How to tell if you’re leading a balanced life

We spend so much time reading and talking about work life balance and yet most of us conclude our life is not in balance. Why is that?

Put simply: most of us don’t know what good balance means to us. And if we don’t know where we’re going how will we know when we get there?

At a conference a few years back a highly qualified coach – on hearing I was a member of the British Psychological Society’s working group on Work-Life Balance – asked “So what’s the formula for balance?” I shared with him – and now share with you – the conclusion I’ve gathered from trawling the research evidence.

There is no single formula for balance – because one size doesn’t fit all. Balance is a personal thing and how it looks for you will change throughout your life. Even the question “what is work life balance?” can be hard to answer. The best working definition I’ve come across is one developed by two Australian academics – Thomas Kalliath and Paula Brough:

“Work-Life Balance is the individual perception that work and non-work activities are compatible and promote growth in accordance with an individual’s current life priorities”.

I think it’s a good definition – but how do we translate it into something that helps us in practical terms? How do we identify what works for us? I favour a simple approach based on Solutions Focus (a branch of Positive Psychology):

Set aside some time when you won’t be disturbed. At least ten minutes – you can always return to this exercise later – but up to half an hour if possible.

Relax. Take a deep breath. Consider the following question:

Imagine you went to sleep this evening and overnight a “miracle happened”. When you wake in the morning you have your ideal work-life balance.

How would you know? What would tell you?

How would you feel? What would you be thinking? What would you be doing? What would you be seeing? Hearing? What else would tell you this “miracle” has happened?

Write down your answers as fully as you can.

The idea is that rather than trying to find the solution from inside the problem, we look at it from a place where it’s been solved and then identify how to get there. It’s loosely based on the famous quote by Albert Einstein “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them”.

With this approach you gain a clearer idea of what would work for you – what you need at this time. And with that clearer roadmap you’re more likely to get there!

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