How to create a great work-life balance
So here's a question for you: How is your work-life balance at the moment? Often this is not an easy question to face. But it is something we should all consider from time to time. Coaching can be extremely helpful to you in first understanding and then improving the balance in your life. But before exploring the role of coaching, let's first consider the key components:
All too often the term "work-life balance" is used negatively to describe someone who works too hard and doesn't have enough time for their family, friends or other interests. But it is important to recognise that a high quality of life is close to impossible without also making a useful contribution to the world around you, whether that is through paid or unpaid work. At our core, we are social creatures; and we are here to help one another, although we can do this in many different ways.
A good working environment involves work that you enjoy and find challenging, that matches your skill set, and through which you understand and support the contribution it is making to others, either inside or outside your organisation. It is also beneficial to work alongside people you like and respect and who respect you enough to give you an appropriate level of responsibility and autonomy. If you have all these things, no amount of salary increase should attract you away to another job where these conditions might no longer apply. But if one or more of these aspects of work are not in place, now is the time to consider either finding a new job or career, or of taking steps to improve your current situation. Coaching can be a great support in either respect.
There are two important elements to your life outside work, or at least there should be! The first is your relationships. For some people, being part of a loving family or being married and having children is essential to their happiness. For others, friendship is more important. There is no right or wrong way to be. But to feel truly happy and fulfilled it is essential to have a small number of close relationships in your life, people you love and care about; and to spend time nurturing those relationships.
It is also important to have an interest, hobby or passion that takes you away from your work and family commitments and helps you to recharge your batteries by thinking about other things. It could be anything: Sport, music, creative activities, religion or spirituality, politics, hiking, volunteering, or countless other activities. Sometimes it could be a shared interest with your partner or friends but that doesn't have to be the case. However, it is essential to recognise that vegetating in front of the TV doesn't count. TV can be very entertaining and diverting at times, but is is no substitute for a truly engaging activity or passion.
Having balance is when no one area of your life dominates the others. You will certainly be out of balance if you devote so much time to your work that you have no time for anything or anyone else. But you will be just as much out of balance if your relationships and interests are massively more important to you than your job, which you see just as a means of generating income.
I believe the question "Do you live to work or work to live?" is all wrong because neither answer is correct! A life without love and interests can be cold and heartless. But a life without enjoying your work is equally bleak and so much less than it could be.
The role of coaching
Having a coach means having someone to talk to in complete honesty about these issues without the conversation becoming overheated and emotional. Almost everyone else involved in your life - your family, friends, manager or work colleagues - will have a vested interest in any changes you decide to make. So it will be virtually impossible for them to remain neutral and not to think about how any decision you take is likely to affect them personally. At the same time, you will also be highly likely to filter the things you say to anyone other than your coach, at the risk risk of upsetting them or beginning an argument.
In contrast, a good coach will listen to you with empathy and understanding and will ask you incisive questions to help you understand yourself and your situation better. He or she will then work with you to draw up an action plan that will, when you implement it, massively improve the balance and quality of your life. Now don't you owe that to yourself and to all those you love and care about?
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About Paul Hemphill
Paul Hemphill is a leadership and well-being coach who specialises in bringing a positive psychology approach to his coaching. Over the last five years he has helped literally hundreds of clients to restart their lives, develop new levels of confidence, change careers, improve their work/life balance, or become better leaders and managers.