Is work your life?
Many years ago I suffered from blurry vision. I couldn’t see how my actions and choices were affecting my state of mind or even my overall health. I was stumbling through those days, reacting to whatever was dropped in my lap. I was busy doing stuff. I was working, very hard. In fact, on one of my performance reviews, my boss commented that he didn’t know someone in our company who worked harder. (That should have been a sign, of sorts).
Then I came across the idea of balancing your work and your life. I kind of struggled with that. I couldn’t see the distinction between the two. How were they different? And why was it important to separate them?
At the time when I was struggling with these definitions, I also knew in my gut why it was important to answer the question, by seeking the answer. I’d already flirted with burnout, anxiety and depression – common side effects of not having a good balance between working and living.
As I started to seek answers and solutions, I came across a TED talk by Nigel Marsh – “How to make work-life balance work“. A really funny presentation which kind of put the issue into a perspective I could understand. He was from the corporate world of bigger companies, where the pressure to perform at a high level is immense. While I was not and probably will never be, a CEO, I understood where he was coming from.
This is a part of the transcript from that talk, which I really love:
The third observation is we have to be careful with the time frame that we choose upon which to judge our balance. Before I went back to work after my year at home, I sat down and I wrote out a detailed, step-by-step description of the ideal balanced day that I aspired to. And it went like this: wake up well rested after a good night’s sleep. Have sex. Walk the dog. Have breakfast with my wife and children. Have sex again. (Laughter) Drive the kids to school on the way to the office. Do three hours’ work. Play a sport with a friend at lunchtime. Do another three hours’ work. Meet some mates in the pub for an early evening drink. Drive home for dinner with my wife and kids. Meditate for half an hour. Have sex. Walk the dog. Have sex again. Go to bed. (Applause) How often do you think I have that day? (Laughter) We need to be realistic. You can’t do it all in one day. We need to elongate the time frame upon which we judge the balance in our life, but we need to elongate it without falling into the trap of the “I’ll have a life when I retire, when my kids have left home, when my wife has divorced me, my health is failing, I’ve got no mates or interests left.” (Laughter) A day is too short; “after I retire” is too long. There’s got to be a middle way.
After listening to Nigel, I realized, (not for the last time – I am a dreadfully slow learner), we take this corporate world of business, far too seriously. We are not curing cancer folks. In fact, most of us are so far removed from serving a cause in any meaningful way, it is a joke. And yet, this is what we toil at for so many hours of a day.
Reading the book, “Fat, Forty and Fired” also by Nigel Marsh, my quest to be better, in myself, really started. Even though Nigel’s struggle was far different from my own, I related it to myself in a good way. While I was not a man and I didn’t live in his world of financial privilege, in 2010, I was 40 and bordering on fat. Just needed to be fired to have the trifecta. In hindsight, I’m glad I didn’t have to be fired to make the changes I needed to. So thanks to this book for helping to clarify a bunch of my thoughts on self improvement.
For me, it always came back to creativity. How was I going to honour that essence in everything that I did? Put some humour, some warmness and a personal touch on my work and my life. Instead of viewing my daily life as a series of tasks, to be checked off a list, how was I going to bring alignment to all my chosen activities?
I’ve come a long way, as the work in this blog is a testimony to. But it is a journey, just like life. A winding road with delights around each corner, if we care to look for them.