05/08/14 | OOO

Don’t Stress Out About ‘Work-Life Balance’: It’s An Unrealistic Ideal

Stop striving for the impossible and start taking steps to make your life a whole lot calmer, wherever you may be.

By Noelle Federico (Business Manager & CFO, Dreamstime.com)

If you haven’t put your kids to bed in the past couple of weeks, haven’t taken a day off in what seems like forever, and feel like you still don’t have enough time to complete the mountains of work piling up on your desk, you’re probably doing something wrong.

With more than 25 years of experience in business management, media relations, sales and marketing, I definitely know how unbalanced life can seem while running a business.

I’m the Business Manager and CFO of Dreamstime.com, LLC, one of the largest stock photography companies in the world. I have been with Dreamstime since its inception and have helped to develop its U.S. presence, handling financial, public relations, and business matters for the company, as well as overseeing the U.S. call center. I also am the single mother of my 12-year-old son.

Less of Balance, More of a Dance

If you ask me, I can tell you that I definitely don’t live a “balanced” life. I also believe that nobody else actually achieves this so-called “balance” either. In fact, I think the entire “work-life balance” notion is an unrealistic ideal. However, that doesn’t mean today’s female business leaders can’t lead a more even-keeled, peaceful existence in their everyday lives.

In my opinion, work-life balance is a myth that work and personal life are two very different sectors, each pulling more time from you than you have to give. However, I view it more like a dance: always moving from one state of flow to the next as we engage in the different aspects of our lives–the conference room, little league, client calls, laundry. For me, what some might call balancing these responsibilities, is more about making everything flow together in the best way we can.

Try to go With The Flow

It’s nearly impossible to make work and home life operate reasonably well, never mind perfectly. Instead, in order to achieve a personal equilibrium, it’s more important to focus on where you are going, being ambitious, regularly contributing, and working with what’s in front of you in the moment (unpleasant surprises included).

In both business and family life, we need to find a personal place of equilibrium and just “go with the flow”– especially when we have co-workers and kids relying on us for guidance. For me, it’s also about integration. How can I blend the many roles I have together– mom, business professional, writer, etc. My focus is usually on how I can move seamlessly between these various roles producing the results that I need to.

Here are a few suggestions on how you can achieve a more realistic, calmer way of life across both your professional and personal worlds:

There is Always Another Way

Perhaps your daughter drops a mid-term project on you the same day you have a major presentation to give. Both at home and in business, things don’t always go as planned. Often, we are faced with roadblocks in business where it looks like the way we want something to happen can’t be done. Never buy into this concept. There is always another way to make things happen. Be sure to take a step back, take a deep breath and approach the situation in a different way.

Respond, Don’t React

One of the most important lessons I have learned from my professional mentors over the years is how critical our responses can be in certain situations. Whether it’s at home, or in the office, never become a reaction in the moment. Instead, always respond by stepping back, analyzing what happened, and thinking about the details before taking action. Our strengths come from responding and not reacting, and this can apply to business deals or relationship situations. When you respond you maintain your power in the matter, when you react you become powerless and at effect of your emotions. We cannot control what’s going to happen next, however we can control our reactions to circumstances and people.

Never Settle

Remember to never lower your standards to accept things or behaviors that are unacceptable. This can relate to employees, subcontractors, consultants, or even your kids. Don’t be afraid to cut something off that isn’t working.
The work-life balance discussed ad nauseam in the media (and on the playground) today is a false construct, an unrealistic ideal.

Successfully integrating work and home life is ultimately dependent on taking the time to really get to know yourself, your values and your sense of purpose. Combining this self knowledge with a regular practice of mindfulness and discipline as you engage in day-to-day life will allow you to be more aware when an important segment begins to feel disconnected, or out of sync. Then, you can adjust everything accordingly.

Do you think it’s possible to achieve a real work/life balance?

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