Our ancestors integrated work, family, and community seamlessly. We can learn from them to secure work-life balance, and happiness!
In the previous article, I used an analogy with safe driving to help you in defining and maintaining your work-life balance.
In this article, I take a slightly different view.
Frankly, it may not even be appropriate to think about balance—because work and life may not be polar opposites.
Here’s the problem when we view work and life as opposites. If we invest more in “work”, we must take from “life”. And vice versa. If you consider this a zero-sum game, then you’re always going to be unhappy. And happiness is the goal, not balance!
What if we change the rules?
What if we see work-life antagonism as a false dichotomy?
To do this, we need to go back a few generations. For some of us many, many generations. Consider the life for which we were designed—physically, emotionally and socially.
Mother Nature designed us for a simple life. Our original hunter-gatherer ancestors and more recent agricultural families integrated work and life seamlessly. They worked to live and lived to work.
You might argue that it was easier than our cubicle-dwelling modern life where we deliberately leave home to go to work. I would argue that there are many ways that we can preserve “primitive” lifestyle habits and mindsets with very good results.
Take life to work
We often consider our work colleagues to be aliens—from another tribe, or another community. Instead, we should consider them to be our extended tribe. When you start investing in colleagues, work feels less like work, and more like life.
Research shows how good relationships at work pay dividends. People who feel appreciated and supported at work live longer, healthier and happier lives. It’s good for all of us!
Take work home
Is it really that bad to take a little work home, if it allows you to spend the afternoon watching your son play football? Is it really that bad to spend 30 minutes on email after dinner if it means you can leave the office 30 minutes early to do physics homework with your daughter? I’m sure that even your loved ones would vote for these compromises.
Disrupting the life versus work paradigm drives happiness
I’m sure that you, like most people, struggle to exercise. “How do you expect me to work hard, care for my family, and still have time (and energy) left to exercise?”
Don’t try to create another bucket of time to exercise!
I’m already suggesting that you break down the walls between work and home. Integrate your exercise into both your home and work life, just as your ancestors did. They hunted and gathered with friends and family. Take your children walking with you! Take your work colleagues on a walking meeting. Walk while you talk on the phone—especially those boring conference calls.
I hope that you will begin to appreciate that work and life can be interlocked and overlapped. When you appreciate that work is life, and life is work, you will reduce the stress you feel in the either-or paradigm. You will worry less about preserving your work-life balance, and will focus more on finding happiness at both work and home.
Mother Nature designed us to both live and work, and she didn’t draw a solid line between the two. When we honor our natural design, she rewards us with health and happiness. Try it.
(The third and final article will return you to the driver’s seat of your car. A quick glimpse behind you, and I hope you’ll never make another work-life misjudgment.)