17 April 2013

I Don't Believe in Work/Life Balance, I Believe in Managing Energy

I Don't Believe in Work/Life Balance, I Believe in Managing Energy


Here's a post I've been wanting to finish up forever...it's long, but the info. has been life changing, for me. 

Do you like reading about work/life balance?  It seems to pop up everywhere.  Do you find that you are able to score a good work/life balance that is truly effective in the ways that you would want?  I love reading about it, BUT...I often feel like there is a piece missing...one that can take the whole balance thing to a new level!!  :)

You see, no matter how much you try to strike a balance, it's possible that a well-planned day (or well-planned decade) could get a wrench thrown into it at any moment  :)  Right?  In fact, it's nearly a guarantee that it will happen.  That's just the nature of life!  No matter how carefully hours and days are prioritized, no matter how much you try to control your day and time to have a nice balance, well...children get sick, relationships get complicated, money comes and goes, homes get really messy, family members may have special needs, health is never guaranteed, job demands can vary, and life can be so very fragile.  So then what happens to the work/life balance?  Is everything then "off-balance" until things fall back into your desired schedule?!?

Well, I have found a way to have a sense of balance EVEN WHEN crazy things come along.  It works so well that it really, truly has changed my life c-o-m-p-l-e-t-e-l-y.  It's one of the best things I can pass on to you. 

blue pattern


Here goes...

Instead of trying to control time and schedules and manage hours and days, I choose to...

MANAGE ENERGY.

By this, I mean - instead of basing my balance on the circumstances outside of myself, I manage the way I react to things (internally).  I manage the amount of energy I burn over something.

This was revolutionary to me when I learned it from my mentor:

You only have a certain amount of energy each day, so you need to use it carefully

Reacting negatively to things burns up energy very, very fast.  Makes sense, right?  It's called a short fuse.  Too much of a short fuse and your creativity and spirituality will be zapped.  Keep it up some more and your body will be so deficient in energy that your body won't even be able to operate optimally.

And, consider this:  just because your day is planned out and you have X amount of hours for this and that, you could still feel unbalanced.  Balance is not external.  Case in point:  you could be sitting on a bench in the park on a gorgeous day and STILL feel like a frazzled mess.

blue polka dots


SO...how??  How do you manage your energy?  This is what works for me:




1.  PAY ATTENTION TO SMALL REACTIONS.
Little, little things add up during the day and contribute to draining your energy (which makes you feel irritable, stressed, and unbalanced).  I'm talking about all those little negative reactions to things.  Stuff like delays, parking tickets, nothing to wear, a messy house, messy kids, traffic, etc.  I used to be so wound up over "my poor life" and "my crazy schedule" or whatever, that little things were very much a burden.  But even those reactions to little things were draining me.  I was barely getting by.  I remember feeling like, "I could barely take one thing more."  So, again, pay attention to the small reactions.  Start practicing there.  Master those, and a huge, huge burden will be lifted.  You can then free up some  energy to face the bigger things with more strength, less stress, etc.

2.  FIND YOUR MOTIVATION.
It takes DESIRE to turn things around and actually CHANGE the way you would normally react to things.  Change is a very big deal.  But it's oh so possible (and so worth it I can't even tell you).
Some motivations that worked for me:

-Motivation #1:  Wanting to be able to teach my kids one day how to live...instead of teaching them how to CRACK over every little thing.  Ugh.  Cause honestly, that is how I was living back then.  That is what I would have been teaching my kids back then, if I had them.  I decided I wanted to be better than that.

-Motivation #2:  Wanting to send good energy into the world.  It's hard to send good energy into the world if you yourself are barely getting by...and if you are so starved for good energy yourself that you really don't have any to share.  I call this survival mode.  I was in survival mode for YEARS, friends.  YEARS.  Most of my entire adult life.  I felt like there was really nothing for me to give (and quite frankly, there wasn't).  My energy was just so drained - because of my lack in skills in responding to the crap hand I was being dealt.

