Before I dig in I have a two questions for you. What is work? What is life?
Most people I speak to put work in the category of actualizing their value. What I mean value in dollars. “Work” is the job or career that shows, through monetary compensation, that we are useful to the world.
So, life for many people is everything outside of our career and money acquiring contribution. Life consists of relationships, family, chores, recreation, vacation, fitness, appointments (not work related), school, hobbies, etc.
Has anyone stopped to ask, why is work different and separate from the rest? Is it the value thing? Do we struggle to feel of value if we aren’t getting financially compensated for it?
Or is it merely an “hours in the day” thing? In general 8 hours a day 40 hours a week is considered the “right” amount of time to work, at least in the USA. Yet there are those working 60+ hours a week, so they must be out of balance with the rest of life.
Regardless of the reason, people are often looking to create a work/life balance.
What if our anxiety, depression, obesity and other ailments are the result of this focus on hours spent and what constitutes our value in society? We’ve made balance all about the numbers. We focus on the numbers on a clock and how much of that clock pie we are spending in any given area. We are also focused on the dollars coming into our bank.
Since we spend a good portion of our lives earning a living and the earning only happens in the work portion of the life pie, all of a sudden work holds as much weight as this thing we call life. (i.e. Work/Life) Now, work is separate and apart from life… but is it really?
I’d like to suggest that we put “work” back where it belongs, as a part of life and not separate from it. I mean, really, life is the thing between birth and death, if I’m not mistaken. So, it makes sense that work fit’s into that same space between birth and death, and not apart from it.
Separating Work from life is the same as separating the foot from the body when I think about my physical balance. Yes, the foot is, more often than not, our body’s connection point to the ground. However, does that make it more important than the rest of the body for achieving physical balance?
If you look back at the post about physical balance, the answer is clearly NO! We see from this post that our ability to balance comes from the systems working inside of our body.
This begs the question: If work is a part of life what needs to be balanced? Something must need to be balanced otherwise people wouldn’t complain about being out of balance.
Let us use the example of physical balance as a guide for our life balance. From the last post we learned that there are three internal systems that actually control balance in the body:
- Visual system– knowing our place in the external world
- Vestibular system– located in the inner ear, which coordinates spacial awareness and movement.
- Proprioceptive system – awareness of where each part of the body is relative to the rest of the body.
These unseen systems are the mechanisms of physical balance, not any one specific body part. As we experience life circumstances our body will strengthen based on how well our balance systems work. The more time you spend practicing activities that require balance, the better the body will respond unconsciously and balance itself when you need it.
Taking this concrete example of physical balance, let us now apply it to a balanced life. Imagine, if you will, that there are abstract systems that drive our choices and these abstract systems resemble the physical body balance systems described above. These systems unconsciously control our decisions and they determine whether we feel fulfilled, successful and centered or not. Now, if we take these drivers of our life and make them conscious we can actively create a balanced life. We can create a lifestyle that is fulfilling. Work may also take on a whole new, playful, meaning.
So do you want your life to feel balanced? Are you interested in putting work back into your life and creating something fulfilling for yourself? Then stop looking at the numbers and start looking at the internal systems running your life. Interested in learning about these systems and how they work to create life balance? Stay tuned…