Work-Life Balance

Work life balance. Is it a topic of yours? It used to be a topic of mine, but not anymore. Recently we travelled to Italy. When I say we, I'm talking about my husband and I, we live in Munich, Germany, and we haven't seen our parents-in-law - my parents-in-law - and Fabio's (my husband's) parents for quite some time because of COVID-19 restrictions. And we spent some time with them. We travelled from Germany to Italy by car and stayed there one week. We didn't plan to do holidays we wanted to work from there because we are both self employed, and we didn't want to take holidays. So we set up our working space in their living room, and worked during the day making lots of breaks to spend time with them. And my parents in law were very surprised. They asked us, "But why don't you ever have some holiday? Why don't you take some free time? Why are you working so much? Do you have to?"

Well, we didn't have to. We chose to, we wanted to. We both had left our corporate jobs to do work we love and we are still in the young ages of our lives, not our lives but our business lives, we are new entrepreneurs, and it takes a lot of organising, setting systems, focusing. We are very curious, we want to learn. We want to grow and we want to share what we learn with others, therefore it's a joy for us to work. We choose our own work. For us, this is an integral part of life. Life for us means, or I can speak for me personally (because I know it about my husband, but everybody's unique and he has his own definition of what life means, but for me life means to be fully alive, to go through your own inner drives, to be fully aware of what interests you, to get curious, to follow your curiosity, and to share what you love with others, to create form out of your disorganised energy so that it's usable for you for an extended time but also for others, it's to continuously grow, to expand and to share your energy with others. This is how I define life, this experience, and for me work is a very important part of being alive, being in this life. That's why I find the topic, work life balance unsettling. I don't like this term, I find this as a blanket statement that hides a lot of deeper dissatisfaction, unfulfilment at work. I feel this work life balance term in itself has some subtext, which means when you are working, there is no life, and when you are living there is no work. As someone who does work she loves, I can tell you that I feel fully alive while I'm working. At the same time, when I'm living, it doesn't feel so different from working so I don't understand this separation at this moment, but it's a choice that I had to make and it's not an easy choice, and I feel I'm lucky in many ways that not everybody gets to do such a choice to do their own work, but even when you do work as part of an employment, or in any other format this work life balance hides a lot of deeper needs, and deeper unfulfillment. I think we shouldn't cover up what is important. We should go deep, we should look deeply into the specifics of what is causing us to want more work life balance.

and a couple of things come to mind. First of all, the idea that work is a drudgery, work feels like you are being a slave or you are a victim of your circumstances or other people might make you to minimise your work, because then you don't feel like you're living you don't feel like yourself, therefore you want more life, which makes a lot of sense. But why should you have to feel this way? What makes you settle for not living for a certain time? There is possibility to live while you work. You just have to pause, without jumping into "More work life balance! Less work more life!". But what about making work work for you, making work be part of your life? If that's about work that feels like drudgery, what is it that you are missing, what needs of you are not being fulfilled? Let's look at that, let's get clear on that.