-Motivation #3:  Healing my physical body.  Before I learned to manage my energy, my physical body was not well.  I had drained my energy so bad that my body was barely getting by.  My moods were all over the place.  My hormones were probably screwed up.  I was on the brink of cracking - at all times.  And, I was infertile.  So there was that...and realizing that my own actions were affecting me on a physical level.

-Motivation #4: Wanting to be a better wife/woman/human being.  My first husband at the time was not doing well - and the pain directed towards me was more than I could bear.  But I began to learn that if I was being mistreated - it was because he was suffering - and that playing the victim role in response to him was a choice!  So, out of love, I decided that I wanted to learn how to react to him in a better way.  This required that I learn to manage my energy.  Oh my.

OK, after you're paying attention to your reactions and also thinking about your own motivation to change...here's the next step I have found to work:



3.  BE STILL.
Just seriously be still for even a SECOND when something irritable or negative goes down.
That gives you a second to take a breath and prepare your next move.  It slows down that knee jerk reaction - that mode that says, "I have to be mad and full of anger because well - this is maddening and I feel justified."  That kind of thing is what happens when we are acting as victims to our circumstances.   But what I'm trying to teach you here is that you don't have to respond in that way if you don't want to.  You can be your own agent here and respond in a higher way, one that does not suck you dry.

4.   PURSUE SOMETHING BETTER.
In the moment of agony or pain, irritation or anger - the way to begin dissolving it and UPROOTING IT (not just masking it or running from it!!!) is to focus your brain, your thoughts, and your heart on something better.  For example:

-If you are feeling crappy about your body - maybe focus on being grateful that you have legs.  And eyes.  And hair.  And that you have the ability to heal and live.

-If your spouse just cheated on you - focus on forgiveness and compassion for another human being who is not doing too well right now (this can be done even if the marriage is ending).  Focus on the freedom & empowerment that is available to you, if you do this.

-If you did something stupid or if you failed at something and you're having a hard time feeling good about yourself, be grateful for the growth that you can have, the wisdom that you'll develop, and the compassion that you can now have for others who have also made mistakes.

-If you aren't able to have a child - focus on being grateful for the relationships in your life that ARE wonderful.  Be glad that you can have a purpose in other ways.

-If you feel you don't have a purpose - well, have hope that one will come to you.

-If you forgot your umbrella on a rainy day, be grateful for the opportunity to practice being ok with the rain on your face, be grateful for the life rain brings the city, and the cleansing it offers our sidewalks :)  :)

Sometimes it takes a little creativity, but there is ALWAYS, ALWAYS something good you can pursue, no matter what your circumstance.

Marimekko

This process has worked for me time and time again.  I have found it to be literally FAIL PROOF in EVERY circumstance I have faced in the last 5 years or so.  Sometimes it takes me a little longer to make that shift into pursuing something better.  But, I know that the minute I'll do it, miracles will happen.  And what ever pain or irritation I was experiencing will melt away.

What I love most about managing your energy is..it's all in the palm of your hand!!!  You don't have to rely on people, schedules, spouses, hours, trains, projects, children, to do lists, cleanliness, bosses, approval, success, traffic, etc. for things to go well for you during the day and for your day to feel "balanced".  Yep, you can manage your energy even when you have a crappy job.  Even when you get home late at night and have to cook and clean the house.  Even when you don't have enough time in the day or enough money in the bank.  And do I dare say - even when your marriage might be ending.  Even when your spouse is addicted to porn.  Even when health problems arise.  Even if you're facing infertility.


And I want to point out something very important here - (because I think often times people with very good intentions might misunderstand what I am saying on this blog.)

