If you are regular reader of this newsletter, you know that I dedicate a lot of time to promoting a healthy balance between work and life. I regularly encourage you to make time for self-care – body, mind and spirit. But there is more to this illusive thing called "Life Balance" than self-care and self-knowledge. That "more" is service to others: You can't have a balanced life unless you are engaged in making the world a better place.
There are as many versions of how to make the world a better place as there are people on the planet. Your job as "a weight bearing member of the human race" is to pick your version, and then wake up every morning determined to do it better, smarter and with more vigor than you've ever done before.
Self-care for service's sake
The search for “Life Balance” is not about self-care for its own sake, or even for the sake of having the energy to succeed in our chosen professions. Each of us is on this earth to make a difference – to leave this life having made the world a better place than we found it. We take time for fun and exercise, and make the effort to know ourselves deeply, so that we can go back into the trenches of leadership and community work, focused, refreshed and ready for action.
Coaching clients often partner with me to articulate their life purpose and deeply held beliefs. The theory is that if you know your core values you can do great and difficult work in the world without burning out. But it is no good waiting around for a bolt of lightning to hit you with a fully formed mission statement and clear direction about how to put that into action. Not being sure about your core values is rarely an excuse to sit out the season. Play with a handicap if you need to; but play: Pick up a pen, a pitchfork or a megaphone and get in the game. Many a life purpose has been revealed amidst the push and pull of community service.
Start where you are. Then dig deeper
Chances are you are already working hard to make your community a better place to live. You are probably pretty successful at what you do. Take a deep joyful breath and appreciate yourself for all the good that you are doing. Then, take another, more contemplative breath and ask yourself: What can I do better? What will it take to make more of a difference? In what area of my life or work do I need to change my ways so that I can deepen the impact of my community leadership? Listen hard. Allow yourself to hear the answer.
I'm NOT saying work longer hours. I am saying look at the way you are working and ask, "What do I need to do to work smarter?" Pause long enough to listen and your gut will give you at least three answers. The message from deep inside may be that there is a project you need to abandon or a committee you need to resign. Opting out may disappoint someone. Do it anyway.
If there is something you need to learn in order to feel more confident, happier, stronger, more capable of serving and contributing – then learn it. If you need more time for reflection before you can wholeheartedly commit to the work of making an even bigger difference in this world, get out your journal and start reflecting. Hire a coach or enroll in a program designed to help you clarify your purpose and set some goals. The sooner you do some disciplined thinking about where you are, where you want to go, and how you are going to get there, the more years you'll have left in this lifetime to make a difference. Likewise, if you need a long, deep rest, go out and get what you need so that you can come back refreshed and ready to go. If there is a habit you need to break, it will never be easier, or more difficult, to break than it is today. Make the change you need to make. Start today and don’t look back.
Bring your work and life into shining balance
Getting crystal clear about priorities can bring work and life into shining balance. With the goal of increasing the impact of my leadership development work, I've begun taking a moment each morning to reflect in writing on these two questions:
1. What’s important today?
2. What do I need to let go of in order accomplish what is really important?
Try these questions for yourself and, please, let me know how it goes.
A certified coach, and skilled teacher and facilitator, Julia Fabris McBride is dedicated to helping individuals and organizations know themselves deeply, and then use that knowledge to align actions with values, forge powerful connections, and do good work in the world.
Julia is an International Coach Federation Certified Coach and a graduate of Coach University. She is a certified Body-Mind Life Coaching™ Specialist.