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Work-Life Balance Strategies: Inspired By Conor McGregor.



We’ve all wished we could be two places at once. I often hear people joke that, if only they could clone themselves, they could get everything done.

Modern life seems to be wildly out of balance and the typical work life balance strategies society offers are superficial at best.

Case in point: The mainstream perpetuates - and idealises - the separation of “work” and “life”.

What started as work-life balance swiftly morphed into a new fad: work-life integration.

Then, because that was too clinical for some, we wound up with touchy-feely work-life management strategies such as:

  • *  Work-life harmony

  • *  Work-life rhythm

  • Work-leisure balance

Well, guess what? It doesn't matter what you call it...

THE PREMISE IS FALSE.

All of these well-meaning monikers treat the symptom of work-life imbalance, not the root cause.

What’s the root cause, you might ask?

Steven McConnell, Co-Founder of Arielle Careers, an Australian personal branding consultancy, believes that the problem is begins with the foundations of our culture:

“We were born into a world where work and life are set as opposing forces in a zero sum game.”

For McConnell, marketers are guilty of perpetuating the illusion that work and life are capable of attaining some perfect, yet elusive equilibrium - if only we try harder.

He points out that nowhere is this more visible than in the advertising copy of holiday package deals:

  • *  “Luxury escapes”

  • *  “Why return to reality?”

Indeed, why are we so keen to escape our lives so often?

WHY WORK-LIFE BALANCE STRATEGIES FAIL.

Consider this - if you say yes to something, you’ll have to say no to something else - and vice versa.

Alain de Botton, British-Swiss author of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, offers this bluntly honest perspective:

"There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life."

Speaking of fighting, consider "The Notorious" UFC superstar Conor McGregor.

A mere five years ago he was living off welfare. Today he is one of the most accomplished - and famous - martial artists of all time.

He has never boxed professionally, however a few days ago he went head-to-head with Floyd Mayweather - a boxer who is considered to be the best of our generation.

He lost the fight, but he won the battle. It was one of the most interesting match-ups in the history of professional fighting and, incidentally, made him one of the highest paid athletes in history.

Something tells me his skyrocket to the top wasn’t the result of agonising over work-life balance strategies.

IS THERE A WINNING WORK-LIFE BALANCE STRATEGY?

For McGregor, like for many other high performers, work and life are indistinguishable.

And so it goes for other passion-driven people: writers, artists, musicians, teachers, tech innovators. You get the idea.

Passion-driven professionals create their own unique definition of success.

From a place of deep personal purpose and power, they decide what to say no to and what to say yes to.

Okay, okay. I hear you. You’re not an artist, fighter, innovator, entrepreneur, [insert other cool-sounding job here]. Well, actually you are. Being an artist, fighter or entrepreneur is a mindset, not a job title.

You can be a CFO, a Sales Manager or an MD - and bring your inner artist, fighter and entrepreneur to work .. every day.

Once you begin to do this this, you'll be able to consciously direct your energy toward a more fulfilling life.

CAUSES OF WORK-LIFE IMBALANCE.

When we spend too much time on tasks which don’t fulfill us, we begin to complain about an imbalance.

Therefore it’s critical to begin the journey of exploring work-life balance strategies by articulating what makes you fulfilled.

“You” being the operative word here.

In his highly entertaining TED Talk, Alain de Botton asserts that most of us are living out someone else’s notion of success.

  • *  It gets handed down from our parents.

  • *  Our friends and educational institutions reinforce it.

  • *  Mainstream media shoves it down our throats.

Are you happy having a well-paying job, nice car, 1.2 kids and anything else you can materially afford?

YOUR KNEE-JERK REACTION MIGHT BE..

Of course I am. But perhaps you haven’t even permitted yourself the time and space to consider it.

Maybe, just maybe, exploring the answer to this question involves thinking a little more like an artist or an entrepreneur or a fighter—even if you aren’t one.

Chris Myer, CEO of startup BodeTree, wrote recently in Forbes that:

"For me, jobs are things you do because you need money or some way to keep busy. You clock in and out, and maybe if you’re lucky you learn a thing or two along the way. I do not have that kind of job".

HOW DOES MINDSET DIFFER FROM MAINSTREAM?

Myer explains:

"Never once have I dreaded going into the office or working with my team…if you do what you love it will never feel like a job. That’s why the idea of finding work/life balance as an entrepreneur is a joke."

While Myer describes work-life balance as a joke, it’s clear that he takes doing meaningful work very seriously.

MEANINGFUL WORK IS AVAILABLE TO ALL OF US.

Back in the late 1950’s, psychiatrist Viktor Frankl claimed the innate human quest for meaning is so strong that, even in the direst circumstances, people seek out their purpose in life.

Recently, research conducted at the University of Sussex and Greenwich has proven this to be true with some fascinating findings.

135 people working in 10 very different occupations, from garbage collectors to sales managers, were encouraged to describe instances during their workday that begged the question:

“WHAT'S THE POINT OF DOING THIS JOB?”

While the researchers expected the answers to expose trends similar to, say, workplace engagement what they found was that the concept of meaningful work is highly individual and personal.

Professor Katie Bailey, who led the study, shares an insight that renders the mainstream myths on work and life meaningless:

"In experiencing work as meaningful, we cease to be workers or employees and relate as human beings, reaching out in a bond of common humanity to others.”

So if you’re on a quest to find a work-life strategy that works for you and to define what success means to you personally, here’s a starting point.

USE THESE FIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF MEANINGFUL WORK AS YOUR GUIDE.

1. SELF-TRANSCENDENT: You feel your work matters to others more than it does to you.

2. POIGNANT: You experience moments of mixed, uncomfortable, or even painful thoughts and feelings—not just joy or happiness.

3. EPISODIC: Your awareness of meaningful work arises at peak times or during charged experiences.

4. REFLECTIVE: You pause to reflect on those poignant episodes and notice the connection between your work and a broader purpose.

5. PERSONAL: Your work’s meaning enhances the wider context of your personal life experiences.

IN YOUR FACE, LUXURY VACATION ADVERTISERS.

I’m reminded of the American TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, whose host Robin Leach had a signature line:

“Let’s run away! This couple did…”

Well, it’s officially time to stop running. It’s time to start showing up for your life (including your work) for real.

Where are you expending your energy? What are you saying yes to and what are you saying no to?

While none of us can have it all, we can make more intelligent choices. I’ll leave you with one last quote from Viktor Frankl:

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”