Pain, agony, irritation, anger, etc. have such a beautiful place in this world.  I actually consider them GIFTS to our souls.  Do not discount your pain.  Do not run and hide from it or dismiss it without doing these steps.  That will not solve anything.  Instead, lean into it.  Be grateful for it.  Decide you'll let it help you to progress.  Learning to transform the pain is NECESSARY in order for us to feel freedom, to feel redemption, to feel progress, to feel triumphant.  We cannot learn and grow without it.  So - I know this sounds crazy but honor your pain.  HONOR the opportunity that it can give you to become something more.  HONOR it for the nudge and reminder that it is - it literally pricks our souls to let us know that something is not right in our lives; something needs to be addressed; something needs to be improved.  It is in this process - the management of our energy and the pursuit of something better - that we become better people and we can begin to change ourselves, our families, and the world for the better.



OK, that's enough out of me.  :)  But I couldn't help but add my perspective to the work/life balance conversation.   I hope so much that this might resonate with some of you and help you in your life, as it has done thousands of times over for me.

With love,

Mara

As always, any comments welcome.  I love the discussions here!

Images:  1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 /

Follow A BLOG ABOUT LOVE on:
Twitter @ablogaboutlove 
Pinterest
  
Facebook
 (We so appreciate all the "likes"!  thank you.)
ABAL Book Club 
Babble Voices & The Equals Record

42 comments:

  1. This is exactly what I needed to hear, to be reminded of.

    I used to have a friend who drained the energy from me. Every interaction with her involved me giving her my time, my attention, listening to her, comforting her etc. I would walk away from those meetings feeling physically and spiritually empty and I would try to delay the next time we would meet. She was a dear friend but she exhausted me.

    Eventually I started to imagine my energy as a glowing light that would pour out of me and toward her. I kept waiting for her light to come to me, to fill me back up, but it never came. One day I imagined that I built a force field between us, so that my energy would not flow to her quite so freely, and so she could not take it from me. I did things and said things to change the dynamic between us ever so slightly. I changed the way I interacted with her and I felt so much better. We are still friends.

    I need to apply this to each day of my life. Start each day with all my glowing light, and manage how much of it pours from me during the day. I need to picture it tumbling out of me when I am getting angry at the traffic, so that I can stop it. I need to picture it seeping out as I'm standing in a long, slow queue, so I can hold it in. And I need to see it coming back to me from the trees and the sunset and the yoga mat and the music I listen to.

    I had forgotten that I can control my energy flow - inwards and outwards - but I learned to do that years ago with my friend. I hadn't thought to use it in every moment of my day.

    Thank you, Mara, I already feel better and ready to cope with anything. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trish, I am speechless. This is so perfectly articulated. Thank you so much for sharing.

      Delete
    2. Thank you for sharing Trish! The example with your friend is just what I needed to hear. It's something I've been going through recently and I've been praying about how to change the dynamic of my friendship with someone. I have a lot to think about now.

      Delete
    3. I had a similar experience. I decided to simply not get emotionally involved anymore and respond with positivity or suggestions on how she/we might bring positivity. She dumped me as a friend because she thought I was being cold. I feel so much freer and haven't even missed the friendship. It was hard to let go initially, but it was the best thing. I couldn't help her, but I was able to help myself.

      Delete
  2. Beautiful, Mara! This couldn't have come at a better time for me. Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Commenting anonymously on this one for obvious reasons but holy yes "If your spouse just cheated on you - focus on forgiveness and compassion for another human being who is not doing too well right now..."

    That right there, saved my marriage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow. How we'd love to have a conversation with you. :) Thank you for sharing such a powerful personal testament.

      Delete
  4. I love this. This is so, so right, and I particularly like the way it gives power back to US. I think most of our sense of being out of control and frazzled comes, deep down, from the sensation that we aren't in charge and things are just happening TO us. This couldn't be more true than it is right now in Boston, for example. I love the way the steps you describe give the agency back to us: it's about reaction, and perspective, and breathing. I will remember this post. Thank you. xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. THANK YOU for this comment. I just love how you said it...it gives the power back to US. It's so, so empowering.

