Many of my coaching clients laugh when the concept of work/life balance is mentioned. Some have come to resent it because it implies their overachieving ways are unhealthy and should be changed. Why should they feel guilty about not wanting to stare at their navels when they would rather obsessively do what they love? They insist that forcing themselves to balance their activities leaves them feeling more overwhelmed than refreshed.
What’s similar about these women who reject the notion of work/life balance is the level of passion they have for their work. When they find their work gives them a strong sense of purpose and satisfaction, they happily work from early morning to late at night. Even if they squeeze in time for self-care and family, they don’t see the need to equally balance their schedules.
One woman told me she felt lost before she found the job she over-commits her time to. She works for a no-kill animal shelter. When not at work, she thinks about how to improve the care of her “children” and raise funds for the shelter. Before she found this work, she spent more time with friends but often drank too much and then squandered her weekends nursing hangovers. She still shares moments with two good friends and visits her sister’s family on holidays, but loves her active life at work. She is happily out of balance.
Instead of working on equally balancing activities, I work with these clients on balancing their minds and bodies. They can happily live with their passionate obsession if they don’t tip into mental and physical fatigue. Here are some tips for maintaining mental balance when you reject work/life balance.
In order to sustain an active mind while passionately doing what you love:
1. Keep your body healthy. If you want to maintain a long work schedule, then you need to keep your body in good working order. Start the day with exercise so you don’t end the day with no time for the gym (go outside before you read your email!). Make sure you eat healthy meals instead of what you can gobble down in quick breaks. Sleep at least seven hours so you are at your peak for the other seventeen.
2. Maintain social bonds. No matter if you think you don’t need anyone’s help, you are a human with social needs. In his book, Born to Be Good, Dachel Keltner claims that true survival of humanity is due to our need for belonging and our need to have people care about us. Also, when you have good interactions with others, you activate the brain regions that improve health and increase creativity and productivity.
Whether it’s your family or your friends—hopefully both—nurture a few significant relationships at work and away. If you go to a movie once a week, enjoy some time after the show talking about what you saw. Eat meals together. Take walks. Lay on the ground and watch the sun cross the sky. Your social connections will help you do you do your best work.
3. Regularly notice the world around you. I get acupuncture once a month to reset my overtaxed body. It was my acupuncturist who first told me that I was disconnected. He then prescribed a daily dose of going outside, smelling the air, appreciating the trees and feeling the ground beneath my feet. When I reconnect with nature, I reconnect with my soul.
The beauty of these tips is that you can combine them by going for walks with family and friends. You can still work into the night and wake up excited about the work you will do next. Balance your body and mind if you would rather not balance your activities by breaking for exercise, breaking bread with those you love, and taking moments to connect with nature.
Marcia Reynolds is a coach who teaches leadership classes worldwide. Her book, Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction will be released June 2010. Read more at www.WanderWomanBook.com