I first learned about the fascinating term work-life balance when I entered the corporate world fifteen years ago. I used to work long hours and proudly proclaimed myself a workaholic. I used to go to work on weekends as well fearing what if I miss to respond to emails as I did not have the privilege of working remotely. When my colleagues use to ask why I work so much, I used to say that work is my life. Hence no need to balance work and life. Six years ago, when I came to New York, I heard people saying almost every day, “I am hanging in there” — as if just one knock would throw the person to the floor. That’s why we look forward to weekends and vacation and an industry is built to cater to this need to get away from work.
When I conducted a poll on LinkedIn a few months back-asking what the most challenging aspect of working from home is, work-life balance makes it a clear winner among other options.
The concept of work-life balance came into the workplace in the 1980’s. Ever since, we have destroyed millions of trees to write about it. Reading several articles about the topic made me realize Work-life balance essentially boils down to stress management. The very usage of the ‘term’ states that work and life are separated. As life is the most precious thing in the world, it’s work which generates stress leading to agitation and anxiety in professional and personal lives.
The root cause of any stress is mental agitation caused by unfulfilled desires. As an example, you are stressed that your child is not studying properly. If he does not study properly, he will not get into a good school. If he does not get into a good school, he will not get a good job. If he does not get a good job, then he will struggle with finance. If he struggles with finance, he will not get a good partner. If he does not get a good partner, he will not have a good family life. Ad infinitum. You have multiple desires for your child which will not be fulfilled if he does not study. Thus, you are stressed. You can extend this logic in other aspects of life as well. To mitigate stress, you need to manage your desires carefully. The solution lies in improving the quality of your desires as you cannot live without desires.
You need to get onto higher values of life which will automatically drop off lower categories of desires. As an example, when you grow up as an adult you no longer value toys which were world to you as a child. Now our toys are name, fame, family, money etc. Here are some practical tips you can practice daily to improve the quality of your life.
1) When you get up in the morning, study a literature which talks about higher values of life with a guidance from your teacher. It needs to be systematic study as one does with other education classes like medical, engineering, law etc. To have maximum impact, this should be done before you touch your phone or other devices. Do this for no more than 75 minutes.
2) Have an attitude of service and sacrifice while performing actions throughout the day. Reduce selfishness while performing your tasks at home or at work. In the context of work, think about how you can benefit the organization or your team instead of thinking about promotion and bonus. The moment you move from being selfish to unselfish, your capacity to contribute will increase proportionately and you will be more productive. At home, listen to your family members instead of thrusting your views on them. This could be as simple as watching a Netflix or Amazon prime show that you don’t like with your kids Also, spend 20–30 minutes doing physical exercise. If you do not have a fit body it will not let you function properly.
Shirley Chisholm said, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”
3) Have an awareness that there is something higher in life ensuring you are taken care of. For example, 24*7 oxygen supply and so many natural and human factors contributing you have food at your table. Have an attitude of gratitude for people who contributed to your accomplishments in life. Listen to music which inspires you. Watch a nature documentary appreciating how a flower releases fragrance without caring whether anyone is there to take it or not. The underlying focus is to stay away from your ego and egocentric desires. I suggest spending 15–45 minutes doing this activity.
Cicero once said, “Gratitude is the greatest of virtues, and the parent of all the others.”
4) Another aspect to consider is the value we assign to each activity of life. It’s critical to give required value to every task. As a teenager in high school all that mattered to you was getting a respectable score in your exams. That made you worried and anxious. Currently, it has not much meaning in your life. Fast forward to now and consider what is worrying you now. It will not worry you in 2025. However, that does not mean you need to be careless about what you are doing now, all I am saying is just give appropriate attention to your present task — not more-not less. Having that understanding also reduces stress.
Following these disciplines has a positive impact on my life and others who are following it. So, take control of your life- for your own development and others around you.
“Let him who would move the world first move himself.”-Socrates