      Delete
  5. I love this quote by Dr. Jill Bolted Taylor (she has an amazing story!) "Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space." I work at a school, and we have this posted in various places around the building, reminding us to bring positive energy to each other as faculty and to our students. I really believe in this idea!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love this post! Such wisdom you have shared! Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  7. This was very timely for me. I feel like I've been in survival mode for months. But what I like best is what you say at the end. So often I feel shame for my pain, because someone has it worse or because I know that I should be doing all the things you mentioned. But all I'm really doing is using my precious energy trying to avoid the pain rather than just accepting it and using my energy to take steps toward other more healthy feelings/reactions. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  8. WOW Mara thank you so much for this! I feel that personally I deal with difficult situations quite well.... but this gives me an entirely new perspective. There is definitely A LOT I still need to work on! It's so unbelievably refreshing to imagine having this kind of control over our energy, emotions, reactions, etc. Sometimes when I imagine changing these things in myself, I am completely overwhelmed because it seems impossible. But knowing that you have worked on it and seen success, ESPECIALLY after the things you've been through, gives me so much hope! Thank you for explaining this so beautifully and for helping me look at things in another light. As always, you are inspiring :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for this thoughtful and uplifting post, Mara. I am in a relationship that I am fairly certain is just not a good fit for either of us, and I am beating myself up constantly for being the one who will end it, and only thinking of the good things that we will lose.

    This was particularly meaningful for me: "Instead, lean into it. Be grateful for it. Decide you'll let it help you to progress. Learning to transform the pain is NECESSARY in order for us to feel freedom, to feel redemption, to feel progress, to feel triumphant. We cannot learn and grow without it."

    ReplyDelete
  10. I love this post today. I have been actively working on this all week. After an unfortunate head injury at the gym (I know, so much for doing the body good!) I have been at home all week with a moderate concussion. I don't have the vacation to cover this leave and started the week feeling pretty sorry for myself. Add on the fact that Minnesota is NOT experiencing Spring, yet, and well. I was kind of in the dumps.

    BUT, I decided to take another attitude. And I am happy I did. Here is what I have learned from my week in convalescence:

    I love to nap
    I love to make breakfast, lunch and dinner for my husband
    I love to look at my dog
    I love to read Julia Reed books
    I love to wear the same outfit for several days in a row
    I don't love to watch TV
    I love NOT wearing makeup
    I still think I look pretty good despite having two major black eyes
    I love to putz around the house

    The list could really go on. But the point is, that I have decided to have a positive attitude, even though I am injured, don't feel well, can't work out and it is like 30 degrees and snowing on April 18th. I am grateful that I can feel this way. I think it is a true gift to be able use your energy towards producing positive thoughts.

    Katie

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm not sure this is a real response to work/life balance debates in the media... which I have followed very closely, as I work in a hyper-demanding male-dominated profession that is not hospitable to working parents. Those concerns are about restructuring workplaces and societal structures, which currently DO have a negative impact on even the best-intentioned, smartest, most level-headed people. It's not about planning every single week down to the second.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon - thanks so much for pointing this out. I agree - two different things. I've seen writing about people's individual quests for balance with their jobs, duties, schedules and kids, etc. and then there's the conversation about restructuring workplaces and actually making time available for employees to still function within a family. I support both of these efforts wholeheartedly!

      And actually, my message here is one that can still help in those situations where a workplace isn't family friendly. I've personally applied my steps to some of the most unfriendly work environments you could imagine and it's still been very successful. The idea is, the internal balance can still be present, even when the circumstances are not ideal. Though, of course, just because someone can achieve internal balance doesn't mean you don't still seek positive changes in your environment, situation, or workplace. But by owning your own power, you can actually have a GREATER influence for good and bring about GREATER change in organizations, families, relationships, etc., etc.

