Work faster. Work harder. See more people. Exercise more. Eat better. Break down.
Is the pursuit of balance throwing you completely off balance?
Balance seems like a lovely shining light at the end of the tunnel. When we finally reach it, life will be calmer; life will flow; life will be fulfilling and meaningful; we will have succeeded.
Not quite. Let’s take a quick look at the long, arduous path to this magical land of unicorns and lollipops we have come to understand as ‘work/life balance’. But before we get started, remember we are teachers. This job comes home with us. Our kids are on our minds 24/7. Which is why it's even more important than ever to find the work/life ratio that works for us.
Striving for work/life balance tends to put unrealistic expectations on us. We feel the need to put more time and energy into doing the things we think we need to do in order to gain balance, like more exercise, more drinks with colleagues, more marking over weekends, and more coffees with friends. Although these things are great, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with cancelling everything, going home and rolling into bed at 8pm, if that’s what your body needs.
As we strive for balance, we create a professional and personal divide.
Imagine your calendar is portioned into chunks. Work = black chunks throughout the week. Life = white chunks throughout the week. One is good, one is bad. One is exhausting, one is invigorating. One is living, one is not. On average, we spend 1/3 of our lives at work. For teachers, even more! If you see that 1/3 as a bad, exhausting, draining portion of your life, maybe you need to look into changing your career path. If your teaching job brings you joy and purpose, then keep doing what you're doing, whilst being aware of other areas of your life you may need to put more love into (for your own wellbeing).
We seem to think that balance is one-size-fits-all. It’s NOT.
Some of us thrive off having full schedules. Some of us need time alone to recharge. So, why do we think that an equal balance of work and play is right for everyone? In fact, it doesn’t seem to be right for anyone.
In 2019, we appear to be more highly strung than ever. We put more pressure on ourselves than we ever have before. Being busy is glorified. Doing nothing is frowned upon. We’re supposed to work for 8 hours during the day, and mark work at night. We’re supposed to raise our children to be the ‘perfect’ little citizens, while both parents work full time. We’re supposed to keep a social life going and attend every out-of-work event. And if we say, ‘no’? WELL, you’re a big fat failure. (Please note: total sarcasm).
Something NEEDS to change.
“The challenge of work/life balance is without question one of the most significant struggles faced by modern man.” - Stephen Covey
First off – let’s tell work/life balance to get stuffed.
Then, let’s do this:
1. Live intuitively
There may be some periods in our lives where we’re feeling low, rundown, and exhausted. On these ‘slower’ days, maybe our self-care routine needs to be revved up a notch, while the planning takes the back seat (just for now).
There will be times in our lives when our productivity, motivation, and clarity of purpose are through the roof, so shouldn't it be ok to work your butt off during this ‘fast’ period, if that's what feels best for you?
Every day, go inward. Breathe, meditate, ask yourself what you need in that moment, and give it to yourself.
If you’re feeling run-down and deflated - give yourself permission to cancel your after-work plans and take every second of your lunch break hiding in the reading corner relaxing. Give yourself a day off from the gym and look after yourself. Relax, do some yoga, go to bed early. Do what you need to do to recharge. Some of us might need more of these days than others, and that’s fine!
If you’re feeling motivated, focused, and raring to go - give yourself permission to stay back at work, and work through your lunch break if that’s what feels good to you. It’s ok to work your tail off some days, as long as it feels great at the time (just remember to eat and drink water!). Some of us will have a lot of these days, and that’s fine too!
When you’re doing what feels great for you in every moment, then every moment will count even more. Your efficiency will improve and life will flow more smoothly.
We need to stop trying to fit our days into the box that society has created for us. Every weekday shouldn’t be exactly the same. Don’t force yourself to do the things that aren’t working for you. Don’t beat yourself up or force yourself to work through lunch when you’re having an off day. Don’t feel like you have to stop working when you’re on a roll because you need to keep your work/life balance in check. In both cases – your body/mind/soul is trying to tell you something. LISTEN.
Note: Of course, if you work to strict planning/marking/reporting deadlines or you have children – things won’t always go the way you’d like. All you can ask, is to do your absolute best to do what your mind, body and soul needs whenever you can.
2. Find the right job for you
“Choose a job you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” – Confuscious
A huge problem many of us seem to be facing is that work is a horrible part of the day. That’s not acceptable. You’re worthy of better. Work should not = bad, while life = good. Work is a huge part of life, and should contribute to your overall sense of purpose and fulfilment.
As teachers, we LOVE what we do and couldn't imagine doing anything else. But at the same time we are exhausted, overwhelmed, and overworked. In this case, you need to find strategies to help you more through your day with less stress, and more ease. It can be done. You may even need to find a different school that is more suited to your needs.
Anyway, if the thought of going to work fills you with dread, you need to make a change. Right now. Like I mentioned before, find your limiting beliefs around career, and replace them with new, expansive beliefs. Believe that you can find a job that gives you exactly what you need. Take action, and put the plans and steps into place to find it.
3. Integrate work and play
Ditch the great divide between professional and personal life. Notice the good times at work (moments of achievement for you and your students, laughing at your kids' ridiculous jokes, banter around the Nespresso machine, listening to music during quiet work, etc.) and realise that in those moments – you’re living! They aren’t just good times at work, they’re good times in life.
Whether we like it or not, work is a huge part of our lives. If we aren’t in a job that brings us happiness, we need to stop sulking about it, and do something about it. Reshape the way you look at work. Find all the things you’re grateful for. Put it all into perspective. Purposely bring some more happiness into your day.
Around here, we don’t work to live. We simply live.
Work/life balance isn’t a mathematical equation that equals happiness. It’s different for everyone. Live intuitively. Instead of striving for work/life balance, strive to listen to your mind, body and soul and act in accordance with what you need at that time.
Regularly ask yourself, “What do I need right now?” and do more of that.
You’ll find that between your fast days and slow days, everything will always get done.
Now, that’s what I call, ‘balance’.
Love & Happiness
P.S Do you know someone who could really benefit from reading this? To give them the motivation and push they need to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of the young people around them? Share this post with them. Even if they don't embrace it straight away, you've done your part. Thank you.
The next step:
Commit to being the change, and get started on my IHH 10 Days of Gratitude Challenge. Sign up now to receive your FREE copy. I made it especially for you :) (and not once did I let Adobe InDesign beat me! Ok, maybe once…)
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