Understanding Work-Life Balance

Understanding Work-Life Balance

Everyone wants to be happy in any and every way. Most of us want the best life we can get, e.g. a big household, that bears a happy family, and a nice car, to take you to the best job ever, that makes you loads of money, which you can use to go on holidays, or save up to retire and then blow it all on making yourself happy.

We’ve passed down from generation to generation that the key to happiness is to succeed in life.

But what if I told you that happiness isn’t about succeeding in life?

That would sound stupid, wouldn’t it? Well, it’s not exactly stupid to say that, but rather a miscommunication. We always seem to think that happiness comes hand-in-hand with success; that, once you’ve established a stable life for yourself, you can then focus on making yourself happy. But what we fail to realise is that, we shouldn’t be achieving happiness after we achieve success, we should be achieving happiness while we achieve success.

Three spectacular people can help us better understand the work-life balance:

1. Nigel Marsh, on “How to make work-life balance work”

Speaking at TEDxSydney in May 2010

Nigel Marsh is an author and marketer with over 25 years of experience in branding and marketing, and he really hits the nail on the head with his presentation on the work-life balance. Nigel starts off by mentioning that he himself was stuck in the rut of a poor work-life balance, leaning more towards eating too much, drinking too much, working too much, and neglecting family.

We need to do it for ourselves

One of the motifs that Nigel speaks about is that, for society to make progress on this topic, we need to do it for ourselves. We need an honest debate, because many people talk loads of rubbish about work-life balance, most of them being commercial corporations — the topic on which Nigel says, “never put the quality of your life in the hands of a commercial corporation”, who essentially want to make money off of your life.

We have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries in our lives, between work, play, family, etc. We need to approach balance in a balanced way, yet, being balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life.

The smallest things count

Joining the gym and becoming fit isn’t being balanced, it’s being fit. But positively changing your life step-by-step, is becoming balanced. Nigel says, that “with the smallest investment, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life”, whether it’s spending time with friends, family, or kids, or simply turning off whatever electronic device you’re using and just hanging out.

You can check out his presentation: here.

2. Shawn Anchor, on “The happy secret to better work”

Speaking at TEDxBloomington in May 2011

Shawn Anchor is an American happiness researcher, author and speaker, known for his advocacy of positive psychology, and he believes that work-life balance can be achieved simply by being more positive, yet as silly as it sounds, it’s so true.

Be more positive

Positive psychology studies human behaviour in relation to happiness, positivity, and motivation. Shawn says that we, as people, focus on negatives rather than positives more than we think, and that we assume that our external world is predictive of our world, whereas 90% of your long-term happiness is not predicted by the external world, but by the way your brain perceives the external world.

We need to reverse the assumed formula for success: that “if I work harder, I’ll be more successful. And if I’m more successful, then I’ll be happier.” This formula is broken, because every time we achieve a success, we just change the goal post of what success looks like — “achieved good grades, now achieve better grade. Got into a good job, now get into a better job. You’ve hit your sales target, now change your sales target.”

Shawn says that, if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there, but if we can raise someone’s level of positivity in the present, their brain experiences something that we now call a “Happiness Advantage”.

The Happiness Advantage

The Happiness Advantage is your brain in state of high positivity. When in this state, your brain performs significantly better than in a negative, neutral, or stressed state. Your intelligence and creative levels improve, as well as every single business outcome.

If we can find a way of becoming positive in the present, then our brains work even more successfully, meaning we’re able to work harder, faster, and more intelligently.

Small changes ripple outward

Shawn proposes that you can create lasting positive change by training your brain with small changes daily. In just 2 minutes a day, for 21 days consecutively, you can actually “rewire” your brain, allowing it to work more optimistically, and therefore successfully. Here are the 5 daily steps:

  1. Three Gratitudes: Write down three things that you’re grateful for each day. This teaches us to scan the world not for the negative, but for the positive first.
  2. Journaling: Write about one positive experience that you had during the day. This allows your brain to re-live a positive experience.
  3. Exercise: Try to get in 30 minutes to an hour of exercise, it teaches your brain that your behaviour matters.
  4. Meditation: It allows your brain to “get over the cultural ADHD that we’ve created by trying to do multiple tasks at once, and allows your brain to focus on the task at hand”.
  5. Random Acts of Kindness: Conscious kindness is healthy, so try to do something randomly nice, as in writing a positive email to a coworker or someone in your social network, praising or thanking them for something.

You can check out his presentation: here.

3. Arianna Huffington, on “How to succeed? Get more sleep”

Speaking at TEDWomen in December 2010

Arianna Huffington is a Greek-American author, columnist, and co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. Shawn may have believed in being more positive, but Arianna takes the work-life balance in a difference, yet so simple direction.

Get more sleep

A small idea that can awaken much bigger ones: get more sleep. Arianna focuses on and condones the idea of getting more sleep, and it being the key to unlocking a happier and more successful life. By simply going to bed earlier, we can evade the general idea of sleep-deprivation as a norm, and “stop the one-upmanship of bragging about our sleep deficits”.

She urges us to shut our eyes and see the big picture: we can sleep our way to increased productivity and happiness.

You can check out his presentation: here.


What we’ve learnt is that we need to do it ourselves if we’re looking to balance our work and life, as well as focus on the small things, be more positive, and the best idea that I’ve heard in a long time: get more sleep!