Team Guyat have been busy escaping the grey drizzle of Devon in February with a few days in Sardinia for my husband’s birthday last weekend.
As a working parent, taking time off is a herculean juggling act even for just a couple of days and it brought into sharp focus the emotive topic of work life balance.
This topic was the most common stressor for my “generally happy vetting” research participants and is something we can all relate to grappling with at times.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the term as I think it’s meaningless and unachievable. If you re-arrange the letters of “work life balance” you even end up with “brown faecal like”… 😂
This is an anagram I could only ever use in a newsletter to veterinary folk but sums it up perfectly.
For starters I have an issue with the term ‘balance’ as it implies something static and poised, not moving.
The reality of our lives however is that they are in a constant dynamic state of flux.
Our careers, the stages our children are at or the things we want to be doing outside work are constantly evolving and even within one 24-hour period alone we often shift between various different life roles.
I also find the term can cause pressure to feel that if we ever find this elusive ‘work life balance’, things will be cupcakes, rainbows and glitter-farting unicorns at all times if we’re doing it right. 🌈
When in reality there are highs and lows to every day, week, month, year and decade etc.
I much prefer to talk about ‘life balance’ instead. To me though, this is NOT a static thing poised between two roles of WORK (what I do for income-generation) and LIFE (all my other roles and activities).
It means to be really happy with the amount of time I spend in and enjoy ALL the different roles I have in my life, even if that time is not an equal amount in each role.
I think an even MORE useful shift in how we think and feel about it is to use the term ‘flow’ instead. Flow is inherently dynamic and it is a better representation of what is needed.
How good are you at being able to flow between work-mode and home-mode, or parenting to self-care etc. within the space of a day or week?
Do you expect or wish things were great all the time and feel discouraged when they aren’t, or are you adept at continuing to move forward and past the low points, flowing with them rather than getting locked in resistance and struggle?
There are a couple of fundamental things going on here:
For some people, the way their lives are currently set up means that achieving balance between life roles is virtually impossible.
This could be due to the career choices they’ve made, or which type of practice they work in or what extra projects they have taken on.
If this is you right now, this realisation can feel scary and overwhelming initially but it’s also empowering as you can take back control by making new and different choices at any point.
However, IF you are going to make changes to set up your life to give you a fighting chance of a good life flow, this also brings into focus our own ability to set effective boundaries.
This means starting the mindset work of letting go of what you feel you ‘should’ be doing, which requires working towards letting go of perfectionism and the burden of managing other people’s perceptions of you.
We’re afraid to set boundaries that go against what we see all our colleagues or the workaholics doing because we worry about how we’ll be perceived or how we will perceive ourselves. E.g. being the only person in the practice to insist you stop for 30mins to eat your lunch when no one else stops.
Learning how to set effective boundaries is one of the most self-compassionate things we can do, and an essential part of being able to become the best, happiest and most successful version of yourself, from which all those around you benefit.
Imagine a guitar with each string representing a different role we play in our lives. If you have way too many strings, playing a good harmony would be hard as how do you choose which strings to play at any one time?
Or perhaps you only have two functional stringsyou mainly use such as work and sleep. You lack time to care for the other strings which are likely then to go out of tune or snap resulting in discord too.
The secret to creating beautiful music is to get the right number of ‘strings’ for you – no more than 8 life roles generally works well.
Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Then practice your ability to move fluidly from one to the other – some naturally get played more than others but no string is ignored. In life this means practicing boundary setting, mindfulness, building resilience and letting go of perfectionism.
The latter two of these help you keep flowing when you experience a bum note in the music.
Food for thought this week:
How would you rate your current level of ‘life flow’ right now?
What do you need to start saying no to in order to make space to live your life healthily and joyfully?
How many strings has your guitar currently got?
If your life currently feels discordant to you, life flow could well be something you need to pay more proactive attention to.
Have a great weekend,
P.S. Designing, creating and achieving the life-flow of your dreams is what we go deep into with the third module of the Map Maker Experience at Vet Harmony: Setting the Destination. Want to see the other modules and have a nosey around the course?? Click here. >>>