Guilt Free Life-Work Balance

Guilt Free Life-Work Balance I’m here in Bali and it’s just faaaabulous darling! It’s been a five day fiesta of yoga, meditation and detoxing and I have to say I am feeling amazing. (I am vaguely thinking if I organised a Life Coaching + Yoga retreat to Bali next year for you guys – it could be a beautiful thing? If that sounds like fun to you flick me a note on Facebook and let me know).

Okay so Bali, Ubud specifically. It’s like the home of all things alternative. It’s a veritable Mecca of Wellbeing! Every other shop is selling yoga gear or raw vegan food or incense. It’s the setting and inspiration for Eat. Pray. Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s outstanding runaway bestselling novel and when you are here you can totally feel why. Spirit is in the air!

So today I take as my inspiration a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat. Pray. Love:

 “Balance, my darling, is not letting anybody love you more than you love yourself.” 

A quote which I really dig. I get asked about life-work balance so often, it’s a perennial wellbeing struggle for most people.  The real issue with it is that really it’s a question of maths. It’s actually quite logical and simple. It’s about Work-Life Volume rather than Balance. You have x amount of hours, that’s not going to change, so choose how to prioritise which things you want to put in and leave out, to bring you balance. It really is just maths. Simple, yes! On paper yes, in reality, no. It’s something that almost everyone struggles with.

The reason why it’s hard though? It’s because this maths equation for balance gets wrapped up in a web of complicated emotion. Specifically guilt and feeling selfish. And what that means is that even if we choose something we think will give us balance, i.e. say No to Thing A, or Yes to Thing B, or prioritise time for Thing C. We can end up feeling guilty  even though we have consciously chosen the thing that will bring us balance.

So – sometimes we get Balance with a side serving of guilt for being selfish. Which completely defeats the purpose.

What we are after is Balance, consciously chosen, minus the guilt. The emotion we want to attach is peacefulness, or contentedness, or joy.

That’s where I think Elizabeth’s quote is a great reminder:

“Balance, my darling, is not letting anybody love you more than you love yourself.”

If we choose Balance, which is usually in the form of Self Care of some sort or another, what we are doing is actively choosing to love ourselves first in the moment. And that’s not selfish. But it can feel selfish if we are thinking “I shouldn’t be doing this, I should be doing …. instead.” The “should” kills it, the “should” is the sneaky mechanism by which guilt gets subtly attached to the Balancing activity we have chosen.

We’ve gotta drop the should, or if that’s too hard, we need to change the should to a should that is helpful: “I should take care of myself! If I don’t look after myself I can’t look after the people I love/do the job I love/etc.”

To give to others we have to fill our own cup first on occasion. If you are one of life’s givers this can be a hard thing to do consistently but it is necessary. It’s the classic analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask first in the plane. You cannot help others if you are struggling yourself. The stronger, fitter, more balanced, more well in mind, body and spirit you are, the better you serve everyone around you.

Balance in life comes from a balance in the mind. If you can balance the thoughts of taking care of others with some thoughts of the huge value of taking care of yourself, that is self love in action. To focus on thoughts of love for yourself as foundational for thoughts to love others. Balance is about embracing thoughts of self love before it manifests as an action of booking a yoga class or saying no to that function you don’t really want to go to. It is IMPOSSIBLE to have balance on the outside – in your life – if you do not have a balance of thoughts on the inside – inside your head, balancing the importance of taking care of yourself as much as others.

It feels like an incredible indulgence being here in this extraordinary place, and to be away from my clients and work and loved ones for a number of weeks, which instantly makes me feel guilty and selfish. But then on the other hand, when I consciously balance my thinking I quickly realise it’s my JOB to be here! To be in this mecca of Wellbeing. That is an important part of my work. It’s how I recharge myself in order to be able to bring great energy and great love to the things that I do. Which are all giving OUT of energy and love, my Happiness Hacking private life coaching, speaking, writing. In order to pour out all that energy into others so intensely each day I need to take the time to recharge those specific batteries, and bring the energy IN. I need to balance the out with the in. That is taking care of me, but also the people that I care so much about.

Balance is only really Balance if it’s guilt free. And that all starts with what is going on inside our heads. Balance your thoughts about self care first and then the perpetual struggle on the outside will recede.

Louise Thompson, wellbeing coach



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