Updated: Feb 19, 2020
Throughout my professional life, I’ve always heard about the importance to achieve work-life balance, however, the word “balance” always bothered me considering that there are only 24 hours a day and most of us work 10 - 12 hours, so how on earth was I supposed to fulfill this goal? And just like everyone else, I ended up frustrated in a continuous search to find that right amount of effort to every aspect of my life.
However, a year ago, as I was redefining myself and my own work-life future, I heard the term work-life harmony and that was music to my ears (haha). The critical difference between these two concepts is that balance is focused on everyone’s needs but ours; harmony for the contrary puts us at the center. Just like a director in an orchestra who uses all the instruments to create a beautiful melody, we can do the same by deciding where we should place every aspect and priority in our lives to create an environment where we can thrive and succeed.
This shift in perspective became a defining moment for me as it completely changed my approach to life. Today, one year later, I can say, unequivocally that it is harmony the principle we should all live our lives by.
I would be lying if I said I have mastered this change. It is still something I need to work on every day. However, the mind shift to search for harmony instead of balance has been an enormous help to get rid of old bad habits and retrain me with new more productive ones.
So, with this in mind, I would like to share with you some things I have learned along the way:
1. Stop looking for balance. Sounds obvious, but this is the very first step we need to take. We have to shut down those voices that have been telling us for years that unless we find the right balance in our lives, we will never be happy, complete, fulfilled. When we take this step, we free ourselves from the pressure of trying to achieve perfection. Suddenly, our attention will focus on what we really want to be and do. We are kinder and more compassionate with ourselves. We become more mindful of the moment. And as a result, we gain clarity because our minds are not thinking about all the things we have to juggle at the same time to find the right balance on it all.
2. Say no to endless to-do lists. Now that balance is out of the picture, you can begin planning your week based on end goals. So instead of generating lists filled with tasks that you need to check off and be overwhelmed by; take a pause, have a cup of tea, sit down and think about what your overarching personal and work goals are for the week. Then establish a detailed and actionable plan day by day that will help you get there. For example, if your objective is to spend more time with your kids, perhaps you can identify one day and/or activity that you can do with them.
3. Prioritize through conscious choices. Remember, we are looking for harmony now. This means that you don’t need to juggle everything all the time. Also, now you have weekly goals, and you need to keep them in mind to move forward. I always find it helpful to ask myself these questions: Do I really have to do this? How does this task or activity will help me to achieve my goals? Can someone else do this? What happens if I don’t do it?. When asking these questions, you must be genuine and kind to yourself. Otherwise, you will fall again into the “I have to do it all” trap or “no one else can do it but myself” myth, and end up disappointed. So before you answer any of these questions, I encourage you to take a little time, don’t rush, drink your tea, take a couple of deep breathes and answer. Your perspective might just change.
4. Involve your family, friends, and co-workers in your new approach. True success is never achieved alone. In the example above, perhaps you can ask your kids for ideas to do together. This will eliminate the “burden” of having to come up with a plan. Let them do that for you. Remember, asking for help is not a weakness. It takes courage, develops leadership and builds trust. And the best part is that it goes both ways. When you ask someone for help, they feel that their opinion counts. They believe they are contributing to making a better life for someone they care about. And in return, you can help them too. I know asking for help can make you feel vulnerable. But as you see how people are willing to help, those feelings of vulnerability and weakness will be gone.
5. Be present. Harmony requires full mindfulness. If you are at work, be there. So you can finish promptly and go to the next thing. When you are at home with your family, leave work out of your mind. Consider spending a few minutes on your own right before you get into your home and focus your mind on what you are going to do now. Is it dinner? Ask your family to help. Make it fun. Have a conversation. Give your full attention to whatever you are doing at that specific moment. Breathe that will always bring you back. The more you practice this mindfulness you will become more effective, productive and will feel fulfilled as you enjoy your life at the fullest, instead of just juggling partial moments of happiness.
Harmony has helped me get closer to living a life in a way where I can enjoy each moment and feel in control. And yes, I still need to work on it every day since it can be easy to fall back into old list checking habits, but the mindset of knowing that it is my choice is becoming more second nature to me, becoming easier to get back to a harmonious place in my life.
I really hope you give work & life harmony a try. Become your own conductor and allow everything and everyone to work with you instead of the other way around. Don’t juggle, live!
"HAPPINESS IS THE REWARD FOR A LIFE LIVED IN HARMONY, WITH COURAGE AND GRACE"
Ilhiana Rojas is a certified Transformation Strategy Coach with a lifelong career of guiding people and teams to success.