Most people, when asked, ‘How are things going?’ respond with, ‘Busy’, and only some say, ‘Productive’. For most of us, ‘how we are doing’ is about our activity rather than our state of being. We default to busy or productive as a way to validate our state of mind.
In fact, the younger generation are wrestling with this subject of work/life balance as one of their key questions when launching into business, taking a job role or planning a path to success. I recently sat with some groups of students discussing the subject of wellbeing for an ‘Ask the expert’ session at Cardiff Met Centre for Entrepreneurship. I was sharing with them about the four day work week, and the work I have done with Olly Reid at HUM4NS. For many of the students with whom I spoke, the thought of being consumed by work was top of their agenda.
For many people, what is foremost in their mind is finding a balance between work (bad) and life (good). This was not the case for these young entrepreneurs I met at the Met; in some cases, it was the other way around! They just wanted to check that if their passion did indeed overtake them and work ended up coming before life, ‘was that ok?’.
There are some people who want a life without work, and they will do anything to ensure they do as little work as possible. Why? Because pleasure is their pursuit and work gets in the way.
However, if you desire to make a mark in this life, (make an impact), rather than just being famous (celebrity can be a pursuit in itself) you attain that by doubling down on ‘purpose’.
The quest for a life without work can be achieved, only it is rarely rewarding. A life on benefits traps you and binds you to a pre-determined standard of living. A quest after work with no life can also be achieved, but it leaves you all alone. Then, as you sit, lonely at the top, with all your stuff, you’ll feel a bit stuffed. So, how do you avoid falling into either trap and find what works, feel fulfilled and still have people in your life that love you!
If you live to work, you become isolated and obsessed with doing rather than being. However, if you live a life without work, you are denying the gifts and talents that you were born to express. Your undiscovered gifts would have been of great benefit to other people.
The deeper question we have to ask is about fulfillment. That nagging feeling, deep down where we know that life requires more from us. That there is something that we should be doing that would give us balance and a truer perspective. That feeling is the call of ‘purpose’.
Purpose requires work, and some are lucky enough to get paid for doing it, while others use their work to make room for doing it on a voluntary basis. Pursuing purpose isn’t just about work, although it might take the form of a job, but equally, it might not. Work can be the vehicle that allows you to do what you need to do and provide the money so that you have room to be you.
Work is not evil and work done well creates significance. If we are doing the very thing that we are naturally gifted in then work is evidence of our skills in action, and that sets you apart. When you are great at what you do, word gets out!
Work isn’t play.
It shouldn’t be. Occasionally it will feel like it, but it’s life, and sometimes that doesn’t feel like play either.
The expectation of purposeful work being easy sets us up for disappointment, and when we are trying to exit to follow cause it can feel like the whole world is against us.
Creating something of note might involve wrestling through a series of tests and trials, but the impact you’ll bring is its own reward.
When we talk about work life balance we can’t expect life to be perfect. The pursuit of pleasure with endless holidays and chilling out sounds like heaven, but a life where pleasure is the main pursuit leads to disappointment and, in some cases, destruction.
Ultimately, if we don’t take a break we will burnout.
Purpose needs us to be our best version of ourselves and requires us to focus on living well.
We live in the country now. We knew that work and life as entrepreneurs has a tendency to become all consuming. Time, money and even resources at times can be limited. Escaping for a week here and there, to reset, is a vital lifeline. Then came the thought. What if we could live in a place where that escape could be achieved by closing a laptop, ipad, or switching off a phone and walking out the front door. Rather than going on holiday, when work was finished, we would feel like we already were.
Even if purpose has become all consuming, in an instant we can be consumed by the burgeoning natural life all around us. So we changed our world from tech, talks and creative. We now live in an alien world, stepping back in time where a country pub, a deer park, a castle and a quaint village are all around us.
When someone asked me, ‘When are you going on holiday?’ I heard myself answering, ‘Every day is a holiday’.
Why? Because when I finish work, I feel like I’m on holiday.
Pursuing purpose has led me to finding a work life balance, living in an environment that supports it.
City living is one thing, but in a world that can cope with the laptop lifestyle, you don’t have to stay trapped there.
Homeschool, country living and leaping into an alternative world in seconds gives us life as well as work and I am confident in saying the best way to find life work balance is to create an environment where you can do both.
Now, it hasn’t always been this way, but the radical pursuit of creativity and being able to go for a walk in the countryside transforms even the toughest of days.
Everyone can, but not everyone will.
Living a life of purpose isn’t for everyone, but it is actually ‘for everyone’. We all have a limited amount of time on the planet and we should be remembered by what we gave rather than what we took. In essence, a true life of living is one of giving. Our identity is found in the impact we leave.
We are all part of a relay and we can pass the baton on from one generation to the next. Freedom, care and kindness become the markers of a life well lived.
Would your life be a boxset worth watching, a script worth reading, or a message worth carrying on? As we get older and make sense of things, we realise that the very best things arebthose that remain after we are gone. Craving attention and doing it for the clicks isn’t what we were made for. The real balance in life is to address the imbalances of life.
From politics to charity, exploration to teaching, we are not about consuming, we were made for more. To create a smile and delight in others, for more than a moment, is a quest that we should really pursue and make life more than just about work.
True balance is more about creating a past that you can look back on with gladness, a present where you share your gifts and a future that will run on beyond you.
So, to solve the work life balance question, my case is rooted in cause. Live a life on purpose and create an environment where you can recharge swiftly by experiencing the things that fuel you. When you do this, you might find that the edges get a bit blurred. Your clients become your friends and your friends become your clients, and work feels like play and play is actually working for you.
Too many of us check out of life way before we are dead physically, and get swallowed up in tales of regret. We make excuses about missing those chances to be different and instead we become difficult.
Whether you are 36, 56 or 86 you have something to give, and when you sit around younger minds long enough, you’ll see the gaps in wisdom that you can fill. We have to change our environment, our focus and our perspective and place ourselves where we naturally flow.
You are a miracle and your work is best done purposefully. Your life is best lived when you aim to be happier, healthier, smarter and kinder. Don’t wait for change, be the change.
Life is extraordinary, if you put in the work.