"I've learned that the process of life - including the work, obstacles, even the hassles - is my life. Life isn't the end result - it's everything in between the beginning and the end."

Let's begin by stating the obvious - there is no such thing as work-life balance. Although there may be some days you feel dead at work, let's be real. Work is part of your life, not a separate dimension. In fact, most of us spend more than 70% of our waking hours working in some capacity, so let's define work-life balance as simply 'balance' for short.

People often complain that their balance is out of whack. When asked to paint a picture of what balance actually looks like, they're often stumped. Is it:

• Just working less and spending more time at home?
• Taking off Fridays in the summer?
• Being away from work on Sundays?

Maybe, but true balance requires a very personal definition needing reflecting on your own individual situation, core values, needs, and priorities.

In order to create and live in a way that is balanced, you need to know what it means and why it's important to you. By defining your core values, you'll have better flexibility and creativity when it comes time to determine how to create it for yourself. Sometimes the benefits of better balance seem soft until you look at the true costs for not having it.

Often, we are looking for the answer or the solution to balance. However, I've found there's no one thing that can create balance in your life for you. Rather, transitioning to better balance consists of first identifying the elements of an ideal balance by examining those things you want to add, subtract, or modify that are most important to you.

• To start, create a list of all of the things that you consider to be key elements of your ideal balance. You are trying to define 'what' you want as part of your life to create the balance you seek. Don't worry about how you're going to get there yet. Remember to keep playing in the space of 'ideal world' without limiting your ideas and exploration to only what you think is possible, safe, or acceptable. Otherwise, you'll be cheating yourself of bigger possibilities. Better to start with what's ideal and work backwards, using a pragmatic filter to figure out how you're going to create those elements.
• Give yourself permission to be as specific as possible. For example, a core element may be more time with your kids. However, that's too general. Looking deeper, it may really be a few hours of quality time with your children during the week, and that's what you want to capture.
• Once you've defined what an ideal balance would be by defining the elements, now it's time to explore ways that you can enhance your life to create that balance. Get creative and look for things you can add or subtract that will create the elements you've identified. You may have to get out of your comfort zone. In the example above, one possible solution to having more quality time with your kids is to specify one night each week where you'll come home earlier to be with them and a separate one where you'll work later to keep up with your workload. Remember, it's about making it all balance, not having one at the expense of the other.
• Make a list of options that would enhance your balance and create these elements. This is the time to brainstorm creative ideas to capture as many options and opportunities as possible. Don't qualify or judge these possibilities. Some people might call them fair. Others might deem them unrealistic. Don't judge the options, create what you want for yourself. Just like a true brainstorm, every idea is a possibility. You need to be open to ideas that may not seem possible or feasible. Create a family movie night once per month. For your spouse, create a date night. You are only limited by your own imagination.
• Another key ingredient to the balance formula is your attitude. I've worked with people who believe that it's everyone else's responsibility to create balance for them. However, in these instances, you are effectively giving up your own power to everyone else and making yourself a victim to your circumstances.
• Rather than taking a position founded on entitlement, own a perspective of 'how can I make this work for everyone?' By accepting personal accountability for making it happen and by taking a positive and understanding approach, you will be open to more creative solutions

As Gandhi says, "be the Change you wish to see in the world." You must create the changes you wish to see in your life. Your boss, your company, your spouse - they are not responsible to give you the balance you seek. You must create it.

from Mike Jaffe

Here are some distinctions, beliefs, and attitudes you can adopt that will help you achieve a more satisfying balance:

1. Start with Your Own Definition
Define and know why having a better sense of balance is important to you by answering the following questions:

• How do you define work / life balance?
• Why is balance important to you?
• What are the benefits of having the right balance for you?
• What are the costs of not having it for you?

2. Create a Vision
Once you know what it is and why balance is important, create a vision of what it might look like.

• What are the elements of your ideal balance? (e.g. more time with kids, exercise 3 times per week, etc.). Be specific.
• What options or possibilities can you think of that would enhance your balance (even if they feel unrealistic at this point)?

3. Request Accountability
• What should the following people provide for you that would improve your sense of balance?
• Your company? E.g. Flex time
• Your boss/ colleagues? E.g. More hires to share the load
• Your spouse/partner/friends? E.g. Support

From your answers, which are important enough to you that you'll take ownership for creating them?

4. Prioritize
Remember, if you don’t honor your own boundaries (and others’), nobody else will honor yours.
• What boundaries can you set?
• Which of them do you want to make non-negotiable?
• What can you do to ensure your obligations and responsibilities are upheld that will enable you to continue to honor your own boundaries?

5. Create a Support Structure around Yourself
• Who do you need to inform and/or train regarding your needs and boundaries?
• What requests do you need to make of whom?

6. Get in Action
• What are the specific action steps I need to take in the next 30 days?

• Lose your sense of entitlement
• Create a vision for yourself for your life
• Take ownership – you are accountable
• Bring the attitude of ‘How can I make this all work’
• Set and then honor your own boundaries
• Be comfortable saying ‘No’
• Little things count
• What are some other beliefs and attitudes you can adopt that will help you achieve more satisfying Life Balance?

Author's Bio: 

This article is based on the popular book and audio book, WakeUp: Your Life is Waiting for You by Mike Jaffe. Mike Jaffe, founder of Jaffe Life Design and renowned motivational speaker, is a powerful and inspiring coach and seminar leader whose programs empower people to redefine what’s possible in their personal and professional lives.

Without doubt, the date of September 11th will live in every Americans mind as one of those moments when time stands still. For Mike Jaffe, that moment arrived on September 11th when he stepped out of the subway 20 minutes late for work, just after the first plane slammed into his office floor. At that moment, Mike Jaffe knew he had to change his life and the lives of others in honor of his co-workers.

In Mike’s inspiring and powerful talks, participants learn what it takes to make real, lasting change in their businesses and their lives by shifting their perspective from entitlement to accountability; therefore, moving from victim to victor. To find out more about each of Jaffe Life Design programs, please visit jaffelifedesign.com/our-services-speaking.htm.