Sunday, June 05, 2011

Don't postpone your life

There’s a common work-life balance trap that many people fall into when they have demanding jobs. They put on one side things that they wanted to do with their life, reasoning that it’s necessary to devote some years to their career.  It could be anything from travelling to learning a musical instrument, to spending more time with their children or making a contribution to their local community, or all of the above. Sometimes people push such desires to the back of their mind, or they reason that when they find the space and time they’ll do it. Their work life goes on and before they know it 30 or 40 years have passed.

Some people then find themselves in retirement or semi-retirement and they struggle with what to do with themselves. Inclinations and desires they had when younger seem distant, and that habit of working for so many years has conditioned them to the point where they feel somewhat washed up and useless. They find it hard to find the energy and will even to do the things they once dreamed they would do.

Avoiding this trap is not so easy with the pressures of modern life – but there is an infallible argument to reason to yourself if you don’t want to end up in regret.

It’s to realise the obvious – you cannot have your time twice. The time you have to live your live is now not tomorrow.  Waiting till tomorrow, or when work is not so pressured, or when you retire, to do something you really want to do is a fallacy.  Its procrastination on a grand scale.

To really have an optimum work life balance you need to not postpone your life, and live your life to the full now – anything less is a gamble with your own future.

This is the simplest and most important consideration in work-life balance. Don’t work so that you can “live” later – live now. If you manage to do this then retirement or semi-retirement when it comes for you won’t be a brick wall, it will just be a transition to a time where even more personal fulfilment will be possible.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Breath and reboot

This week I was watching an old episode of “Sex and the City” and saw a great quote from Carrie Bradshaw for her column in the NY Times.

“After all, computers crash, people die, relationships fall apart. The best we can do is breath and reboot.”

This is so true of life in many situations. So many of us operate to our plan A and sometimes things just don’t go to that plan, we can’t plan for the unplanned – so we just have to dust ourselves off and start again – go to plan B and reboot. But how easy is it to reboot? Isn’t wallowing in a bucket of self pity and frustration or venting with vitriolic anger somehow more likely? Or maybe even more satisfying?

In our complex world with pressure on perfection and performance, we all try to operate to plan A – the way things are supposed to go. But in the history of the world, there aren’t many instances of things that have gone perfectly. Look at the Bible stories for example – Adam wasn’t supposed to eat from the tree, Cain and Abel were supposed to sort things out between them and everyone was supposed to get along! And that is where learning comes in – and in the Bible where moral and philosophical discussions have taken place for centuries.

When things go wrong, we often begin by asking ourselves negative things like “why is this happening to me?” or “what have I done to deserve this?”. In actual fact when things are beyond our control, the only thing we can control is our reaction to them – we can all choose how we react. This reaction either makes the situation better or worse from the start – so take a few moments, lose the negativity, breathe and choose a reaction that will make it better!

A captain of a ship is at the mercy of the elements. Sailors will batten down the hatches in rough weather, so we have to learn to do the same when things happen to us. Here are some ideas:

•    Do take a deep breath and choose your reaction

•    Don’t blow up or lose your cool! It will only get you into a downward spiral

•    Don’t surrender to the situation. Who wants to give up? There is nothing wrong with taking a time out, but don’t run away, there are always ways forward

•    Do break the situation into smaller elements so they are easier to solve

•    Don’t continually refer to the problem, think of alternatives and keep your mind open

•    Do ask yourself what there is to be learned. Be curious and then maybe the ultimate result may be better. Sometimes when things appear to be going wrong, they are actually going to create a better result for you. This is how I met my husband – I missed a flight and he was on the next one!

•    Do keep your sense of humour! Nothing dilutes negativity better than having a giggle at the situation. This may seem hard but if you can laugh at a situation, you won’t build up anger.

Being disillusioned with our life gives us time to re-evaluate what is important and what is worth keeping. It also allows us to think about what can be discarded and so we can shed old ways and find a new way forward.

Maybe late night soap operas such as “Sex and the City” do carry important messages. Definitely time to embrace plan B – and to enjoy the opportunity to reboot.