Incremental Positive Change - Part I
The concept of work-life balance, which connotes a 50/50 or other calculable split, has given way to what many of us accept as work-life blend or work-life integration. Whatever you call it and however you do it, the task is to achieve something that satisfies you—even if it isn’t perfect all of the time. So, yes, there’s often room for improvement. Welcome to the first of a three-part series beginning with manageable change, moving to focus and wrapping with meditation, all with the goal of helping you to address aspects of your work-life blend in a sustainable way.
The sum of the disparate and related tasks that fill your days, weeks and months make up your life. And how do you improve your life? Assess incrementally, and then act specifically. I’m a firm believer that everything is connected; so taking the time to carefully assess and address one deficit will positively affect other parts of your life. Human beings best manage small changes. Yes, I’m talking about shifting habits. For dieters, making one food decision (e.g., no more soda) then adding another (more veggies with dinner) a few weeks or months later is easier to do and to sustain than a dramatic dietary shift.
Each of our idiosyncratic lives calls for it’s own metric for measuring the quality of our blend. But rather than trying to think about your whole life blend, direct your attention from the general to the specific. For example, the feeling of being overwhelmed with everything—work, family, self care, friends—is too much to resolve all at once. However, finding a way to focus on adding ten additional minutes of daily story time with your child or seeking out a 20 minute home workout that you can do a couple times a week or scheduling a weekly date night with your significant other each represent one manageable change. And, whatever you decide to do, it's critical that you try your best to do it with a strong sense of intentionality and without distraction.
Each seemingly small but manageable change will have an effect on other parts of your life, thus stimulating further opportunities for greater change. Sometimes, the reactions to those small changes will be difficult. Spending more time with your child may make you a little sad, yearning for even more opportunities to be with him or her. However, without accessing that desire, you might not necessarily be driven to make other shifts that might allow for what you really want. Conversely, recognizing that at the present time you might not be able to make other changes to facilitate more time with your child might increase your appreciation of the time that you do have together. Either way, the best approach going forward is to be fully present, focused on the experience and able to enjoy it.
Making the effort to do something different is the first step. Next is to do your best to maintain the small changes. Finally, you'll want to evaluate what has happened as a result. Most likely you will not end up evaluating change in a formal way. What happens with most of us is that after doing something for a while, we inadvertently notice that something has shifted. The workout might have cleared your mind allowing for greater focus at the activity following it. Maybe the extra ten minutes with your child opened you up to greater appreciation of observations that extended family members previously might have shared about your son's or daughter's growth. Whatever the difference is, you can attribute it to having shifted your focus from the harder-to-manage bigger picture to a discrete part of it in which you can effect real change.