Recently, I saw a post where someone said that work/life balance was bull$5iT, and as you can imagine, the chat discussion ensued. “Why are you so negative?” “Oh, I believe this 100%.” “Well, you can’t tell someone else what is for them?” The statement and comments got me thinking about how we define work/life balance for ourselves and how difficult it is for us to allow others to do the same.
A few years ago, I taught an online course from my cabin while sailing the Caribbean. Another time, I graded papers in the ship’s library. Both times, when I shared during dinner that I was heading to get some work done, my sharing was meant with disapproving comments and wrinkled brows.
A month ago, I was on another cruise. I stepped out of the elevator, laptop in hand, a woman walking by looked at my laptop and said, “Oh, you look like you’re about to do some work!” There was that smile and subtle yet disapproving tone again. I smiled back and responded, “Yes! Isn’t it wonderful that I can get work done while on a cruise ship?!” She looked surprised by my response. I made my way to the cafe. I’d been working about an hour or so when one of the two men sitting at the window across from me made eye contact. We smiled at each other, I nodded hello, and one gentleman said, “Oh my goodness… you’re working aren’t you!?” This was accompanied by slightly humorous yet identifiably disapproving facial expressions from both men. I laughed and said, “Yes. Isn’t it great that I can get work done while on this ship!?”
This time, my patented response wasn’t enough. These men felt compelled to voice how unfortunate it was that I couldn’t leave my work at home while on vacation. After all, it was supposed to be a vacation, right? This was a clear indication that my work/life balance situation was off … or something like that. I invited them to take in our surroundings, “Look at that incredible view. How can I feel bad about getting work done when I get to look out over this beautiful ocean?” They agreed that the view was beautiful, but they weren’t buying for one minute that I was “ok” with “having” to work while on vacation. I shared a bit more, “I will be on this trip for 8 days. I will return home for one week, and then, I will be off for 10 days to help a friend with a project in Ghana. Five days after returning from that trip, is a vacation with my mother. We will spend a few days in Australia before embarking on yet another jazz cruise. By my calculations that amounts to more than 3 weeks of vacation over the next 5 to 6 weeks and it’s just March. That being the case, I am perfectly happy getting some work done during my travels.” Their jaws dropped, and then one muttered, “Wow, I retired from my last job after 20 years, and I only had 3 weeks of vacation time.” Me, “Exactly!”
What Works for Me, Works for Me
You see, my trade-off isn’t a trade-off, it’s a choice. Matter-of-fact, it’s an answered prayer. Years ago, I read an article about working while on vacation. The author wrote, that he didn’t want a job, career, or a life that he had to escape from in the form of a vacation. That resonated with me. I actually wanted a way to earn money while on vacation. For me, the idea of balance is about flow. It’s me determining how well I can flow between roles and responsibilities … whether they be personal or professional? When I feel that I am transitioning fluidly and comfortably within or between the personal and professional, I’m at my best.
It Works Both Ways
I have also learned to turn business trips into mini getaways. I go in a day or two early or plan to stay a day or two longer. Then, I find places to go and things to do that allow me to learn about the history or the culture of the area. Sometimes, I create my own spa experiences right in my hotel room. My business partner has rightfully accused me of being able to turn almost anything into a vacation. He’s correct!
What Works for You?
Determine what works for YOU. Then, align your life so you can bring it into existence. Be ok with leaving everyone else to find the flow that gives them a sense of balance. This concept of balance is not one size fits all; nor, is about whether or not you use the word balance. It’s about you figuring out what “it,” whatever you want to call it, looks like and feels like in your life? There will still be challenges to face and problems to solve, but when you’re in your flow, you will trust in your ability to adapt. In your flow, you will use your energy and time more efficiently.
I Aim for Flow
I’m good with spending two hours having an incredible cup of coffee, in the lounge of a cruise ship sailing the Caribbean; making a call from Venice to check on a client; or getting on What’s App from Ghana to finalize a deliverable. All this reminded me that it’s time to update my 6-year-old vision board. On it, I put a section that reads, “My corner office has a great view.” The view is overlooking a pool at a resort. So, if you see me working while on vacation – celebrate me. This, was my vision. I’m growing comfortably into the future I designed for myself. My life is working for me. I’m flowing in my life’s stream. You get the idea…
Dr. Lisa Summerour is a transformational coach, speaker, author, and consultant. Her clients learn to give themselves permission to lead their best selves forward through accountability, self-care, and honest dialogue. Dr. Lisa’s clients are becoming speakers, entrepreneurs, embracers of change, and empowered by utilizing strengths they simply needed to acknowledge and nurture.