The Real Reason Work Life Balance Is So Hard

If you have attempted to balance your work and Life, and have felt it was impossible, it’s because it is impossible. Life is your whole human experience. You can’t balance what isn’t separate. Life is unimaginably enormous. It is everything you are, and every role you play. Balancing it with work implies that your work is somehow not a part of your Life. It continues to perpetuate the myth that if you could just contain one role you play, the rest of your roles could thrive.

On the contrary, Life encompasses and far outweighs work – no matter how consumed you might feel by your work at some particular moment. Additionally, your work is how you generate the energy (usually in the form of money) to sustain yourself and serve others. It is vitally important for your existence. Healing a distorted focus on work by focusing on a distorted work focus is an endless feedback loop. A deep understanding of work’s true importance for each of us, as well every role we play in the Game of Life is the only thing that will elevate our focus to a broader, more integrated view.

We are transformed when we understand our work role is just one of the rest of our Life roles. If we understand how to honor work’s purpose, and also honor Life’s infinite potential for personal growth, “balance” becomes “integration” and “expansion” and the result is “wholeness.”

The 12 Life Roles

When we see that work is only one of 12 Life roles, it becomes more obvious how it isn’t about balance between two roles, but integration among many roles. Since the roles contain overlap, it also isn’t about the hours spent in the roles, but about our awareness that the roles each need cultivating.

Depending on which life coach or counselor you work with, there could be 5, 7 or more Life roles. The 12-role model is extremely comprehensive, and it underscores how many roles besides work create that much sought-after sense of balance.

No one can give equal amounts of time and energy to each role, nor should they even try. What does matter is recognizing that cultivating each role consciously (and appropriately) is the foundation for individual fulfillment. If you feel “out of balance” it is easy to see which one (or more) is being overlooked, and then intentionally nurture that role to a greater degree.

Naturally, different Life roles receive greater emphasis at different times in our lives. When we are younger, learning has greater primacy. And as we age, household and leisure roles can increase.

Honoring the Work You Do

It may seem counter-intuitive, but to see the benefit of our work, we must stop working – at least long enough to see the good it is giving to others and us.

Honoring our work is a practice of gratitude, recognition, and ritual celebration. This might seem a bit of a ridiculous waste of valuable time at first – even more so if you are putting in 60, 70 or 80-hour work weeks already. But most employees (especially the self-employed) are under-recognized for what they are doing right. This becomes more pronounced when you know that it takes three words of praise to balance out one word of criticism, no matter how well founded the criticism might be. Most bosses are operating in the red when it comes to handing out praise.

If you don’t receive appreciation from your boss, your peers or worse – yourself – then you begin to feel you are not enough. The result is you feel out of balance – and you are. You begin to work harder at the expense of other roles in your life. Alternately, you might mentally, emotionally and physically “check out” of your work role in favor of other Life roles. Either way, you create an out of balance Life.

The practice of daily gratitude provides structure for all-important self-praise. Whether a boss is enlightened enough to see the good you do or not, you can give yourself well-deserved praise. Write down your praise for things accomplished, hurdles overcome, milestones met, and service given to others. Begin to see all the good you are doing, and keep that journal of gratitude. The written record of gratitude to your self becomes a record of recognition.

Then when you have completed a particularly onerous task, project, interaction or growth step at work, given yourself a party. What ritual celebration looks like is up to you. Anything meaningful can become your personal celebration, from a nice dinner, to a night off, a spa visit, or a week at the beach with friends. Whatever you choose, make sure it is self-nurturing rather than self-numbing.

What Integration Looks Like

Individuals who feel overwhelmed or stuck in their work know intuitively that something is definitely out of alignment. However, in the middle of a situation it can be very difficult to have any perspective at all on how it all got so out of whack. Becoming consumed by our work at the expense of all the other rich roles we get to experience in our life can have many causes. While the reasons are endless on the surface, they all come back to a belief our personal worth doesn’t originate with us, but is created through our work.

Many of our religious teachings reinforce this by telling us we are inherently “unworthy” while our culture applauds our work achievements more loudly than other achievements. To place work in its correct place among all our incredible life roles we must recognize our own worth is inherently within us. We are expressing our worth, not acquiring it, through our work.

The result is our work actually becomes a bolder, brighter expression of our unique gifts – with less effort on our part – when we use it to create the energy and engine for our other Life roles.

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If you are ready to create a powerful integration in your life — one that does propel your professional success forward, while honoring all that you are in every role you serve – join me for the 2019 Fire Starter Retreat, for women in leadership.


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