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COLUMN: WORK LIFE BALANCE… WHAT’S THAT?

The concept of work/life balance is wonderful, isn’t it? In an ideal world, we get up early each day full of energy, work out, get the kids on the bus, head to the office, have a great high-stakes meeting, duck out early to catch the kid’s soccer game, while closing the big deal via smartphone from the sidelines (while still enjoying the game) before heading home and enjoying a relaxing evening with the family.

In reality? We’re perpetually exhausted, hit the snooze, oversleep, rush the kids onto the bus with seconds to spare, head to the office only to realize the car is out of gas, get in late, rush into the meeting winging-it, get caught up in an 11th hour management fiasco that needs to be addressed before we finally get to the soccer game late still stressing out because we’re still fielding calls from the office before rushing home, rummaging around for some leftovers and hoping the kids don’t have homework before hitting the pillow – chip bag in hand – and falling asleep in an exhausted daze. Sound about right some days? We’ve all been there.

Work/Life Balance is a hot topic nowadays with so many of us juggling family and careers, but the idealized version of balance somehow never quite seems to materialize. Sure, it happens sometimes. There are those rare days that the stars align and our best-laid plans actually pan out. But most days? Forget it. Because, guess what? Regardless of how good we are at multi-tasking or how good our intentions are each morning? Each of us has a finite amount of energy and time each day. And, as hard as we try, there is a daily tipping point where we’ve hit our saturation point. That’s when we start to triage. And, unfortunately, the activities  that pay the bills usually get priority.  The fact is that many adults in this country have great careers and pathetic family lives. It’s not intentional, it just kind of ends up that way. As a friend of mine says, “work is one heckuva drug.”

If you can relate, than I’d like to offer a few tips that might help you maintain some sanity as you go about your day. Because, contrary to popular belief, work/life balance has nothing to do with eliminating chaos in our lives. It merely has to do with each of us developing some confidence and level-mindedness in the midst of the inevitable chaos that goes along with this thing we call life.

ADMIT THAT YOU HAVE LIMITS: You may not want to admit it, but there is only so much you can absorb and do in a 24 hour period. You have a set amount of time. And you have a set amount of physical, mental, and emotional energy. In other words, you have limits. Most of us know what our limits are, we just don’t like to admit them. Admit them. Because, while it’s possible to drive ourselves full throttle for a week or two, a few months, or even a year, eventually it will catch up with us. Human beings simply cannot go full-bore for too long without breaking down. So if you want to develop anxiety attacks and other stress-induced health issues? Than keep pushing yourself past the edge and see what happens in the long run. A 70 hour week at the office is simply not compatible with family time, exercise, and sanity. Reign yourself in, set limits, stick to them. Say no every once in awhile. You are not obligated to be everything to everyone. You can’t be your best for yourself or for others if you’re constantly past-capacity.

ROLL WITH IT: There are going to be days (many of them) when your best-laid plans fly out the window before you even had a chance to hit snooze. Roll with it. It’s ok to admit defeat every now and then and just salvage what you can. Should we do our best and try our hardest regardless of what life throws at us? Absolutely. But sometimes it’s ok to throw in the towel and regroup before moving ahead.

BE PRESENT: Life moves fast, and many of us spend way too much time thinking so much about what’s ahead and what’s behind that we rarely enjoy the present. The past is irrelevant because it can’t be changed. The future will be there waiting for you to tackle it. The present is all you have. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Make the most of it.

SEEK ADVICE FROM OTHERS: In our hyper-speed, socially-networked, individualistic modern-day world, we rarely take the time to ask others what they think or how they do what they do. But the best source of advice? Is often those who‘ve “been there done that“. Talk with other working parents, share tips, learn from each other’s ideas and mistakes.

This is the latest installment (for the week of 6/2/2013) of my weekly syndicated column “THE PARENT ATHLETE” – a Health & Wellness Column for Busy Parents – published in over 20 print and online locations, reaching over 270,000+ readers each week. If you are interested in carrying my column in your own paper or website, please contact me at benmurphyonline@gmail.com.


Image by int2k, Flickr. Used by Permission Under Creative Commons License.

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