A Sense of Balance

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You love your work and are responsible for multiple projects and tasks. You actually thrive on the multiple deadline pressures. Your work hours are long, your at-home hours short, and your sleep hours are few. Success seems to be a part of how many things we do and how many tasks we can add to our day.

The term rat race is often used to describe the struggle to survive and make progress in the competitive environment of modern life. It is a fierce competition to maintain or improve one’s position in business or social life. The increased image of work as a “rat race” in modern times has led many to question their own attitudes to seek a more harmonious Work-life balance. When people get caught up in running the rat race, they lose sight of what makes them happy and what their passionate about.

My personal drive has always made me push a little harder, dream a little bigger and expect a little more. For those of us that have that unstoppable drive, we really don’t understand not being motivated or being compelled to do more or needing someone else to motivate us.

How can an achievement-motivated individual learn to relax, de-stress, and feel good about doing it? Let’s start by saying that there’s nothing inherently wrong with hard work, it can be fun, exciting, fulfilling, rewarding. There’s nothing wrong with achievements or being proud of them and it’s a natural thing to feel good about what you’ve accomplished.  But, instead of getting sucked into the world’s rat race and becoming overly anxious, we need to learn how to pace ourselves. We need to develop healthy habits, and trust in ourselves to grow what we have planted and watered.

Over the past few years for many of us, life has gotten more complex, timelines more compressed, and the work-life balance compromised. If you’re a leader in a company that has navigated the recession even remotely successfully, there is no doubt that you’re working harder than you ever have. And there’s no doubt the weak economy has placed even more challenges, changes and pressure into your already hectic life.

For many of us, success is measured by exceeding performance standards, and often one has to work not only smarter, but longer and harder, to make success a reality. So, with all the efficiency tools, the consultants, books and resources at our disposal, why aren’t we doing a better job of finding that elusive work-life balance?

The perpetual habit of expecting too much and demanding too much from yourself does not necessarily create the results you want. Instead of being sucked into the rat race, remember this: “The race is not given to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to the one that endures to the end.”

Many of us have come to live in a society where it is considered sinful to sit and relax.  It is important to push and give your best but it is equally important to rest and know how to recharge your batteries. You may have very good behavior at work and strive hard to increase your efficiency but if you do not know when to say stop, you will soon see your productivity drop.

The economic situation is tough and people are working harder than ever. Now, more than ever, we need to slow down and take some time for ourselves. It may be possible to escape the rat race as long as you are willing to make some major changes in how you approach what you are doing. 

If you are like me, you have a strong passion for your company and the line between your work and, well, the rest of your life can become unclear. In other words, work can overwhelm everything else. Yes, you love your business, but if you also value your sanity, building a healthy balance between time spent on your company and with your family and friends should be an imperative.

When we are passionate about what we do our passion gets translated into creativity, into the amount of effort we devote to the business, and into many other factors big and small. Passion is an important part of life and is especially important in the lives of leaders; however if we are not careful with our passion, we may find ourselves in the realm of obsession rather than passion.  Without passion nothing worthwhile can ever be achieved. But vices are sometimes virtues carried to excess.

In our rush-aholic world slowing down seems subversive. We humans are not always-on, efficient machines that can run seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. We need rest, relaxation, and recreation. We need time to think about things, to clear the mind, and to have fun.

We all need to give ourselves permission to slow down for a while even if it feels strange. It only feels strange because we are breaking a pattern or a habit. Do the things you need to do, just make sure you take the breaks you deserve, put yourself first versus the tasks and things on your to-do list. No one can immerse themselves in work nonstop, without a break, and maintain a healthy sense of perspective.

Work becomes more meaningful with a life in balance, instead of being consumed by it. A sense of balance concerns the choices we make between the time we spend at work, with family and pleasurable pursuits. This balance needs to be anchored by a foundation of purpose and meaning, while being flexible enough to bend with changing needs and conditions. You do this by looking at how you focus your energy and your time, to make them as enriching and fulfilling as possible.

 And always remember, the real winner of the rat race is still a rat.

Jamie Wood, Avatel EVP


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