      Sorry to ramble on. And thanks for the comment. I kind of wish I had clarified your point in the post.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for responding! Definitely agree that, if we come from a place of balance within ourselves, we can be much more powerful agents for social change :)

      Delete
  12. Mara, this is brilliant. I've been looking for a way to approach those moments where I instantly feel irritated, upset, etc..and how to apply the things you teach. Viewing those things as an opportunity and honoring them is exactly what I needed to hear in order to start really applying these things. I'm a grateful person, always. I feel pretty confident in that. I am able to find gratitude in my trials, but in trying to choose happiness, I've noticed that I feel guilty when I get upset over something instead of slowing down. Even if my immediate reaction isn't what I'd hoped, I can either waste energy feeling guilty about it, or spend energy thinking about the opportunity it provides. THANK YOU!

    ReplyDelete
  13. What a great post. One of my favorites! It reminds me of Ekhart Tolle's philosophy: If you don't like the situation you're in, change it. And if you can't, accept it as if you had chosen it. Work with it, not against it.

    It's such a simple and sensible concept, but it takes a lot of effort and awareness, especially initially I assume, to remember that the negativity isn't worth it. I struggle everyday putting it into practice, but it's coming along little by little.

    I also like the quote floating around Pinterest from Virginia Woolf: "You cannot find peace by avoiding life."

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love this, so so much. I want to print it out and put it on my bathroom mirror. And to think you learned all this, Mara, in the last 5 years. I have been trying for so many years to learn what I need to learn, but it takes me much longer. Thank you, thank you. What a blessing you are.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love this. I really do. And it's exactly what I'm needing right now, because I've been feeling so negative lately.
    I have a question though, and maybe I missed it somewhere entirely. At the end you point out how pain, anger, irritation, etc. are actually okay and how we can grow from them, and then you expounded on pain. I would love to have more of your insight on how to...I don't know...make anger and irritation a good thing and not a bad thing? Use it positively instead of negatively? I don't know how to explain what I'm trying to ask. Am I making any sense at all?
    I find myself getting more and more irritated, and getting irritated quicker. I'm not a mother yet, but I want to be very soon and this is something that I want under control before I have a little person to take care of.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I took this this way... not that somehow tricking yourself or changing the reality that pain and agony are good things, and NOT bad things. They are of course negative things, but just like light cannot exist without dark, the writer was making the point that with pain, anger, etc. we are reminded of the good things in life. Instead of wallowing in the inevitable negative circumstances in life, realize the opportunity to be REMINDED of our own reaction and energy, which can be positive. It goes back to her statement about "pursuing something better". You now are empowered to do that, and pain is necessary and the simple reminder that I can react positively to this situation, I can triumph, I can change and make myself better because pain does exist in this world. BUT, MY pain, is a path to victory, to deliverance over it and an inevitable but constant reminder that with my mind, I will overcome and be better and GROW because of it.

      Delete
    2. My gosh Michael...AMAZINGLY SAID!

      Delete
  16. When I first read this post, I felt frustrated. Frustrated by my situation and frustrated because I could not find it in myself to change my attitude. I'll admit I found myself wondering if managing my energy in a positive way no matter what the situtation was unrealistic. I thought all of these things as I closed my browser, but something weird happened. Mara's words and even the comments of others stuck with me throughout the day.

    I don't think I even realized the impact it had on me until I was stuck behind an elderly driver on a windy back road. He was going 5 under the speed limit and passing him was not an option. Normally this would have sent me into a fit of rage (ridiculous, I know) but this time I took a deep breath before I let myself react. I acknowledged letting something so insignificant send me over the edge would be wasting precious energy and by 5 o' clock, I needed all the energy I had left to power through the rest of my day. To top it off, this was probably somebody's grandfather! Would I want anyone beeping and yelling at my grandmother? No way! That process alone felt empowering. And isn't it all about baby steps?

    Later that night, I found myself in a situation with my husband where I would usually lose my cool. We have been struggling through our relationship for a while now and I'll admit I think of myself as the victim a majority of the time. Instead of going with my knee jerk reaction, I took Mara's advice and turned the tables. I tried to understand why he was treating me a certain way and acknowledging that HE may be going through something that I cannot understand. Instead of getting angry with him, why not try to help him through it?

