This post originally appeared on Forbes.com
In today’s often-stressful job environment, we hear a lot of talk about “work-life balance.” This way of thinking places an emphasis on finding the “perfect” balance between work and life. They both are important, after all, and in the modern world, they seem to be constantly competing for our attention. However, this way of looking at life hasn’t helped me resolve the challenge of feeling overwhelmed. A different perspective works better for me.
I feel the real issue comes with separating “work” from “life.” We divide things up: work is what we “have to do,” while life is what we “want to do.” This creates difficulties like finishing a project while wishing we were at our child’s recital or answering emails instead of getting enough sleep. Because we spend so much of our time at work—does that mean we’re not living when we’re there?
I prefer thinking of “work-life balance” as simply “life balance.” Whatever I’m doing—whatever I encounter—is my life, whether I’m at work or with my family. Balance isn’t something that can be divided and quantified, because it has to do with the unique quality of every moment. And in every moment, whether we’re at work or not, we can enhance that quality by choosing to be more present.
There are several ways to create life balance that I highly recommend from personal experience.
The first is to embrace every moment as if it were our last—because really it might be. We are bound to encounter a lot of difficult, as well as exciting and joyful, situations both at work and in life. Can we experience and accept each of them as a life lesson?
I also find it helpful to become as clear as possible about where I want to go in life. I should say “we” rather than “I,” since this is an exercise I go through with both my family and team at my business, imageOne, where my team and I create personal visions that encompass our goals for our lives. Taking the time to develop an inspiring and practical vision for the future brings both smiles and clarity. It’s a fun exercise that should be revisited regularly, ideally once every 30-90 days. Times and things change, and so must our vision of the future. Ask yourself, knowing that every moment is precious: are you taking positive steps into the future? In my business, we’ve found that one effective way of doing this having each team member complete or update a Vision and Goals worksheet annually.
None of us is really alone, although it may feel like it at times. One of the best ways of embracing each moment is both to give and receive support. How can we help each other out, or, as we say in my family, how can we be “lifter-uppers” rather than “dragger-downers”? The practice of compassion, both for others and ourselves, is another key aspect of mindful focus. This perspective is as valuable in business as at home, as I explored in a recent article for Forbes.
I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation for thirteen years and am fascinated by the relationship between mindfulness and business. I’ve found the best way to embrace each moment, as tough or pleasant as it may be, is through mindful focus. If I can become aware of my breath and the other sensations I am feeling in the moment, rather than ignoring or pushing them away, not only do my reactions become calmer, but the unique potential of what I am now going through becomes clearer. Cultivating this ability to bring mindful focus into the world and each moment of our daily lives is, in my opinion, the best reason to practice meditation.
Things are going to be tougher at some times, easier at others. If we live life with a focus on every moment, we’ve got a lot better chance of embracing whatever we are experiencing—and attaining life balance. That’s a kind of balance that’s less about the way work and life wrestle for our time and energy and more about bringing our most authentic, genuine, and present selves to everything we do.