I have MASTERED the work life balance dilemma. You read that correctly. Mastered it.
You see this topic all over Pinterest. Women seem to be searching and hunting for this secret formula to help them feel more balanced their lives. That makes me sad. In the next 3 posts, in 3 simple steps, I am going to teach you how I mastered work life balance in my own life. I have been incorporating these practices in my life for almost a decade now. The allusive "balance" is easier than you think. Let me show you how.
STEP 1: DEFINE YOUR TRIANGLE
Most women think of the balance dilemma as 2 categories. Imagine a page of paper that you just tore out of a spiral notebook. You pull out your trusty yellow no. 2 pencil, with the chewed up eraser on the end, and draw a nice straight line down the middle of the page. One the top of the left side column you nicely print "Work." On the right side column you title it "Life." WRONG! And here's the difference in your drawing and my drawing.
My drawing is not 2 columns. My drawing is an equilateral triangle. All sides, points and angles are equal. On one point of my triangle I wrote "Work. On another point I wrote "Life." Now here is the difference. One the last point of my triangle, I wrote "Play."
I give Play equal importance in my life. Play is just as important in my life, and the life of my family, as Work and Life.
In Brené Brown's book, The Gifts of Imperfection, she quotes Dr Stuart Brown.
"...play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation."
"...play is not an option."
"The opposite of play is not work - the opposite of play is depression."
I grew up in a family that would play. We would spontaneously go on adventures around the Midwest. We would impulsively drive from my grandparent's home in Southwest Michigan to Chicago because my dad was craving a Chicago style hot dog. As a family, with one set of grandparents along, we took a 2 week road trip to San Francisco when I was 7 years old and my brother was 5. We saw just about every national monument and national park from way up through Montana and then back down through Texas and Missouri. That trip changed my life and my view on life. It left a huge imprint on how important play is.
"Play" can and should look like different things at different points in your life. Play does not mean sitting down and playing with legos...unless that's your jam. It could be knitting, taking fine arts classes, letting your kids decide what to do for play every Saturday, improving your iPhone photography, going to all the festivals in your area, watching historical documentaries, trying out every winery in your area, swimming a couple of times a week, setting a concrete walking or brunching time and day with your tribe, etc. What seems like fun to you? To your family? That is your play point on your triangle.
Play for me over the years, has looked like running 5ks, 10ks, Half Marathons and Sprint Triathlons. It has looked like acquiring my 100 hour Yoga Teacher Training certification so I could learn about my love of yoga on a deeper level. It has currently evolved into to adventuring and road tripping with my family, a way to harken back to that epic family road trip of my youth.
Play feeds your soul. Work and Life can, at times, deplete your soul. It is imperative that you refill the well of your soul with joy, fun and play. Life should not be so serious and scheduled all the time. Meetings, playdates and lessons oh my! If your child has a soccer practice on Tuesday nights, bring your yoga mat and get some outdoor yoga in. If play looks like reading a novel, bring your novel along to your daughter's ballet practice and find a quiet corner.
ACTION ITEM: Block your calendar with non-negotiable play time. My ENTIRE month of October is blocked every year for only play and family traditions and adventures. We say no to almost everything else. You have to EARN your way onto my calendar in October.
ACTION ITEM: Write a list of 5-10 activities you loved to do as a child or have always wanted to do as an adult. Now narrow that list down to 2 activities you are really interested in, curious about, or at one point recently in your life have said "I wish I could just..." This week or this weekend, choose 1 of those 2 activities and do it. Just do it as Nike says. (Do they still say that or am I dating myself?)
DEFINE YOUR TRIANGLE
Play deserves equal weight in your life. It will make you happier. More creative. Less stressed. Have more energy. It does not have to be costly. Library books are free. It does not need to make sense. Your close family members may not understand, who the heck cares! Play because you crave joy in your life and your soul's wellness is important to you.
I would love to hear what Play means to all of you! Have fun. Now get out there and PLAY!