    I think what helped me the most (and especially after I re-read the post this morning) is the part where she says it is okay to feel anger and pain and sadness. I think these are all healthy emotions as long as we do not let them consume us. I will surely have my weak moments where I let my frustration get the best of me and handle myself in a less than desirable way. We are human after all. I think the key is to let yourself be human, move on from our mistakes and vow to do better next time. Tomorrow is a new day and just because I can manage my energy poorly today doesn't mean I won't manage it better the next day. Chances are I will learn a lot along the way.

    So thank you, Mara.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I love this concept. It could be life changing. I would love to hear more--perhaps a post "A Day in the Life of Mara's Energy" with more examples of how you respond to what's thrown your way...? I've started working on managing my emotional responses, and while I certainly haven't mastered it just being conscious of the idea that I have a limited amount of energy, and I'd better use it wisely, has been an incredibly useful paradigm shift. Thank you, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like this idea! I'll see what I can do! thank you...

      Delete
  18. Spot on Mara, spot on. PS Totally off topic, but where did you get the scarf in the last picture of you? Is it one of those from women in Africa? Please do tell. Also, the RS lesson yesterday went very well, I think the idea of pursuing virtues in the midst of trials was a very effective tool to teach. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Shiloh! So glad the lesson went well!! So -the scarf is actually a thin Turkish towel from a shop called Banyo in Park Slope. I am obsessed with that place and am doing a post on it in about a week or so. They are just about to open up their online shopping.

      Delete
  19. Profound and so needed. Thank you. I used to be really good at not letting small things get to me. Then I had 4 kids. And I love them to pieces, but I have gotten into the bad habit of feeling justified in reacting with anger at all of the million things that can and DO go wrong. And taking all of that as a sign (both that they made the mistakes, and my negative reaction to them) that I was a horrible parent. I have already been trying to work on this and be better, but this helped me understand the problem from a different perspective, and the additional insight is so helpful and inspiring. So.. thanks for sharing. :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Can't say anything more...You've said it all...So wisely...Thank you Mara!
    Hugs :)

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thank you for your blog :) I get more about the work/life balance. And found the best idea on how to balance your life and managing energy. Great idea! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  22. What an excellent blog. Thanks for being so generous with all you have to share.

    I have found meditation is extremely helpful. Its not chanting or positive mantras but just listening and being aware to whats going on inside of your head. The thing I have found is that it is not just about how you feel after you have done this-but that there is a cumulative effect. Over time the practice of observe thoughts and feelings and then calming watching them pass, changes the way you react to things when you are not meditating and dealing with everyday life. Its also taught me that when I respect that my body is telling me I'm tired, and I don't push past it, but stop, I have far more energy later.

    Full Catastrophe Living by is a great book by John Kabat-Zinn about dealing with stress and includes a CD of guided meditation.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Got to this thru a friend and it came to me in such a timely manner that I can not even explain. I used to be good managing my energy and used to be really cool even in most hard times, or so I thought... But in the last 2 years somehow I lost it, I didn't quite know how to get it back until I read your post.
    Now I need to get to work on this, to be happy again.
    Thank you so very much!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Mara, I love your approach to this ever-present topic. Your insight is so real and shines a whole new light on the topic. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I just pinned this post. It is FABULOUS!

    ReplyDelete
  26. So insightful! What I get from your post is that emotional response is energy and the more response you give to something, the less energy you'll have to respond to things that matter most.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Saved this one a while ago, and just wanted to let you know that it continues to speak to me, friend! Love your insight and helpful tips, and thank you for always being so open. :) XOXO

    ReplyDelete
  28. You are share great information, thanks for share this types of knowledge.we are giving services like Clara Ansel-Houle is a trained birth and postpartum doula, childbirth educator, and yoga instructor who provide services in Edmonton and the surrounding area. If you want to know more please click here
    Clara - postnatal yoga training

    ReplyDelete

We love hearing from you! We read each and every comment. Any topics you’d like us to write about? Let us know.

Hostgator Promo Code