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Protecting the Balance

"Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live." ~Margaret Fuller

As we approach our holiday season, I thought it was most appropriate to talk work/life balance, and what we do with our “off” time. Do we actually, truly unplug?  Most folks out there talk about the stress of the holidays and to me, that’s just no way to live. While it may be a hard decision to make, it still is just that – a decision. How much stress are you going to choose to allow in your life, whether it be from work, family, or personal obligations?

Where will you draw the line and make time to recharge a priority?  Remember, if you don’t, no one else will.

"The mark of a successful man is one that has spent an entire day on the bank of a river without feeling guilty about it." ~Author Unknown

I remember a former recruiting client telling me to not promote work/life balance at their organization during our engagement. This CEO specifically equate the term to “not working hard”. I was dumbfounded, to put it lightly. The concept that one isn’t working hard if they’re not living to work (rather than working to live, as is what I believe) is deeply disturbing to me, along with associated ideas currently in circulation that if you love what you do, there shouldn’t be any boundaries.

Total crap!

Our American society pressures the worker to live for the company, to believe that their job, their company, is more important than anything else they do. Well while some folks might find fulfillment in that, most folks I know, when they are on their deathbed, think about their families, their personal experiences, their memories – and wish they’d devoted more time to those instead of work. Fully checking out of the work space is healthy – and employers who truly get that know that a happy, well-rested employee is a much more productive employee. Those who create unwritten cultures of working late into the night, expecting emails on the weekends, and texting their employees while they’re on holiday to find out about something is not only poor form, but poor workforce planning.

"There is precious little hope to be got out of whatever keeps us industrious, but there is a chance for us whenever we cease work and become stargazers." ~H.M. Tomlinson

I’ve been guilty of it, I admit!  When I was a corporate recruiter, I rarely if ever took a true vacation – once every few years at best (a three day weekend is NOT a vacation, we all have to admit to ourselves, okay!).  Now, owning my own business, I am more accountable to myself and my well-being, because I know that if I’m not getting the rest and relaxation I need to recharge my body and soul, I’ll be of little use to my clients.

"There is more to life than increasing its speed."  ~Mohandas K. Gandhi

So now I block out times on my calendar for the things I need.  My clients know they’ll get what they need from me, efficiently and with high quality, and to me I know it’s because I have created a way of working that, well, works. For me, for them, and for my sanity.  (In a non-pandemic world), I take a couple of vacations a year.  Yes, a year!  (I can hear the Americans gasping). And I don’t feel guilty!  Because now? I look at my health and my career in a new way – I see how one affects the other, and rather than spend thousands upon thousands a year on health insurance premiums for services that I just don’t use (and whose deductibles mean I spend thousands more before the insurance even kicks in), I put a much smaller amount on mind/body preventative, holistic care -  Yoga. (pre-pandemic) Massage. Riding my bicycle. Taking walks in the forest. Lollygagging in the garden. Time with friends. Long lazy conversations with my sweetheart over a glass of red. And yes, real time off, completely checked out.

"Like steam from a cup of hot tea that fogs our glasses, false urgency of matters at hand blurs our vision to important things in the distance." ~Terri Guillemets

(Pre-pandemic) It's never been easy telling prospective clients that I am closing up shop to go on holiday. In our society, you never say no to the potential profit.  But I know that if I don’t do what I need to do, I’ll be resentful and bitter and, well, a pain in the ass to be around.  Not to mention eating through my stress (my personal Achilles)...

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time." ~J. Lubbock

So to make this life possible, my husband and I have designed a life marked by simplicity. Minimalist living, strong budgeting, and prioritizing the ability to have one of us carry both of us should times get rough. This meant never, ever allowing our credit card to keep a balance long term so that our only monthly bills are mortgage and utilities. This meant when we moved out of the city, making sure our mortgage was not more than it was before, even with a new 30-year loan, so that we can get this house paid of and be even more free.

Because we have bucket list that we want to check off, y'all.

"A life spent in constant labor is a life wasted, save a man be such a fool as to regard a fulsome obituary notice as ample reward." ~George Jean Nathan

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