More important than what you are DOING is who you are BEING and what thoughts you are taking with you wherever you go, whether it’s to work or somewhere else.
Many people’s thoughts include things like ‘if I worked fewer hours’, or ‘if I go get a massage when I’m stressed’, or ‘if I had some new piece of technology to assist me with time management’, or ‘if I had a nanny to help look after the children’, or [insert here whatever it is that you think you need] then they would have a great sense of work/life balance.
Having any or all of these things will make no difference if you don’t get your thoughts sorted; if you don’t get your thoughts working FOR you.
While discussing this with a client recently, I told her about a quote that profoundly changed my understanding of myself, my work, my goals and, as time went on, I also saw how it changed my concept of work/life balance…
It’s a Zen Proverb and it says:
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
For me, the concept that even after reaching enlightenment (should that ever even happen) I would still need to do many of the same daily tasks that I already do was PROFOUND.
All the things I thought would be different when I reached some elusive future magical time of work/life balance… there would be no boring tasks to do or conversations to have, or responsibilities to uphold and challenges big or small would be easy to face.
I worked on my thoughts and life got better and yet none of the ‘things’ were different. But I WAS DIFFERENT.
It’s not what you do, or how many hours you work that is nearly as important and the state of mind that you take with you to those hours. It is possible to only work 20 hours a week and feel more stressed, scared, resentful, tired, or [add here which ever negative emotion/thought it is for you] than someone who is working 60 hours a week and/or raising children.
You can go the office every day, or run which ever errands you need to do that day and do it with a sense of “enlightenment”. In other words, you can do any or all of those things while:
- Being present
- Not creating negative stories about what could go wrong
- Not belittle yourself in any way
- Not criticising what you are doing
- Knowing that everything is as it is supposed to be
- Giving your work the focus it deserves; without procrastination
- Moving through life from a mindset of curiosity rather than judgement
- Speaking up for yourself
And when the work hours are done for the day or the week, you can simply stop, knowing that you have given your best for the day that was. And knowing that any gaps you feel will still be there tomorrow. And not giving energy to the gaps at a time when you can’t do anything about them, or when it’s simply time to rest and rejuvenate. Giving energy to the gaps at other times will not change the fact that the gaps will likely still be there tomorrow. So rest while it is rest time simply because you need and deserve rest; you will feel better and you will be in a much better space tomorrow to deal with any gaps if you are rested.
Go through each day with a focus on what you have instead of what’s missing (gratitude).
Work on yourself until your sense of self-worth is such that any work you do is to provide value rather than fill any perceived gaps within you.
When you have gaps within you, they can’t ever be filled by things on the outside.
Go within, look towards finding enlightenment within you.
Get curious about yourself.
Surrender to life.
Life/balance will surely follow.