By Marissa Russell
The ideal mix of good health, great friends, an enviable relationship, a thriving career, thrilling hobbies and happy children: every professional has made it their goal at some point in their careers to strive for work-life balance. Many have found this goal elusive because there are some truths about work-life balance that people struggle to accept. Here are five uncomfortable truths that, once accepted, will set you on the path for work-life balance once and for all.
1. There will always be compelling excuses to work around the clock. Reject them.
There is no work-life balance without total acceptance of this principle. The siren calls to check emails until 4:00 am, listen to another industry podcast or attend your 700th networking event will not disappear. Boundaries are your only line of defense to protect yourself from the black hole of never-ending work. You have to create certain non-negotiables with your time regardless of what is going on around you. Once you accept the inevitability of temptations and no longer use their existence as an excuse to continue to neglect your personal life, you will be on the road to work-life balance.
2. You will have to schedule your personal time on your calendar the same way you do work activities.
When you find yourself remembering and meeting all of your business deadlines, but forgetting every family event, birthday, and haircut appointment, it can probably be traced back to one issue: your personal commitments are never scheduled on your calendar. Many people believe time for family, friends, hobbies, and self-care is supposed to arise organically without any planning, structure or scheduling involved. We have convinced ourselves that scheduling is only appropriate for business and blasphemous when it comes to our personal lives. Regardless of how awkward it may feel initially, what gets scheduled gets accomplished. Swallow your pride and make sure that you formally create time for non-work-related activities.
3. Sometimes the high salary isn’t worth it in the eyes of your loved ones.
The explanation professionals often give behind why they work so hard is so they can afford their children’s private educations, upscale neighborhoods, quality vacations and everything else they believe make up the foundation of happy, stable lives. The paradox of this is that while you are climbing from profitable to more profitable project, you might inadvertently leave your family relationally impoverished. Talk to your loved ones. Perhaps you are overestimating how much they want luxury and underestimating how much they want your presence.
4. There will always be a ceiling on your effectiveness as long as you neglect self-care.
You may believe that you represent excellence in your professional life, but without self-care, you are only a fraction of how great you could be. Lack of sleep impairs your cognitive abilities, immune function and willpower, lack of exercise puts you at risk for heart disease and weight gain, and lack of breaks hinders creativity and invites burnout. It is important not to confuse your ability to run on fumes with thriving. Taking care of yourself is the only way to ensure that you are bringing the greatest version of yourself to work with you every day.
5. Professional success is not the only success that matters.
Don’t look down on your gardening, swimming, cooking or martial arts skills just because they don’t put money directly into your pocket. Viewing your career as the only outlet for validation and a sense of accomplishment will always keep you stuck in a cycle of undervaluing your personal life. Being excellent in your career is not the only success that you can strive for. You can focus on being a successful parent, spouse, neighbor, or friend, in addition to your triumphs at work. Coming from a world where only facts, figures and bottom-lines matter, it can be difficult to appreciate the value of success in something that can’t always be translated into an award, but this is all a part of being a well-rounded, fulfilled and balanced human being.