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The Balancing Act
By Stephanie Marston
One of the things I run into a lot when speaking to people, especially during these challenging times is that they often believe that they should ignore work/life balance. In fact, the truth is quite the contrary. During difficult times, work/life balance becomes even more critical.
Let me ask you, how many of you would drive your car when the gas gauge reads empty or the oil light is flashing? I know that some of you would. Just kidding, but think about it for a minute... for those of you who have children, would you ever ask your child to pull an all-nighter to prepare for a test or a final exam? Absolutely not. Yet we continually push ourselves past the breaking point.
Most of us are caught in a tug-of-war between who we think we should be and who we are; between what we want to do and what we're actually able to do. In other words, we're at the mercy of our guilt demons. Our feelings of guilt often prevent us from taking care of ourselves. These feelings often stem from unrealistic expectations.
When you stop to think about it, you'll realize that you have impossible ideals that you strive to live up to... ideals like, "I must always put other people's needs first," or "I should never disappoint anyone." These kinds of standards are not only impossible to meet, but also they wreak havoc on your life.
When you let yourself be driven by perfectionism, guilt and unattainably high standards, you become irritable, grumpy and unable to function well. Ignore your own needs long enough, and I guarantee, sooner or later Godzilla will emerge wreaking havoc and suffering on you, your entire family, friends and co-workers.
First and foremost, we have to have realistic expectations. I'm talking about what you can reasonably expect of yourself. Time and time again, we demand that we act more generously than we feel, give more than we have to give, and push ourselves beyond our limits. This is a surefire recipe for disaster. How long do you think you can function under these conditions? Not very long, and certainly not very well.
Guilt is a major roadblock to taking care of ourselves. There's always a list of things that have to be done that takes precedence over attending to our needs. Then there's the fear of disappointing someone if you occasionally make yourself a priority. But stop and consider for a moment: when you put yourself last on the list and allow your guilt to run your life, the person that you continually disappoint is yourself.
Accept Help to Balance Your Life
Allow yourself to rely on your partner, family members, or friends -- anyone who can watch the kids or run an errand while you focus on other top priorities. Try tag-teaming. One spouse works out before dinner, one after dinner, while the other watches the kids. To get more alone-time with your partner, accept babysitting offers from friends and family, or try arranging a regular trade-off with another couple. "I'll watch your kids this Saturday if you watch mine next Saturday." Tag-teaming is a great way to create extra free time.