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Updated April 13, 2012
Work-life balance is a loaded concept, promising perfect harmony across all areas of our life.
It’s an unrealistic ideal we’ve set up as a proxy for happiness, implying that “balance” is an achievable zen-like state where all our obligations — professional and personal — receive equal amounts of attention.
Let’s be honest, though. Not everyone wants to achieve balance between work and life. Some of us live to work, while others work to live.
Further, for those who do view personal and professional endeavors as equally important, is it actually possible to be a tireless innovator at work while simultaneously playing “supermom” at home? With limited time, we will always be forced to make sacrifices and compromises. The key, however, is to realize these sacrifices don’t make us imbalanced or unsuccessful; they make us healthy.
Embrace Health Over Balance
We all know what it feels like to be physically and emotionally healthy. This is an achievable, concrete goal every professional woman can agree upon.
Whether it’s finishing a major project at work, attending a networking event, or taking the dog for a walk, our lives are packed with activities that lead to feelings of fulfillment. Embracing health means thoughtfully prioritizing these fulfilling activities while surrounding yourself with a support system that understands your goals.
As a career woman, a mother, and a wife, I constantly remind myself to do things that keep the three most important parts of my life healthy: my career, my family, and myself. My kids and co-workers understand that they will not always receive my undivided attention — but they’re a resilient, flexible support system, and they make my tough sacrifices much easier to stomach.
The next time you feel like you’re falling out of balance, these three tips will help guide you back toward health:
1. Start at the Source
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, stop what you’re doing, take a step back, and identify what exactly is driving these feelings. Often, what seems like a large jumble of multiple stressors can be distilled into one primary source of angst.Once you identify the root of your stress, you can work toward alleviating the problem. Address it by devoting more time to it, or remove it from your plate altogether because it isn’t a priority.
2. Schedule Personal Time
Too often, women forget about the importance of personal time. Our tendency is to ensure we are helping others before we help ourselves — which isn’t a bad trait, but it can easily lead to exhaustion and burnout.
If you want to function on all cylinders, be sure to pencil in time for exercise, reading, or meditation throughout the week. This is something I’ve always struggled to do, but it’s so important to turn inward to recharge and rejuvenate yourself.
3. Let It Go
Colleagues are going to have opinions you don’t agree with, clients will ask for impossible deliverables, and everyone is going to deal with their “health” differently, but you can’t worry about that. Stop analyzing what makes other people healthy, and only focus on what is right for you. You know how to best handle the conflicting events in your life — and you have a support system in your corner that knows you’re doing your best. People outside that system may not agree with your actions, but that doesn’t matter. Do what you can, accept that you can’t do everything, and focus on the positives.
Humans are resilient; that’s why we can thrive without balance. We can easily bounce back from disappointment, missed deadlines, letting our children down, and saying “no” to the next job.
As a working woman, don’t be afraid to tip the scales and prioritize health over balance. Your work and your family will thank you for it.
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