Take a quick snapshot of your life and you’ll probably see your work, your family, your friends and yourself. Now ask yourself this simple question: what are you achieving and enjoying?
Not an uncommon question, since many ponder these two concerns during our daily activities—“What in the world am I really achieving by spending time on this?” “Am I really enjoying this or am I just going through the motions?”
Work-life balance was all the craze a number of years ago. Today, it seems, striving to find the balance between work and life is deemed a rather foolish pursuit. Instead, we are urged to thrive and flourish in all areas of life, not just one or the other. Forget finding equal ground, blossom in both areas. Sounds great, doesn’t it? While the media filled tens of thousands, if not more, pages and hours of airtime with “tips to achieve work-life balance,” today we hear that it’s not a worthwhile pursuit after all.
It’s a fairly grisly picture out there. With more than a third of people saying they are unhappy or very unhappy about the time they spend at work, to almost 50% of people saying they are neglecting important parts of their personal lives due to work, it’s pretty clear why more than 25% of employees in one study reported feeling depressed, more than a third feel anxious, and almost 60% say they are irritable. People have more and more but seem less and less happy.
For those who regularly workout at The La Jolla Sports Club, with or without a certified trainer, alone or in a group ex class, you can readily identify with recent research published in the journal Human Resource Management that looked at almost 500 adults, and found that regular exercise helps balance out feelings, improves self-confidence and the ability to be more productive at work and at home. The exercise that was studied wasn’t only gym-based but included “stolen moments” of activity during the day that add up to about 30 minutes per day, such as climbing stairs for five minutes or doing jumping jacks in 30-second spurts. Beyond exercise, of course, I coach my clients to change the way they think about work-life not as separate entities, but as one, called “LIFE.” In their terrific book, “Just Enough: Tools for Creating Success in Your Work and Life,” authors Howard Stevenson and Laura Nash identify four areas to contemplate as metrics for an overall, “good life.” These include:
1. Happiness: Feelings of pleasure or contentment in and about your life. 2. Achievement: Accomplishments that compare favorably against similar goals others have strived for. 3. Significance: A positive impact on people you care about. 4. Legacy: Establishing your values or accomplishments in ways that help others find future success.
But here’s the key. It turns out, according to research, that the happiest people are those that include something each day to fill each of these buckets. Delay enjoyment while you are busy achieving and you’ll be sadly disappointed—is there any other kind of disappointment? Focus on enjoyment and achievement may suffer. It’s not like working until the “finish line” will free you to have supreme happiness after your work life is over. That’s the foolish, “First, I’ll work until I’ve made enough and then I can do whatever I want to be happy.” Sounds terribly confused, and flies against what science teaches us about flourishing in life.
Quick Read: How to Add 22 years to your life
Want to take your life to this noble level of thriving and succeeding? Remember you need to focus on what’s important and here’s a hint: not everything is important. Set priorities and invest yourself NOW in those things that have the highest payoff.
“The link is what you think”, so put it in perspective. Achieve, enjoy, exercise and strive for brimming with optimal health and extreme happiness—the ultimate rewards for crisscrossing the work-life balance.