We live in a world that values productivity. We wear “being busy” like it’s a badge of honor, and we only seem to pay attention to what we didn’t get done in a given day, rather than celebrating all the stuff we did make progress on. Stress and burnout seem to be regular experiences for most people and we accept this way of being as “normal.”
But really, we’re trapped.
We desperately want to be valued and appreciated for our actions. So we take on more and more, convinced that if we do it all, then people will see that we’re “enough.”
So on one side of the trap we are burnt out and stressed and on the other we desperately want to be seen and valued. Or are they the same side?
OUR MIND LOOP
Our mind is a magnificent and mischievous little bugger. It’s constantly hard at work trying to keep us safe, but its methods of safety are sometimes unhelpful in our actual life.
Because we live in a culture that values productivity, many of us were brought up to believe we needed to “achieve” in order to receive love (from our caregivers, teachers, adults around us). Whether that meant getting good grades or performing well in sports, that experience coded our brains to believe that “achievement”, aka productivity, will get us approval or love.
Fast forward to today. We are now the adults, but most - if not all- of us never got the message that it’s more important that WE love and approve of OURSELVES. And what do we do? We outsource that need to others, whether that be our boss, partner, friends, or even random strangers. We are constantly seeking validation that we’re doing ok.
When it comes to work-life balance I could argue this is the biggest threat to any sense of equilibrium. If your brain is telling you that you need to “achieve more” or “do more” in order to get praise or feel loved, you’re going to keep taking on more and more, until you emotionally burn out or your body shuts you down.
This is the trap our brain keeps us locked in: We accept more than we can manage, burnout, and repeat. And all of this is motivated by the fear of what others will think and the desire to be viewed as “enough.”
Let’s look at that for a brief second. “The fear of what others will think…”
When the people you work with don’t get everything done do you actually have the thought that they aren’t “worthy?” Or they aren’t good enough?
Probably not. From the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with, the more common reaction to someone dropping the ball at work is the thought that they’re holding you back, but NEVER that they aren’t “enough” as a person.
Yet, that’s where we take it with ourselves. Why?
Because we don’t truly know ourselves. We’re too busy trying to prove to everyone else we’re enough to actually consider what we feel is “enough.”
That’s a one-way ticket to burnout.
Not only is the experience of burnout and stress not enjoyable, but it can negatively affect your team as well. When you aren’t aware of your boundaries or feel confident saying No, and you accept more than you (or any human, let’s be honest) can truly handle, a few things can happen:
First, you send the message to the team that you can always take on more, because you never say no.
And, depending on your role, it can also send the message that you don’t trust or believe in your coworkers’ ability to do the work. That can create a disruptive imbalance at work.
And, let’s not overlook the effect burnout and overwork can have on the job you’re doing. If your mental capacity is functioning beyond its limits long enough that you feel burnt out, the work is bound to be affected.
But it all comes back to your perception of yourself and how that affects the entire work-life experience. We need an upgrade!
STABILIZE YOUR BALANCE
I’m going to be honest, establishing some boundaries will be uncomfortable, but it’s imperative, because without them you lose sight of the bigger picture, that you’re here to LIVE life not work it.
I made this mistake as well. When I started my business I felt like every hour needed to be filled. I work when most people don’t even start their jobs yet, so I start with clients at 6AM and my days usually end by 8PM. Expecting myself to work 14 hour days 5-6 days a week is unrealistic, but that’s where I was.
I equated success with a full calendar. I remember telling my first business coach how many hours I wanted to work and he very kindly tried to give me perspective, but I didn’t want to hear it.
But life sure did make sure I learned my lesson.
I hustled for two years at this pace, and noticed I was starting to resent my job. I’m one of those lucky people who genuinely enjoys their job, but I wasn’t enjoying it. And my relationship with my husband wasn’t what I desired. We were fine, but we were coexisting.
I had to learn that different work tasks require different energy and different time. What really changed things for me was working nonstop for two months for 10+ hours every day. I had nothing left.
I committed to a drastic change. I set reminders in my phone that said “Stop Working and Live Your Life.” I scheduled down time and created a menu of things to do during that time, otherwise I found work somehow would sneak its way in. And I vowed to work only every other weekend.
But the biggest thing I did was let go of my timeline. We live in a world where we want everything done NOW. We may intellectually understand it’s impossible, but that doesn’t change the internal pressure we put on ourselves. I had to realize my desire to have it all done now was driving my imbalance.
I’m sharing this story with you because this is what I had to do. I realized that boundaries are necessary, and they help me keep a healthier work-life balance.
One way I measure how balanced I feel is by the joy I’m feeling in my job. If I start to notice negative energy towards my job I know I’m imbalanced and I take action immediately.
I also measure my work-life balance by noticing the remaining energy I have to show up for my family. I don’t want my work to drain me so much that my marriage becomes a coexistence with my husband. It’s important to me to have the energy at the end of the day to enjoy quality time together.
The final way I measure it is by the pressure-joy ratio I feel. If I feel more pressure to be productive and get things done, that means my timeline and insecurities are popping up. It’s also when I have to lean more into things that bring me joy like playing with my pups, going for a bike ride, or pulling a prank on my husband.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER
How do you prioritize what to do in your daily work life?
Do you focus first on what’s more important, what’s most urgent, what’s easiest?
How do you know when you’re at your capacity?
How do you know when you need to seek support or delegate?
What signals do you receive from yourself when you’re feeling stressed?
What about burnout?
Where’s the difference?
What boundaries do you need to establish?
What’s stopping you from creating those boundaries?
If overworking is your solution to an internal problem, what would it be? ***
And my favorite….. You’ve been working your butt off, taking on more than any human could truly achieve realistically, all for the subconscious desire to feel like you’re enough and that you’re valued…is it working? Have you actually felt that way?
Creating balance feels uncomfortable, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re ready to see a change and find your balance, answer the questions above and book a free call HERE!
Balance can be empowering, so what’s stopping you?