"Work-Life Balance" strikes me as peculiar and trivial. As I wrote in my book, Sweet Success:
Inever really thought about "Work-Life balance;" I’ve only considered everything "life." After all, when I walk into the office, my life doesn’t cease. When I walk into my home, I still consider parts of my job. It was all part of me and my life.
It's all interconnected forming a holistic tapestry that defines who I am.
In my role as a recruiter, I frequently encounter individuals struggling to achieve this elusive work-life balance. They often lament their jobs and bemoan the lack of time for meaningful activities such as exploring museums with their children, learning new skills like cooking curry or playing piano, or pursuing their dream of writing a novel. Yet, upon closer examination, their evenings are spent mindlessly watching Netflix.
The crux of the challenge lies not in balancing work but in enriching life. Many people fail to take concrete steps toward this goal. To attain a better work-life balance, begin by making gradual improvements to life, knowing that the work aspect will naturally fall into place.
Consider an executive I coached—an accomplished leader running a company, raising three children, doing daily yoga, playing violin in a local orchestra, and recently taking up painting. Our conversations revolved around the joys she experienced in life, never explicitly mentioning the notion of work-life balance.
Another inspiring example is J.K. Rowling, a single mother who worked as a teacher and dedicated her evenings to scribbling ideas on scraps of paper at her kitchen table. Over five years, those fragments transformed into the magical world of Harry Potter, highlighting the transformative power of consistent, small efforts.
The Significance of Morning Rituals
Among various avenues for nurturing a better work-life balance, morning rituals hold immense potential. During the early years of parenting, I woke up before my children to complete my doctoral dissertation, study kanji, write books, and engage in physical exercise. By investing a couple of hours each morning, I set the stage for a building a better personal and professional life. Though my morning routine has evolved over time, I offer a few recommendations.
Meditate: Personally, I find Sam Harris's "Waking Up" app invaluable for its practical and comprehensive content.
Write: For three decades, I've followed Julia Cameron's "Morning Pages" practice, where I fill three handwritten pages with thoughts, ideas, challenges, dreams, and reflections. This free-flowing exercise helps me tap into the depths of my thoughts.
Exercise: Whether it's running, yoga, or a brief 7-minute workout routine, engaging in physical activity upon waking enhances overall health, energy levels, and mental clarity.
Read: I often indulge in inspiring literature, whether it's poetry, motivational books, or the classics. The act of absorbing information from books, distinct from other mediums, holds a special place in personal growth and development. Personally, I read over 50 books annually.
The Power of Hobbies
As a recruiter that has met thousands of people wanting to change their jobs, hear is a common conversation that I have:
Me: So you have a good salary?
Answer:Yeah, I’m overpaid, really.
Answer:Yeah, it’s good. I don’t have to work too much overtime.
The team? Company?
Answer:Both are really good. I like what our company does and the people I work with.
So what is the problem?
Answer: It’s not fulfilling my dreams and desires.
Too often, individuals seek career changes due to unfulfilled dreams and desires. It's crucial to acknowledge that work is just that—work. We shouldn't demand our jobs to provide ultimate fulfillment. To satisfy our deeper yearnings and enrich our souls, it's necessary to cultivate hobbies and passions outside of work. Engaging in activities like painting, playing an instrument, volunteering, joining classes, or pursuing creative projects that can help build that fulfillment.
Persistent Consistency Wins the Day
The primary hindrance to achieving a remarkable work-life balance lies in our unwillingness to invest significant effort into our lives. Many people complain about their jobs and express aspirations for personal growth but fail to take concrete, incremental actions. If genuine transformation is desired, it is vital to work diligently, step by step, on one's life.
Take small steps. Start with 5 minutes per day. Be consistent. Do not miss a day. Anyone can spend 5 minutes doing anything. Someone may say this isn’t enough time, but it is 35 minutes a week. And if you sit down for 5 minutes and actually do 10 minutes, then you are even better. The rule of thumb is not to skip!
Like in running, I would rather see someone run 5 kilometers 5 times a week than someone that can run 25 kilometers once in a week. The person who runs consistently will always win.
Achieving a meaningful work-life balance is about embracing life holistically, such as cultivating morning routines, engaging in hobbies, and being consistent. By recognizing that work is an integral part of our existence and taking deliberate actions to enhance our personal lives, we unlock the potential for a more fulfilling and balanced existence.
David Sweet is the founder and CEO of FocusCore Japan, a leading executive search firm. He is author of six books and holds a Ph.D. in Leadership Development. For more information, contact him at David@FocusCoreGroup.com.