Many people I know complain about how they can’t achieve a “work life balance”. This too is something that I am constantly struggling with, especially since the arrival of my twin boys 12 months ago.
I think that sometimes we have to accept that this utopia is not always achievable, but the pursuit for this seemingly impossible happiness is more about the journey you take then wondering when you will arrive at the destination.
Finding the correct balance is a complex dynamic that is different for each individual, and more importantly, actually doing something to improve this balance is harder than simply talking about your inability to achieve it.
I recently read the following quote on a staff members office wall:
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said:
Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
Needless to say I liked what I read. Not only did I like it, it really struck a chord with me. I found myself saying out loud to no one in particular: “he’s right.”
It also reminded me of a story I read a while ago about the fisherman and the businessman:
There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village. As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite few big fish.
The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so many fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink and we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”
The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”
The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
I guess the simple fact here is that we seem to spend our whole life working hard in the pursuit for the simple pleasures that one day we may possible achieve. When we could have some of these things right now, if we just re-adjust our priorities a little.
I am not sure of the origins of the fisherman story, but here is where I shamelessly stole the above version:
If you stop me in the street and ask me about what I am passionate about I would simply answer in one word: ‘change’
I would then bore you for about an hour with a rant about what I believe change really means and how we too often willingly accept something without ever questioning it, simply because that is always the way it has been. [see my previous post about Transformational Learning]
Spending your life looking for ways you can change the world is not very practical. But you can focus on the things that you can control. It’s these things that you should question if change is possible or required.
Here is a recent example.
My wife and I were travelling with Miss 2-and-a-half. We stopped for lunch at a well known sandwich bar in a shopping centre. We each ordered a sandwich, a drink and Miss 2-and-a-half had the ‘kids special’.
We sat down and enjoyed our lovely lunch no more than 3 metres from where we purchased it. Once finished I bundled up all the rubbish and threw it in the bin. I was amazed at the amount of packaging that was used and it’s very short lifespan. It literally filled a fairly large plastic bag!!
We didn’t need each sandwich individually wrapped in paper and then placed in a paper bag. We also didn’t need that paper bag put inside a plastic bag just to carry it the 3 metres to where we were eating.
I saw it as nothing more than useless waste. Could I change this? Could I change the amount of waste I create by simply thinking about what packaging I am using?
After spending a weekend away with my wife and Miss 2-and-a-half, I was taking the rubbish to the bin as we were on our way to check out. During a two night stay we managed to create 2 shopping bags worth of rubbish that was going to end up on a tip somewhere.
Time to change.
Be the change you want to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi
I can initiate, implement and reflect upon this change simply because I control how much packaging I require and I control how much waste I create. I am going to start actively questioning how much packaging I use and how much waste I create.
Don’t be mistaken in thinking that this post is about an individual’s plight to save the world one unused plastic bag at a time, because it is not. This post is about seeing something in your life, something that you control and seeing a need to change it. This could be at work or at home. It could be to do with your health, how much time you spend with your family or how you react to a situation.
If you can control it, you can change it. The question is, should you change it? And that question is the whole reason behind this post. You don’t know if you need to change something you control unless you actively question if change is possibly or required. The act of questioning is the important catalyst behind all change.