This is the single biggest topic of discussion that I have encountered when talking about life in general amongst work associates, friends, family, and other groups. The majority of people that I have heard speak on the topic of their own life balance rate themselves as ‘imbalanced’… usually far too heavily weighted on work. In fact, there is a common work-life balance quote that goes “No one on his death bed ever said, ‘I wish I had spent more time at the office”
Let’s face it, the average North American working a 40 hour work week spends 40% of their waking hours at work – not including travel to and from, overtime, or other off-time projects – so that statistic alone makes it extremely difficult to achieve a balanced life. The 7 most common areas of life that we need to work in keeping balance with are:
- Mental Health (mind)
- Physical Health (body)
- Spiritual Health (soul)
- Social (relationships outside of family, recreation, fun)
We all, however, have the freedom of choice so that we can decide what our priorities are for our own lives and how much energy and commitment we want to put into these areas. Also, keep in mind that sacrifices in other areas of life are necessary to enhance the ones that you want to improve upon.
There is a great, well-known story about how truly full our lives are these days, and how to balance it all for the greatest happiness possible:
One day a philosophy professor brought a large glass jar and some beautiful river rocks to class with him. “Raise your hands when the jar is full,” he instructed his students, and he began putting the big rocks into the jar. Soon the lid would no longer fit, and all the students raised their hands to indicate the jar was full. The professor then pulled out a bag of smaller black and white pebbles and poured them into the jar. As the pebbles rolled down, they filled the little gaps between the big river rocks. The students smiled and raised their hands. This time the jar was completely full.
Then the professor produced a bag of sand and began pouring it into the jar. When the sand had filled the tiny gaps between the rocks and the pebbles he triumphantly placed the lid on the jar and asked his class if the jar was now full. They all clapped and agreed, “Yes it is full!” At that point, the professor opened the lid and slowly poured two cups of coffee into the jar. The coffee completely filled the tiniest gaps between the rocks, the pebbles, and the grains of sand. “Now, life is very much like this jar,” he said.
“The river rocks represent the most important things in life, such as your ethics, your family, your loved ones and your health. Even if you lost everything else, your life would still be full with these most important things in it. The pebbles are the things in our lives that are pretty important – but our happiness shouldn’t depend on them. Things like our job, house, car, etc. Finally, the sand represents everything else – the countless small, busy things that fill our lives. If we fill up our jar with sand first, then we won’t have any room for the river rocks or pebbles. If we fill our lives with just the small stuff or the busy stuff, we won’t have any room or time for the things that mean the most to us.”
After a brief moment of silence on of the students asked, “Professor, what does the coffee represent?”. “Ah, I’m glad you asked,” replied the professor. “It means that, no matter how full your life is, there is always room for a cup of coffee with a friend.”
After reading this story, we have a few questions for you to ponder in the attached PDF to help you structure your life to be a little more balanced.
See Part 2 of our 5 part series, “The Work-Life Balance Conundrum“.
– Nick Thompson
Co-Founder & President of VEA