Zen Habits: Work/Life Balance

WorkLifeBalance3Yesterday at work I read a passage in a book I was returning to the shelves of the Business section. I tend to glance at the titles in this section or roll my eyes as I flip through the pages. For me, most of what is in Business books is just common sense. They try to market to specific types of people (Type A anyone?) by claiming to have the answer to all of your important questions. It is not unlike the Diet book business. Each new book claims to have the right answer for losing weight, but you’ll only have the answer if you read the book. I’ll save you some money – eat right, eat smaller and exercise. No book necessary. The same goes for business. If you need to read a chapter explaining how to return emails (to your boss, coworker, team…) then you are kind of dumb. But there are plenty of people who think I’m dumb, so I guess we’re even.

The book I glanced at was by a young (twenty-seven years old) entrepreneur who claimed to have the keys to success for todays ever-changing world. Or something like that. She knows what she’s talking about. You can tell from the smart yet chic suit she wears on the cover. She’s also standing outside on a corner like she’s going to hail a cab. I guess thats supposed to let us know she’s a Big City Business Woman and we can trust her. Anyway, I opened to a page about work/life balance. Or rather how the idea of such a thing is a figment of your imagination. Like the Easter bunny. Okay she didn’t make that analogy but she should have. She writes that her generation strives for work life integration. To not work an eight-hour day and then go home and forget about it. She says that work and life are the same. The. Same.

I threw up a little in my mouth. But I kept reading.

She contends that for women, the balance of a home life and a work life doesn’t exist. Something has to give. Women cannot balance a successful career and be a wife and or mother, girlfriend, whatever… without giving up something, or saying “No” to opportunities. Um… No shit! Who says “Yes!” to everything? I guess realizing that at age twenty-seven is alright, but did you need to devote a chapter in your book to it? The trick is saying yes to the right things for you and your priorities. If your priorities are career driven, then say yes to things that will help your career. If your priorities are family, travel or whatever else, then say yes to the things that help that vision. Taking short cuts isn’t the answer.

woman-entrepreneurThe lady entrepreneur continues to write about how she has integrated her work life with her life life by getting  a nanny, ordering groceries on-line and having them delivered, and hiring someone to walk her dog for her. I put the book down. That is not achieving balance. That isn’t even integrating. That’s just delegating. Nice try. But I ain’t buyin’ it.

Success and fulfillment are different for everyone. Many people gauge their success by how well they get paid, their title at work, or their position. Others by how their life looks from the outside. Do you have the right things? If you have the right things people will think you are successful. It seems to me that the author of that book thinks this way. Money, fame and power are what matters. What people think matters. You can claim to have it together, but when you are living your life by proxy, I don’t believe you. Bringing your work home with you is fine if you are single and live alone, but it’s just cruel if you live with other people. Or cats. Nobody wants to be around the person who is constantly checking their iphone, constantly talking about work, or is obviously not present when you try to have a non work related conversation.

Eckhart Tolle says, “Neither failure or success has the power to change your inner state of being.” The most successful people I know do not look at failure as failure and success as success. They do not let outcomes change their state of beingYou can see if goals are being accomplished or not, but that shouldn’t have any effect on your inner state. Telling women to delegate their lives away isn’t the answer. We should make time to walk the dog or pick the kids up from school. We should be capable and willing to buy food for ourselves in a store or market. When we disconnect from our lives to the extent that we buy our food from a touch screen and have it left on our doorstep we’ve gone too far. When the nanny picks up the kids from school, feeds them dinner and you simply kiss them good night, you’ve gone too far. Perhaps we need to look at our priorities a little.

For me, being happy at work and at home meant changing my perception of the world around me. There was no other answer. The truly successful, whether a CEO, a lawyer, a bookseller, or a stay at home mom, are the people who create a life full of joy and accomplishment. These people are not controlled by environment or opinion. Truly successful people are self-reliant, they know where they are going in life.  Even if outward appearances do not agree. They choose where to focus their energy and their thoughts. Tolle also says that pleasure is something you get from the outside and joy comes from within. I think success is finding joy. Who cares what you do for a living if you’ve discovered joy within yourself? I try to remember every day, that looking for happiness is the antithesis of happiness. It helps. And it makes me happy.

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2 thoughts on “Zen Habits: Work/Life Balance

  1. Too true. Maybe its a little patronising to say to someone else your way is not the right way but I do worry about young people’s well being when they buy into the work to consume model. I really hope that they don’t lose touch with simple joy. I guess the other problem is that these young people are the leaders of the future and I worry about where they are leading to.

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