Hi Grounded Warrior readers!
My name is Aileen and I’m a Holistic Career and Health Coach, and Founder of Aspire with Aileen. When I lead work life balance workshops, or connect with clients about their struggles in this space, instead of starting the conversation with my own strategies, I invite others to get clear on their values first. I begin here because our values are major keys to understanding how we, personally, can live a more balanced or aligned life. When we know what truly matters to us, we’re better able to assess what needs more (or less!) of our attention, and can then decide how to take action.
You can start clarifying your values with this basic activity: Make a list of what matters to you – this can be really specific (“making ______ amount of dollars per year”) and/or broad (“my family”). Then examine how you spend the majority of your days in a typical week. How many of your values are integrated into your regular activities?
This sounds simple but many people are floored by how much disconnect they find between what they care about and how they spend their days! When you’re done, ask yourself: Does your life, as it is now, provide space for what matters to you? If not, what shifts, big or small, can you make to change that?
Some of my core values are: nurturing my relationships, moving and fueling my body mindfully, and doing meaningful work (for me, that’s defined as being of service to others). Everything I do to balance work, life, and wellness comes back to my perspective that these areas are incredibly interconnected. I believe that happiness in our careers makes us healthier, and that when we’re healthier we’re better able to manage our lives both in and outside of the office.
Whether personal or professional, I try to make sure I’m making an effort to schedule face time, instead of just reacting to outreach from others. When in conversation, I also do everything in my power to be fully present and engaged, which means putting the cell phone away.
At home, we manage this with our full calendars by aiming to eat dinner together as many nights as possible, without computers/TV’s/phones on. I’m half Puerto Rican and there’s a concept called “sobremesa” that essentially translates to the time spent after a meal when you’re simply chatting and enjoying each other’s company. I’ve always loved this and think of meals as more than just the food on our plates.
Moving and Fueling My Body Mindfully
Speaking of food, this concept applies to how I eat as well. Eating is clearly a non-negotiable on the to-do list, but instead of rushing through it to get what’s next, I focus on really chewing and limiting other activities. Even if it’s just for a few moments, I find I’m much better able to tune into what (and how much) I actually want to eat, and my digestion is better off as well!
While I schedule my workouts to ensure I make time for them, I also listen to my body. I check in to see how I’m feeling each day, and do the movement I need/am craving instead of what I think I “should” do.
Doing Meaningful Work
This, to me, is most important because of the sheer amount of time we spend at our jobs. Senior year of college, I worked with a career coach to change paths and discover what options integrated with my values, interests, and skills. I found this path and now I do what I love every day (help people!). Even though the tasks are never-ending, because of this alignment, my job is more fulfilling than draining.
Overall, my approach to balance is to be as mindful as possible about what matters to me so I can spend my days in alignment. I find meditating, talking with my own coaches, and scheduling formal check-ins with myself help me cultivate the mindfulness and self-awareness I need to live my version of a balanced life.