“I believe that one defines oneself by reinvention. To not be like your parents. To not be like your friends. To be yourself. To cut yourself out of stone.” – Henry Rollins
I believe that work should always be a part of your life, and not your entire life. The principle is simple: when you love something, your quality improves because your name is attached to it.
With just a simple search, one can find millions of results on the importance of a Work-Life Balance. Rather than rehashing the same information, I’ll assume that you have a solid understanding of what it is and why we need it. Even Sir Richard Branson has recently wrote a piece about Work-Life Balance on LinkedIn.
Alternatively, I would like to propose a different way of thinking. I say that you should start seeing that your work is an integral part of your life. Realize that work is not separate from everything else you do. It is a part of who you are.
You might be thinking “T.J., this is contrary to what I’ve read! Why would I want to let work infiltrate my personal life? You must be a workaholic!” I suggest this approach under the philosophy of putting your heart into everything. Alan Watts gives a beautiful speech on this very mindset. By having this life ethic, you will benefit from an improvement in your personal focus, personal confidence, and better performance in all facets of life.
Define your “Self”
Humans are social creatures. We all have friends, family, pets, and interests that we explore. For example, I have a kitten, enjoy art, music and science fiction. This is just one facet of who I am. But it does not define me. Just like work.
Insert cute cat-tion here.
In my average work day, I wear many hats; – QA Tester, Lead, Teacher, Student… the list goes on and on. But one thing remains the same: I am the one wearing the hat.
We are the sum of all our experiences. This is how we develop our ethics, skills, core values, and sense of individual identity.
The Self is both a matter of identity, and a matter of presentation. For example, a friend of mine: Martin Atkins, has spent over thirty years cultivating his personal brand. He has played drums for several bands, founded his own record label, and wrote a few books. He uses his experience to educate musicians on how to push their business (their bands) forward. Things such as promotional activities and navigating the legal world, to increasing personal motivation – normally very dull topics. But he has a genius way to combat this. In some of his lectures, he throws blueberry muffins at the crowd to get their attention and keep it. Most people don’t even consider embedding their brand of humor into their work. This approach further cements my argument.
Martin, speaking at WGN-Chicago studio.
On his various outlets of Social Media, he talks about both his business, and personal goings on. His personal ethics are imbued in his work. His ethics and values are clearly an important part of his Self, and he doesn’t shy away from them in his work. He lives by his mantra of “Get the ****** out of Bed!” And it shows.
Why does this matter? Mr. Atkins has established his credibility through hard work and dedication to his passions. People listen to him because he has a proven track record. He has a proven track record because he invests his Self into his work. He will not put his name on something unless he believes in it. This is how all of us should in all our endeavors.
Putting Yourself in Your Work
I believe that it is critical to always give 100% in everything you do. Humans are not mindless drones built for the routine. This fosters burnout.
When burnout strikes, the first thing you should do is determine why. Is it something such as a desire to do other things? Be someplace else? Do you have a lot of errands that make your day hectic? The goal of this is to overcome obstacles preventing you from having a happy life. When one facet of your life is experiencing issues, it will bleed into all the others. This is how things start to break down. When one thing starts to break down, other things that it supports will break down too.
This is why I propose that you break down the barriers between all aspects of your life. The principle is simple: when your heart is in it, you will do better. Here are a few examples of techniques you can use to encourage this mindset:
- Learn to love learning for learning’s sake: Something interests you? Integrate it into your life. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment when you prove to yourself that you are a capable person. It makes taking on more challenges easier, as you are reducing anxieties and “what ifs?” that come up.
- Share your passions: My boss recently shared a couple websites with me in the interest of teaching me a few new tricks with images. I’ve already found that I will benefit from these sites in my personal pursuit of creating drawings and paintings.
- Learn about your peers: Your peers have lives too and you only see a small sliver of it. This helps build better relationships with your team.
- Bring your Self with you everywhere: Everything you know can be useful at some time or another. Recently, my passion for comic books revealed an amusing discovery: an advertisement for a Superman shirt displayed the words “Men’s Marvel Long Sleeve T-Shirt.” – Had I not known that Superman is DC, I would not have caught this. Domain knowledge is highly underrated.
- Step out of your comfort zone: Take every opportunity to do something new. You might be afraid, but, most times, you will come out the other end better for it. You will discover new (to you) things.
// Better focus, Less burnout, more pride in yourself, more pride in your workplace, improved skills, lower attrition, happy people, promotion of synergy (LIKE A BAWSS!)
The benefits of this approach are myriad. I, for one, feel very proud of both the product and the company I work for, as well as an improved retention of new skills.
Other potential benefits include:
- Happier people: People will be less worried about balancing acts, as they will be too busy enjoying life. Less preparation, more action.
- Less burnout: By not having to force yourself to separate and balance, you’ll be able to take on stressors without as much difficulty. You’ll have a clearer head when tackling obstacles.
- Lower attrition: Happy employees tend to stay longer. This is self explanatory.
- Improved Teamwork: Having a better understanding of your teammates allows you to understand more of their thought process, and makes resolution of disagreements, as well as brainstorming sessions much more productive.
Overall, a person should see how beneficial it is to embrace work as a part of themselves. Your work has your name on it. You should be proud of your efforts. And hey, if you are not, it gives you great insight on how to improve them so that you are. Just grab yourself a blueberry muffin, and get the heck out of bed!