Posted on August 24th, 2011 by Colin and is posted in Growth
“Help…I feel work is taking over my life!”
Feeling exasperated, this is how Belinda starts our coaching call. I know many of my coaching clients feel the same way.
In our fast pace world its easy to be pulled in different directions, out of sync and out of balance. Because of technology the boundary between work and personal life has become blurred. We live in anachievement orientated, demanding culture so overwhelm and overworked becomes an everyday occurrence. We juggle a million details, trying to manage the best we can but it fells like we barley have enough time to breath so we end up begging and borrowing from our personal time.
Living In A Work Centred Culture
Years of programming have taught us to look toward our careers for the meaning and fulfilment we desire. But as we all know, there is a big difference in living to work or working to live.
Many people I’ve coached have found that living a work centred life just doesn’t work. Most of their time and energy is invested in work. A quick poll showed most of my clients are spending between fifty five and eighty hours a week on work. These figures are made up of actual work time, commuting, preparation and time spent thinking and worrying about work (usually at weekends).
As my clients have found a lifestyle like this takes its toll. It becomes costly to their health, skipping lunch or eating on the run. No time or too tired to exercise. Not enough quality time spent with the people that matter most, and when they are they’re to exhausted to enjoy it. Free time is almost non-existent. And because they’re so busy they find it easy to forget about their need and desires. Ultimately a work centred life causes them to lose touch with the most important relationship of all – themselves.
Like Belinda, this kind of reality is waking more and more people to the realisation that a work centred life is dangerous to their overall well-being. It should contain a government health warning!
You Life Is Like A Diamond
Imagine that you’re holding in your hand the biggest pristine, pure, flawless diamond in the world. It’s priceless! As you turn it in your hand you notice part of its beauty and value lies in its many flawless facets. Part of living a fulfilling life is like this diamond.
Like a diamond our life also has many facets, there is the career facet, the family facet, the financial facet, the “love of your life” facet, the health facet, your friends facet, the fun and recreation facet, the spiritual well-being facet, to name a few. A fulfilling life is one of balance. No one facet is more or less important than the other. No one facet alone can define fulfilment.
But, this is not the message we get from society. Society teaches us the two facets of money and career are most important, so they appear more eye catching. We spend the majority of our time obsessed with polishing them so they continue to sparkle and shine. These sparkly and shiny facets look great and you might love showing them to others. But what happens when you turn the diamond in your hand and take a look at the other facets? You’ll see, due to neglect, they are becoming dulled and discoloured.
It’s the polishing of them all that attains life fulfilment.
“One cannot do right in one department of life whist he is occupied in
doing wrong in other department. Life is one indivisible whole.”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Living Your Whole Life
Many of the people I start to work with are not living their “whole” lives. I’ve learnt my own lessons on this important topic. I’ve had to learn to pay attention to all the areas of my life. To set clear boundaries and most important, know when to say, “No.” I have experienced first hand, when you strive for balance by taking a helicopter view of your life it becomes harder to obsess on one or two arrears at the neglect of others.
For a high quality life balance is essential. Lets explore the two main benefits of balanced living:
1. Balance Prevents Obsession On One Area Of Life.
How many so called “successful” people do you personally know who are doomed due to neglect in one area of their life? Are you focused on some of the areas of your life and neglecting the rest? If you’ve been living a work centred life you may find your health has deteriorated, or the important relationships in your life are strained to breaking point.
- If you become financially wealthy at the expense of your health, what do you have?
- If you acquire power and fame, yet you never see you husband/wife, what do you have?
- If you treat your career with more importance than your children, what do you have?
I’ll tell you what you have; you have the richest loneliest person in hospital, that’s what you have! Very few would label that successful!
2. Balance prevents emotional dependency
This is a biggie! If we are obsessed with one or two facets we soon become emotionally dependent on them for our sense of security and happiness. How many stories have you read of people whose world falls apart because they’ve lost their jobs? Mothers who feel their life’s over because their children have flown the nest? Unhappy wives’ who desperately hang on to their husbands even though they have abandoned them for the office? Quite often these stories show that when these people lost the things they were emotionally tied to their neediness and dependency rose to the surface.
Cultural ideals are very powerful; we all feel the need to be a good mother, a supportive husband and a reliable employee. Of course it’s only natural to want to be all of these but there is a difference between being “good” and being emotionally dependent.
Through coaching many people I have found that what sits under “I just want to be a good person,” is often an obsessive need for ether approval, affection, attention or affirmation. They have become totally emotionally dependent on their needs being met for their happiness and a feeling of wholeness. And, when these emotional lifelines are severed in some way they experience feelings of loss, depression, hopelessness and emptiness.
I call it “hole life” syndrome. For example, after a marriage breakdown you hear people saying “He/she was my whole life.” And they’re not exaggerating, they were literally their whole life and now they are gone they have a massive “hole” in their life. Nothing else in their life has any real significance or meaning like the relationship had. There’s literal nothing else left except an overwhelming feeling of emptiness.
With so much emotional dependency on one or two facets it’s no wonder when such an emotional lifeline is severed people experience such overwhelming pain. There’s no emotional safety net to support them, just a big hole to fall through into the dark feelings of loss, depression, hopelessness, emptiness.
With balanced living you’ll naturally distribute your attention and energy across all your facets. With such a big safety net you leave yourself less venerable if you take a relationship fall, career fall or financial fall. A crisis in one facet of your life no longer has to seem so life threatening.
Balance living helps us loosen the grip of emotional dependency. When you live your life with the bigger picture in mind you’ll live very differently. You see life in a totally new way. When all the facets of your life are strong, steady, and balanced there is sense of internal harmony and peace of mind.
Every day can be filled with a number of activities and experiences that bring you joy and happiness. If you lose your job or find yourself facing a divorce you can fall back on the other facets of your life for emotional support. Sure, if you lose your job or your relationship breaks down it’ll still be painful and of course you’ll want to get those areas back on track but its only one part of your life, not your “whole life.”
By developing a wide variety of interests and activities and a good network of friends and acquaintances its possible to feel less venerable to crisis when changes occur in one area or another. Balanced living sets us free from worry, fear, anxiety and obsession. When one area is not working life can still be satisfying. This satisfied feeling allows us to let go of neediness. Flow rather than struggle becomes the way. Balance living ultimately helps you to feel good about yourselves, raises your self-esteem and confidence. You’ll become well rounded, happy and fulfilled.
Balanced Living – Not An Ends But A Means Goal
As you can see seeking balance is a very important component to experiencing a life you love. I’ve found balance is best viewed as not so much an end goal but more of a means to achieve the ends. It’s a way of experiencing life. Balance isn’t a static state, but a fluid, ever changing process.
The reality is we are never actually “in” balance. In any given moment we have more or less of it. Life happens; its patterns are constantly shifting. And, at times, life requires us to give more to a specific facet than we normally would. For example, spending time looking after an aging parent, sorting out a troubled relationship or getting your health back. But, over time our heightened awareness gives us the ability to think about the whole picture of our lives, shift our attention and energy when needed, to bring back a sense of balance and fulfilment.
To gain balance, you first must be true to yourself. Without knowing what’s important to you’ll tend to battle with balance rather than living with it. With awareness and discipline it’s possible to have a greater level of balance between work and play, between me time and we time.
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