“Work-life balance” is a problem for many, especially in New York City. It’s quite the challenge to feel both successful and sane in a city that seems to demand as much from its dwellers as it offers. Does unparalleled access to unlimited choices mean a wealth of resources or just more distractions? Great for stimulation or avoidance? Therein lies the dilemma: how to navigate this concrete jungle so that you’re chasing your dreams, finding the love that you seek, feeling and looking your best, and getting your laundry done.
A friend once said that in NYC, the Holy Grail of balance is when you have a job, love life, and housing situation that you’re happy with – all at the same time. Stability in one area (or even two) always seems to be followed by setbacks in another. It’s quite a curious phenomenon.
But when you think about it, work-life balance issues are a pretty good problem to have. First of all, “work” means you have a job, an income, a livelihood– in this poor economy, no less. At the very minimum, you have marketable skills and if you’re really lucky, a career and even a passion.
Secondly, if there’s a “life” needing more or less attention, it means you have people and/or personal interests that you value, feel connected to and get refueled by. Many people struggle tremendously to find people they can relate to and/or are clueless about what gets their juices flowing. So consider yourself ahead of the game.
Lastly, if “balance” is a problem, by definition, there is a real desire there to negotiate and manage your commitments, goals, and passions differently– for the better. Maybe you want to do less and feel more. Perhaps you want to learn how to say “no” or redistribute your time and energy. Or maybe you’d like to expand or tighten your social circle. Things might not be perfect, but you’re definitely not starting from scratch; you have quite a bit to work with. And most importantly, you’ve decided you want change.
So you want something different from what you’ve got now and you’re ready to put in some work. Well, congratulations! When it comes to behavior change, clear goals and motivation are the biggest game changers, so straight out of the gate, you’re already in pretty good shape.
However, before you start rolling up your sleeves and making any big decisions, I’d encourage you to slow down and first take stock of where you’re at right now. Ready, set, stop? Yes. One of the most commonly made mistakes when it comes to problem-solving is moving too quickly and trying to “fix” the problem before fully understanding it. Not only is there beauty in the details, but often plenty of unearthed needs, feelings, and solutions in them too.
You may be scoffing at what seems like a moot point, but bear with me here. When you’re scurrying about on your daily grind, preoccupied with what’s not getting done and what’s not going right, it’s easy to lose perspective. So take a minute to identify what you’ve already accomplished and what’s actually working well in your life.
Fight the urge to “do” right now and instead, challenge yourself to be still for a few moments (hint: If this happens to make you feel uncomfortable, we’re probably on the right track). While you “sit and simmer,” as my cousin, Laura, calls it, here are a few things to ponder:
- What are the best parts of your work-life balance problem?
- Who or what helped you recognize the need for change now?
- What usually helps new behaviors “stick” for you (e.g., structure, peer support, rewards, accountability, etc.)?
- How will you know if/when things are more balanced in your life? How do you hope to feel when that happens?
Alright, good work, balance-seeker. You’re officially in the race. Recognize that the pursuit of a well-balanced life is a lifelong journey, not a destination. It’s like a marathon that never ends, so you might as well pace yourself. Now go get some rest and enjoy the holidays. We’ve got plenty of serious training ahead of us.