment are well within your reach, no matter how much your mind is racing. If you stick with these mindfulness practices, you too will learn how to live in the moment and stop worrying. When you do, a whole new world will open up for you. 

              More About Living in the Moment

              Featured photo credit: Smile Su via unsplash.com

              Reference

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