In lots of circumstances, there are relationship layers that we are not getting on well with people we work with, or we are accepting work conditions that we don't really want to, we tolerate them. This is what makes us feel like victims. We accept deadlines that we know wouldn't work without us doing this extended working time, lots of overtime. We accept changes in our work that we know that wouldn't do well for the work itself, for the output, and also doesn't fit with our values. We tolerate a lot at work. And that is what we resign. I'm not saying leave your job immediately but you have the power to pause in those moments, and assess what it is that you really want and what you feel is meaningful, and what do you need, and communicate it to people that you work with. You are not there to completely love each other and to accept everything that is being said, you are there to co create, you are there to co-exist and that co-creating and co-existing has to have clashes, has to have contradictions and arguments because this is what expands possibilities. Challenges contradictions, arguments, make us pause and look at all the spectrum to come up with alternatives beyond our initial ones. That's very healthy, but that only works when you start voicing your opinions, when you start voicing your needs. Communicating your needs is an essential skill for any human being, especially an important skill that you shouldn't avoid developing when you are working in a corporate environment. People don't know how you feel. Some of them might have developed their emotional intelligence and skills, and they might have the hints about how you feel, and then they might be caring enough for pausing and asking to you, and working with you to support you in fulfilling your needs, but most of us, we don't see it because we are so focused on our own needs. It's up to you to communicate your needs to get them fulfilled. I want to advise you, I don't like the word advice, I want to suggest you to really look into this term "nonviolent communication" from Marshall Rosenberg, who is the developer of this work and learn first of all to understand your emotional needs. What are the needs that are not being fulfilled, are not being met in this moment, and how you can rightly without being violent but openly and lovingly communicate these needs to other people, because when you do that, the other people have now an awareness about it and usually we care for each other. If we know what the other person needs, we will do something to provide them that space or help them to develop this need, at least we will try. It might take time for us to develop that state, but it helps, it starts the initial step. Just a hint I don't want to teach you here the nonviolent communication, but it is all about "I". "When I see that happening. I feel not respected. I kindly ask you to treat me in this way or to share with me that." It's about how you feel when something happens, how you feel when you see that happening. It's not a judgmental language, you do this you are bad, it's about how you feel and what you are asking the other person to do so that you can meet the important need that you have. And the same is true for you. you can observe other people and see what is their need in that moment. When somebody is angry with you, they are communicating a need in a way that is not the most skillful way. You might develop your skill to understand under the layer what is their need and help them, or you can ask them, "How can I help you, what is it that you are feeling right now? Let's talk about this". All of this of course needs you to pause, to be aware, not to rush, not to jump into conclusions, not to jump into old habits, and not to jump into the blanket statements like, "I want more work life balance, less work more life", but "Now I want to live 'here, and now at work'. Work is part of my life. And in this moment, this is what I'm feeling, this is what I'm missing this is what's important to me, this is what I am seeing, and this is what I'm choosing". I invite you to choose in any moment in your life, especially at work, because this podcast is called Unique Careers, Unique Lives, and we are talking about how work is integrated into life. So, work is an important place where you say, "Okay, this is how things are right now and this is how I want things to be", or "I am with things in this way, and this is what I'm doing". Conscious aware choices you can make in any moment. And you take the responsibility.

What I also don't like about this work life balance is, it seems as if you are demanding, you want things to change, the general things to shift for you. Whereas it's you that choose. Always you can make new choices. When you stay at your work, you can make new choices that benefit you and others. And in this case, if it's about not having enough rest, because you work too much, you can look really deep into what is the cause of it, you can observe. Pause and observe your own choices. What are you saying yes to? What are you not saying no to? What are you continuing? What can you change here? And looking into your own energy. The responsibility of your energy and your behaviour is totally on you and your experience is on you. You cannot give this responsibility to anyone else. You can ask them, they don't have to respond or do the way that you want it, but it's up to you to be aware of it, to do something about it, including asking others for changes. But that requires us to get to specific, and not to go into the blanket statements.

I believe we all can experience full presence at work and enjoy our work so that we don't think we need to escape from work to be able to live, but we accept our work and cherish our work as a valuable contribution to our living as an extension to our living as our gift to the world because we live in this world. And I don't want us to give up on this. I want you to really remember that you are important in this world. Your uniqueness matters, and your energy matters. And please be aware of how your energy is developing. What are you investing your care and energy? What choices you are going to make that will energise you, that will contribute you feeling more alive and this aliveness will expand to your work, to other people around you, and to the world. Let's look deeper, let's not stop in the blanket statement "More work life balance!" but let's say, more 'life-life balance' or more life. We don't need a balance, we need to be able to dance, to flow, to live fully. So here is to the life, here is your uniqueness, here is to do work that gives you the sense of feeling alive, and you feel you are contributing to the world the way you want to.

I will be talking to you in the next episode, take very good care of yourself, enjoy your life, take mindful moments, work mindfully, lovingly and full of life. Take care.

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