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  • Writer's pictureKen Kowach

The Importance of Work-Life Balance (and how to maintain your sense of self)

This week, I’ve got a guest post from one of my good friends that I used to work with, Chris Ingles. He sat through a presentation, took a bunch of notes, wrote it up, and sent it to me. What he wrote is right up my alley, and I am more than happy to showcase his work. But first, let me establish the basis.


spinning top balancing

Balancing your work and life is so important to your physical and mental health. In modern culture, we pretty much prize workaholism, which is sad. I don’t think there is anything wrong with people who like to hustle but being able to balance your work and your life, while maintaining your sense of self, are crucial in maintaining personal wellness.


Speaking of hustling, that is something that I admire about Chris. He has a full-time job (active duty military), but he also hustles as a tattoo artist and he has a pretty interesting International Scout (Internatrolet) that he has tinkered with for years. (it is more of a Frankenstein vehicle, but it is pretty amazing looking). Oddly enough, he also has build plans for a squirrel launcher which he created that you can get the plans for... which is hilarious.



Through it all though, he loves what he does, and it is through these “extra-curricular” channels, that he can find settled work (which I talk about in my FIRE movement post) enabling him to have work, without sacrificing his identity.


BONUS: Something I’ll be wanting to do in the future is showcasing more entrepreneurs like Chris. I think the entrepreneur mindset is fantastic. It requires a ton of imagination, courage, and persistence. Quite frankly, entrepreneurship is what this country was built upon.


A huge takeaway from his piece is how important it is to maintain the “spokes” of you, that make you, you.


Easter Egg: Who's child goes to tennis practice?! I loved that example 😂


 
"If your boss knows your child goes to tennis lessons every Thursday at 4 pm..." - Chris Ingles
 

Without further delay, here’s what I got from Chris. Enjoy.


V/r,


The Woke Hack


 

This article focuses on self-awareness or self-regulation and specifically how your work-life balance can cause damaging effects on your lifestyle and the hyper-vigilance it takes to balance home and work effectively to ensure you survive.


Imagine for a moment you are at your work. You strive for high-performance because what you do in some facet increases your take-home pay. This effort is addictive.


Accolades, awards, and raises are all the end result of your efforts. Even though while in this environment you may be under higher amounts of stress and expend higher amounts of thought causing your brain to work harder, it is still addictive.


If we assume your normal workday consists of 8 hours, this period becomes taxing on the brain. What happens in the normal rhythm of the brain is after this period of high performance, your bring needs to rest. However, what is reality? You leave your job and go home to a family that has missed you all day and wants the same level of performance and attention you willingly give to your job because of the tangible results you can see if you work harder.


In some home environments, your spouse might have been home with your children all day and when you walk in, they expect you to “take over”. If you notice when you get home all you want to do is sit down and relax for a few minutes, this is exactly what is happening. Your brain and your body are telling you they are tired.


When you are home, you may find you are easily irritable, more so than you are at work. You may find you prefer to NOT make decisions, even simple ones like where to go out for dinner. At home in this state, you also, whether you see it or not, find it hard to self-assess what your actions have on your family vice at work where it is easy to self-assess how your work performance measures up to your coworkers because generally, there are measurable traits or performance measures you can use to judge yourself.


At home, this is hard because nobody is giving you a 6-month periodic evaluation. This work life cycle generally takes 18-24 hours to complete to the point where you feel rested again and ready to restart the cycle. If you are like most, this 18-24 hour cycle seems unattainable which causes you to become increasingly tired and stressed by the end of the week.


More irritability, isolation from those at home as you try to decompress throughout the week. It is normal, and you can actually fix it.


By now you may be reading this and are beginning to question if this is you or not. Here are some additional symptoms of this cycle and things to look out for:


standing in a window lonely


  • Lack of social interaction outside of work lack of interest in things that do not pertain to work.

  • Feel detached from those not associated with work because you feel they do not relate to the things you focus on daily and you find it hard to engage in conversation with them.

  • Procrastinate on decision-making that in hindsight are simple choices

  • Low on non-interest in family activities

  • Increased talk about the things you “used to do”


If any of these apply, you have some work to do to achieve a functional work-life balance.


