The secret to work-life balance lives in achieving space. Mental, emotional, and physical space.
Hear me out.
Work-life balance for many has become a thing of mythical legend. Specifically in the American culture, achievement of balance quickly becomes the feeling of a destination. Once hit, a box is checked and then we naturally fall back out of this balance. In turn, missing the point entirely.
In some cases, even not understanding WHAT balance means to us. Only trying to achieve what we comparatively perceive as balance based on social media.
Balance isn’t a destination but rather a teeter-totter most of us haven’t even begun to hop on, let alone ride the wave to thriving in balance. LIVING in balance, not simply achieving it.
Why? Becomes the million-dollar question.
The answer — SPACE.
We don’t create space to breathe. Space to dream. Even space to rest and recharge, which is critical to maintaining an on-the-go lifestyle.
Squeezing every bit out of every day has become normal. And while it can feel great in the moment to achieve, achieve, achieve, what is the cost?
I have TO DO lists for my TO DO lists. It frankly gets to be a bit ridiculous. However, this advice and perspective comes from an actively recovering achiever. Speaking directly to someone wanting to turn myth into reality. Furthermore, creating space then leading to the ever-coveted balance.
A couple years ago, I left a corporate role after almost two decades. Realizing not everyone can immediately make a leap like this, I would still like to share what I learned in this transition that led to a surprise. Space. And ironically, striking a balance I didn’t know I was missing.
The first lesson in this leap became the space my mind now had to think. At the time, I had said for probably 5 years I wanted to do something else. The problem was, the rat race of the day to day left me no space to think about what it was I actually wanted to do. It was easier to pull up my resume and make updates, for instance, than it was to sit with my thoughts and allow them space to become concrete.
And write about those thoughts? That’s just CRAZY talk.
Yet, it was in the space of quiet and writing where I found my thoughts. Or maybe more accurately allowed them to become concrete instead of the rolling dust cloud they had been before.
The irony of all ironies? Pausing and allowing the space led to figuring out what I wanted to do, and the next step became very clear. This next step also had NOTHING to do with what I was writing on my resume either.
Lesson #1 — Space to think creates a stronger foundation for where you want to point your arrow next. Think tank time is just as important, if not more than a to do list.
Second, I realized there was a lot of mental and physical clutter needing a good cleanse to create space.
Something as simple as a good unsubscribe cleanse to ads in your Gmail account can feel very freeing. Try it! Creating space not only in your inbox, but also in your thoughts. Less read and delete. Decreasing the mind clutter and creating… space.
Now if something as simple as cleaning up an email can make you feel accomplished and less mind clutter, think of ALL the areas in your life that could use a good cleanse. Imagine the possibilities!
We often think of clutter in a physical sense. On one hand, it is absolutely freeing to clear a space of clutter. My desk, for instance, is now a space of organization to serve as motivation. The feeling of organization alone puts me in a free space to focus on my thoughts and not feel distracted by stacks of unnecessary filler.
However, the forgotten middle child of this cleanse is the mental aspect. Social media tops the list for me. I blocked negativity. Shifted the Instagram following to inspirational speakers, thought leaders, and things I find hilarious.
Politics- OUT. Inspirational quotes- IN. Fake reality- OUT. Real people with real story- IN.
Lesson #2 — A cleanse of the clutter puts you in a different headspace.
Finally, thinking about what I said YES to became key. As a recovering yes-aholic (look it up, it’s a thing… my picture is shown), I started to realize saying yes to everything wasn’t necessary.
In fact, saying yes and squeezing the yes into whatever seconds of free time existed had created this mess to begin with.
The shift became with reading the saying, “everything I say yes to, means I’m saying no to something else.”
I would love to give this quote credit, but I honestly don’t remember where I read it. Even so, it had a profound effect on me. Not only did I start to live this out, but I also shifted internally and BELIEVED it.
For instance, the mom guilt in the old me would have IMMEDIATELY taken over when asked to do anything for the PTO. Even though I didn’t want to do the activity, the answer would still have been a regrettable yes.
Alternatively, I established boundaries. Supporting in ways I wanted to and could make an impact but saying NO to additional responsibility. Despite thinking I would feel bad, it instead felt freeing.
Enter in the no aficionado. That’s right, I can actually say NO now.
You can too. Try it.
Lesson #3 — Establishing boundaries of your yeses leads to additional space.
In conclusion, once you can enjoy the space you created, you can then define what balance is to you. Finally able to hop on the teeter totter and thrive in the balance you created. But it takes space.
Clear your mind and you suddenly find what you could instinctively feel all along. Like that word at the tip of your tongue suddenly pops back into memory.
The three keys to space for me:
- Create space. To allow and understand your thoughts, you must give them their moment in the spotlight. Mindlessly running from task to task isn’t going to achieve it. That’s just busy work.
- Cleanse your physical and mental space. Get rid of the clutter to have clear thoughts.
- Boundaries are key. Saying a happy NO is way better than a regrettable YES. Try it.
If the TO DO list loving, over scheduler, recovering yes-aholic can find balance through space, I assure you it’s well within your reach. Now go get it.