Work-life balance: Danger signals

Recognise these four warning signals that indicate the tilting of your life’s balance

Signal tower

I love my car even though it’s three years old. It has an in-built mechanism, which beeps when anything in the car goes wrong—a gauge tells me when servicing is due, when fuel is low or when tyres need attention. Should anything go awry, the mechanism will be brought to my attention before it’s too late, ensuring a safe and carefree drive.

We too have an inherent mechanism that warns us of our life going off balance. We need to be able to recognise the signs so that we can keep a tab on them and heed to them when they show up. Here are a few of those signs and the formulae on setting things right.

The health signal

Your health is the strongest barometer of balance. If you feel exhausted all the time, it means that your health needs attention. Therefore, tending to your body becomes urgent and holds priority over your work, your family or anything else that falls in your schedule.

Imagine if your car shows low fuel. No matter where you are headed, and how hard you try, you won’t reach there if your fuel supply is inadequate. It’s the same with your body. Pushing yourself over the limit abuses your body, making the balance tip against you.

It’s better to take a power nap when tired, keep yourself replenished with minerals and vitamins, keep a few energy bars handy and make sure that you get six to eight hours of undisturbed sleep every night. Make no compromises on your health or your body will make you the slave to its idiosyncrasies. Ignoring the needs of your body is the first step to disturbing your life balance.

The attitude signal

Your attitude shapes your world and determines your success. When you find yourself negatively inclined, when you find yourself frequently irritated, when your temper flies out of control often and your foul mood becomes public knowledge, it means your life has gone off balance. Even distributing your time between work and family doesn’t help if there’s something wrong with the attitude. Rather, the people around you become victims of your misplaced attitude.

This is the time to stop and spend some time with yourself in reflection. Go for a walk instead of rushing home to put the blame on someone else. Go for a drive alone, read a book in a coffee shop, stroll in a park with music in your ears, make a new friend or just go pump some weights at the gym.

Get your mind and body away from the environment that is challenging your attitude. Sometimes just getting away allows you to see what’s wrong internally. Sometimes all that we need to bring back the cheer and enthusiasm we first started out with is a little break.

The creativity loss signal

The ability to create is a direct measurement of your mental and physical wellbeing. Creation is the highest state of existence where magic unfolds for all involved. When life gets mundane and boring, and no ideas visit your mind, it’s the time to bring whatever you are doing to a screeching halt. Without your creative edge you are nothing, you can create nothing and you will achieve nothing. You may still do some robotic work that needs no thinking or resolving, but that’s not how one works or lives.

We all work and live to create, to create alternate realities that are in sync with our purpose. When creativity is lost, there is little hope for progress. Take an immediate break and rest. A tired mind is a dead mind. Worse, it is a destructive mind. Rest. And when you are done resting, help someone. Helping someone with solutions is the fastest way of getting back on your creative feet. A creative mind creates a fascinating balance for it helps create possibilities and harmony in every area of your life.

The confused and lost signal

If you ever caught yourself questioning the purpose of your work or your life or have ever been confused about the direction your life is taking, you have reached a critical dip in the balance of your life. This is a red alert that you need to urgently spend time with your loved ones. One of the primary purposes of your work and your contribution is the wellbeing of your family. When that purpose gets side lined, confusion sets in. With the first hint of listlessness or confusion, book yourself for a family dinner, or an outing, or a movie.

Plan something exciting. Let me warn you though, if you suddenly go home early and expect everyone to spend quality time with you because you have muddled up your priorities, it’s only going to set you up for a rude shock, for your family may not have time for you. Plan something with them, even if it is not for the same day. Sometimes just putting a plan into the weekend brings some peace back in the sudden hollow of confusion. Clarity and direction are renewed by spending some fun time with your family, for their needs and dreams make up the crucial contents of your purpose in the first place.

Balance is a tricky thing because its character is so simple and its signs are so subtle that one misses them totally. The consequences of a disturbed balance, however, are so severe that it misleads people into believing that they will need to take some drastic measures to set it right. The reverse is true. Work-life balance is possible, in fact that is the surest way to lasting success—success that will serve you and all others involved.

Don’t get it wrong

Work-life balance is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our modern pressure laden times. Balance means finding that optimum point where the person works in perfect condition, in perfect harmony with his environment.

Balance does not mean giving equal priority to everything or dividing your time equally between work and family. Its fallacy is evident in the dissatisfaction people continue to feel despite their efforts at that ‘misunderstood’ balance.

“I spend all the weekends with my family but honestly I still cannot overthrow the stress that chases me the whole week.”

“Even though I make an effort to switch off from work, deep down inside the guilt and tension of work that needs attention haunts me even when I try to ignore it.”

“I do my best to spend time with my family and no matter what I do, I somehow still fall short of expectations and carry this nagging feeling of inadequacy to work for the week.”

The answer to work-life balance is not balancing one’s work with one’s family for that simply means more work; it means balancing ones work with one’s life. Your life includes your family; it is not your family. Your life includes you, your health, your spiritual evolution, your mental vigour, your attitude and tenacity, your social presence, your friends AND your family. So the balance is essentially between work and your life, which includes all the above factors.

Let me tell you a secret—you don’t have to work on the balance, the balance works on you.

This was first published in the June 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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