We will come back to the above in a bit, but for now, think about the things you do that make you who you are: These are your “Sense of Self”. Work is an obvious one. Family life, hobbies (fishing, painting, fitness, etc), volunteering, and meditation can all be examples.


Picture a center circle (Self) and then all of those other items as spokes. The concern comes when you focus so much on work and being “successful” that you start neglecting your sense of self to the point where you realize many of those things (spokes) you recognize as what makes you are no longer a priority in your life.


If right now you are thinking, “Damn, you know, I used to go fishing every weekend and it’s been MONTHS!, what happened?” Sound familiar? ...continue reading.


In 1954 a psychologist named Abraham Maslow developed what is known as “Maslow’s Motivational Model” sometimes referred to as the “hierarchy of Needs”. He literally wrote a book on it. In the model, he describes in a pyramid fashion the basic needs of individuals to achieve “Self-Actualization."



They are (from the bottom) Psychological, Safety, Social, Esteem, and then at the top Self Actualization. These basic needs relate directly to one’s motivation. In the psychological level, think eating well, getting proper sleep, having warm clothing, and even a good sex life.


Safety involves the feeling of protection; a sense of security, law, stability, and freedom from fear.


The third human need is Social; the feeling of being loved and belongingness. The feeling of need in this aspect motivates behavior.


Nearing the top is esteem and it is broken into two subsections: esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastering a skill, independence, etc). The second is the desire for respect from others in recognition of your achievements or actions.



When this model is working efficiently, you should feel whole. What happens when you fall into the areas noted above where you are (for example) alienating your family when you get home because you still have work on the brain when you get home? What happens when you are just too tired to go to your kid’s soccer game on a Saturday because you need to stay home and finish a report your boss needs on Monday? What happens when you find yourself so consumed with work, you sit back and realize you have not been to the gym in weeks because you have been going in early to get ready for the day at the office?


Well, what happens is your sense of self is broken and before too long, you head down a path of self-destruction that one day could cause everything from depression, divorce, loss of relationships, and many other terrible things.


One key item to consider or realize is work, that number one most important thing you do, will not always be there. At some point, we all retire and when it is gone, will you still have all of those other items around that make up your sense of self, your “spokes”? If any of this sounds familiar, don’t worry! You can fix it.


The important thing to do is have the self-awareness now to recognize the signs and proactively take steps with self-regulation to reverse and repair it. One simple way to get back on track is to have a conversation with your family about what you see happening and let them know you are aware of it. If YOU can see it, I assure you they already know.


funny picture of a child walking a dog

Let them know what you need when you come home. For some people, it is an hour alone to unwind and reset your mind away from work. This might be a good time to reinstate one of those hobbies you have lost sight of months ago. If it is exercise, plan when you get home to go out for a run, a walk, or take your dog for a walk. This simple change will become noticeable almost immediately.


For some, 30 minutes of meditation after work is enough, others may need more time. For some, the drive home from work is enough but they spend their time thinking about how they could have been better at work or reply in a meeting that didn’t go so well in their mind vice listening to a podcast or an audiobook.


The reality is that the meeting happened, good or bad, it happened. There is no way to go back in time and change it, so move on. To do this effectively you have to turn work off when you leave the building, without exception. Do not expect this to be easy in the beginning; there will be an adjustment period.


If you see yourself in this scenario, the other key to making the shift is having a talk with your boss. Many times they are the ones causing you to feel the sense of urgency and need to accomplish more.


Let them know what you are trying to do. What you may find by having a discussion is what you perceive as a requirement was actually your own mind misinterpreting the urgency of the situation and your boss could offer you some reality in their intent behind the goals they set for you. Some people have found success in making their boss aware of scheduled family events. If your boss knows your child goes to tennis lessons every Thursday at 4 pm, they might be the one to come to your office at 3 to make sure you are wrapping up for the day.


Achieving self-actualization is not something you can achieve on your own; it is impossible. Having the self-regulation to achieve it however is on you. Having the self-awareness to recognize the implications of a poor work-life balance starts with you.


Start today.


Be better.


 
"Failure of your company is not failure in life. Failure in your relationship is.” -Ev Williams, co-founder of Medium and Twitter
 

Time to Pay it Forward


Do you or your spouse struggle with balancing work and life? Is there a mechanism that they use to switch gears between work and coming home from work? Comment down below with what you got!


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