Three years ago, I was in the midst of the biggest rut of my life. The term work/life balance was all the rage. It was that thing everyone was looking for to live the perfect life. I had absolutely no balance whatsoever, and everything felt like a mess.

Work was overwhelming my life no matter where I was, and my home life was interrupting my work life on a regular basis. The two worlds were tumbling out of control, and I was struggling. I was in constant reaction-mode.

How did this happen?

I’ll tell you how this happened. I was so busy looking for work/life balance that I completely forgot the principals of success. Like if found this thing called work/life balance, I would no longer struggle and everything would be okay. The problem is that work/life balance is a lie – a myth.

What makes me say this?

Because for all the people looking for it, how many have actually found it? If you think you’ve found it, is it really work/life balance or is it something else? I think it’s something else, and I will tell you why.

Of the 24 hours in a day, we sleep 7-8 of them.  We spend another 8.5 – 12.5 hours per day at work (depending on your job requirements), and most of us still travel back and forth to work.  If we only look at time, our awake time is unbalanced between work and home. 

Additionally, if we are parents of minor children, there is always a chance that the daycare or school will contact us during work hours. When they do, it’s not to tell us what sweet children we have. (Of course, we already know we do, but…) They need us to sort out some issue, and they need it sorted out quickly. Solving the issue may mean a five-minute conversation, leaving work to pick up our child, or anything in between.

It’s not just a parents work day that might be interrupted. Someone may be a caregiver to an aging parent, or maybe a pet is ill and at a veterinary hospital. If we spend a few minutes to think about it, a work day can be interrupted by all sorts of things.

And if a work day has been particularly challenging, how many people take their work day home with them? How many turn that to worry about the next day? Now the home life is being interrupted by work.

If it’s not that, then what about when you are asked to put in overtime? You promised that you would give guidance to your child about a school project, but now you will not get home until after said child is in bed sleeping.

I could go on and on with examples of how work and home life can bleed into one another, but I won’t. I’ve concluded that work/life balance does not really exist, so stop looking for it.  I’ve got a better idea.

A better idea, you say?

Yes! It’s a better idea, because it works. Here it is….learn to be present where you are.

It’s simple but not always easy. It takes practice. I’ve got some tips that have helped me in the past and help me now.

Tip #1 – Focus wisely.

If you think about it, so much of life is out of our control. We cannot control our circumstances (the things that happen around us/to us). We cannot control how others behave or their actions. We can, however, control our thoughts, our emotions, and our actions. We can control ourselves. That’s it.

When something does not go right, we can choose how we look at the situation. We can choose to be matter of fact and tell ourselves, “so this is what I have to work with” and respond. How we respond now will set the tone for what happens next. We control how we respond. Focus on responding well.

Tip #2 – Focus on one thing at a time.

This month, my calendar is very full. It’s so full, I could be overwhelmed; however, I choose to focus on one thing at a time. We all have weeks or months like this, and we get through it.

I don’t want to just get through it, though. I want to make the most of my day/week/month. I want this month to be successful. I choose to look at this month as an opportunity for me to practice focusing on one thing at a time. It’s going to be successful.

Tip #3 – Focus bravely.

As I’ve said before, and I will say again, we cannot control external things. As well as we focus, we will be interrupted. When that happens, we must bravely focus on the interruption until it’s resolved, and then (and only then) return to our previous focus.

It’s really easy to let an interruption lead us off path and lose focus. When this happens, we run the risk of becoming frustrated. We must remember that we have the power to focus bravely and steer ourselves right back on our path and keep going.

As I said, it’s simple, but not always easy. It takes practice to keep calm and remain focused. When we are able to do this, we are more present where we are. When we are more present where we are, we are more apt to notice the good things.

After putting together my February calendar, I see it’s going to take all of these tips to get me through February with grace and success. I’d much rather do this than search for the mythical work/life balance.

Question of the Day: Do you have any tips to share to be present where we are? Share them in the comments section below, so we can all learn from one another.

Now This is More Like It!

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