Work-Life Balance |

6 min read
Source: Amarily Moreno / Pixabay

Work – Life Balance

Source: Amarily Moreno / Pixabay

During our lives, we learn lessons. Events occur that completely change the course of our lives.

Two events were pivotal in changing the course of my life. I grew up in the Midwest, and my father had a job working for an insurance company as a regional manager. By Iowa’s standards, he did well when I started high school, but that completely changed.

My first lesson

My father lost the job he’d depended on since graduating college. He had to find something else to do, and it took him about eight years to find something that fulfilled him. This whole situation made me want to find security in my career. I wanted a job I could depend on until I retired.

At the time, I was leaning toward being a university professor. I knew that after a probationary period, I could get tenured, which meant my job was pretty secure. In the meantime, I worked at a challenging and exhausting job. It was about 80 hours a week. I’ve always been decent with money, and I was able to save that money. The following year, I could go to Europe with my saved money.

My second lesson

I realized that in Europe, people worked differently and lived a different lifestyle than in the U.S. They often start careers with six weeks off every year, whereas in the United States, it’s standard only to get two weeks off a year. And people in Europe rarely worked a 40-hour work week.

I knew that if I became a professor and did well in my field, I would probably sometimes work a 60 to 80-hour work week. Many professors worked this schedule for a large portion of their careers. Yes, it is an exciting career, but I didn’t know if I wanted to spend that much time on one topic.

I loved lots of things, and I didn’t mind working. So, I decided to get my Ph.D. in an area where I felt secure and could work for myself. From the start, I took six weeks off a year instead of taking two weeks off a year. Now, I take about eight whole weeks of vacation.

Working for yourself

Mind you, there are challenges when working for yourself. People don’t just give you a paycheck and you work hard. You must be entrepreneurial and do many extra things.
But I’ve learned to maintain a work-life balance.

I like what I do, and at this point, I have no plans on retiring. When my new work week comes around, I look forward to it, even after all these years. But I also look forward to the pleasures of my life.

Work-life balance

I can say it’s essential repeatedly, but I want to discuss a study. The study found what I believed, that doing things we enjoy in life is more important and will lead to more happiness than life’s achievements.

Let’s explore what Paul Hannel discovered with other scientists at the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex. His study debuted in the Journal of Personality in 2023.

The title is Value Fulfillment and Well-being: Clarifying Directions over Time. The study included 184 people from the United Kingdom, India, and Turkey. The participants kept a journal about their daily lives for nine days, particularly regarding certain qualifiers.

Here’s what they found

During those nine days, researchers examined how participants did things they enjoyed versus achievements. For those trying to create a sense of freedom, there was a 13 percent increase in well-being, sleep quality, and life satisfaction.

Those doing their hobbies and things they enjoy were relaxed; they all had an average well-being boost of 8 percent and a 10 percent drop in stress and anxiety. Doing more enjoyable things instead of trying to achieve them brought greater happiness and well-being.

The truth

And this may seem obvious to you. But why don’t we do these things more often? Why do some people put off doing something they enjoy to work on achieving goals? The obvious answer is that they think they can start living a more enjoyable lifestyle when they reach their goals. There is some truth to that, too.

But another truth is that we don’t know how long we will live. The other reality is we may work for decades. So, doesn’t it make sense to find a sense of balance? We may work for a larger goal, but there aren’t any guarantees in life.

How do we find work-life balance?

What we do is important. And if we work for decades at a job, it should be something that brings joy. And if we have the freedom of choice to go to a university, we should do something that makes us happy. It’s simply a futile task when our goal is only for money. Enjoyment in our work week is a far better choice in life.

So, if you are a student or at a job with little wiggle room to do something else, ask yourself, “Is what I’m doing enjoyable?”

While doing my residency at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs hospital and working on my dissertation, I would take my lunches outside. I savored that little time daily to eat out in the fresh air and soak up the sun.

I tried to find joy in those moments of freedom. Yes, it was a busy time, but I made time to find happiness too. There are many things we can do to make work more enjoyable.

And if we are mothers, and that’s our job, we can ensure we are doing pleasurable things for us, too. Bringing laughter into life, jobs, and school improves your life.

Life can be better right now.

We should stop dwelling on how things will be better in the future. There is always something good in the present. If we focus on positive energy and give thanks for goodness, we will find even more joy.

We can focus on the negatives or the positives of life. When planning what to do for the rest of your life, focus on what you can do that is fun. And if you are in the middle of your career or life, you can still contemplate how to improve your work week or even choose another career.

How do we ensure we do things that bring us joy throughout the week? Well, each day is a gift, and we get more investment returns when we work on enjoying that day. Yes, achieving is important, but can we make space for play?

It’s really all about work-life balance.

If we have that work balance, whether today is our last day or we live a hundred years, we can look back and say, That was a good life.

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