I didn’t find much value in this phrase when I was younger. Maybe it was because I was that much of a workaholic (my sister calls it “being extra”) that I thought the way that I lived back then was the balance because of all that I expected of myself. If I wasn’t doing schoolwork, I’d be doing volunteer work, or taking freelance projects, or doing work for my part-time job. There wasn’t much room for anything else and I kept that momentum up until a year or two after I started working.
Long story short, I hit a low after that two-year mark, got sick a lot, and wasn’t the best version of my self at all. That’s when I found that I was going about things all wrong. It was a long process of self-discovery, but the journey of pinpointing what balance meant for me was, thankfully, an enjoyable process and was what got me out of the slump in the end.
People say the phrase “you should achieve work-life balance” as if that balance looks the same for everyone. I know and you know that that’s not the case. Sometimes we think that the travel photos or workout gains that we see other people achieve online is what defines “work-life balance” but from my journey, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.
Truly achieving that balance means that you know yourself enough to know not only what you’re capable of, but also know what your limits are. It’s you acknowledging that your body, or your will, or even your relationships with the people around you, will eventually reach a limit and that you have to address it relative to the priorities that you have set for yourself.
Prioritize what’s most important to you.
Easier said than done, I know. To be able to prioritize, you need to have a list first, right? So you can order them from first to last? Yeah, even finding out what to put in that list was a struggle.
This is the phase where I started to “pick myself up” from the slump. What I’m about to say does’t sound the best and it really isn’t but I started bar-hopping and drinking, and even got to a stage where I’d be out every weekend. For those who know me, this is a huge jump from video-games and books. Nothing stupid happened, thankfully, so at least I can give myself credit for that but what I was most thankful for in that phase was that I let go of my normally uptight self. I tried something new, and just let things be for a while. It was nice and liberating.
Afterwards I started exploring exercise, jumping form jogging to crossfit. I eventually settled with yoga where I found that it was the best fit for me. It was from trying new things, forcing myself out of my comfort zone for a while and facing my insecurities, that I really found what was most important in my life. The answer is pretty anti-climactic, it being myself, my family, and lastly the community, but getting the full appreciation and understanding for why I chose these things and why I ordered them in that way is what I encourage other people to try and realize in their journey.
Learn to be okay with saying no.
You will miss out on things and you have to learn to be okay with that. From realizing what I found most important and that I had to be the best version of myself first before prioritizing others, I had to know what things to let go of.
I loved myself and realized that I had to prioritize myself. So what am I doing to me that’s not so good for me? The answer to this was saying no indefinitely to sweets, bread, and rice. The three things that I never thought I’d live without. (I let go sometimes too, of course.)
My family came in second so when an opportunity came that clashed with an important family event, whether it be a friend’s birthday party, or a community event that only happened once a year, I had to learn to say no. Admittedly, I didn’t like it sometimes. But I knew that the uncomfortable feeling I got would only help me feel more content with my decisions later on; and it did.
And lastly, the community. It was such a broad word with such a diverse set of great people, this was honestly the hardest category to say no to. I was handling too many, I realized. And that if I wanted to be the best for them, I know I should only focus on one. That’s when I decided on Startup Weekend. I would support all the others, yes, but I had to learn to say no to many leadership opportunities and pass them on to a new batch of potential organizers. I had to let go of my pride, selfishness, and often envy and allow for others to take on my role and I’m forever grateful for that decision.
Give yourself time even if you think you don’t need it.
Focus is a key part in this journey. Much of your time will be spent on learning and relearning habits and mindsets. We’re not superwomen, despite how much we’d like to think we are. These changes in behavior and thoughts will take a lot of time and will honestly take a toll on you, and that’s okay. You’ll need a lot of love both from yourself and from the people around you as you go through this so letting yourself make room for one change at a time will not only make the process a happier one bit it will also help make these changes become more sustainable.
So what does “work-life balance” look like for me? Right now, it’s work, community, and exercise on the weekdays, family time in the weekends, and eight hours of sleep everyday while eating good quality food in every meal.
I’d like to end this thought with a phrase that I found somewhere on the internet that I thought really provided a simple framework to get started on this kind of focus-centered thinking.
“Think about getting three hobbies. One that keeps you active. One that keeps you creative. And one that makes you money.”
If anybody knows where this phrase came from, please let me know. I’d be happy to credit them.