The Secret to Work-Life Balance

“If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘thank you,’ it will be enough.”
Meister Eckhart


How Much is EnoughA turtle was crossing a path in New York’s Central Park when he was ambushed by a gang of snails. He was beaten up and robbed. After it was all over, a mounted policeman happened along and asked the turtle what had gone on.

“I don’t know what to say, officer,” the turtle replied. “It all happened so fast.”

Do you ever feel that way? That your life and your work are happening so fast that your once cherished work-life balance is now nothing more than a distant memory? I find that to be the case with most of my clients. They really want a career that works and a life that is satisfying, but they just don’t know how to keep on juggling all their priorities. That’s why the 6th KEY in my “Journey to the Extraordinary” is BALANCE.

In fact I invite you to join us at the next off-site “Journey to the Extraordinary.”  Click here for more information.

You don’t have to have a career that feels overfilled, overstressed, and overwhelmed. There are several strategies you can implement that will give you more control and more balance. But that means you will have to DO something about your present situation … or take some ACTION. As author Anthony Robbins says, “The one thing that separates the winners from the losers is winners take action!”

And in a similar fashion, you don’t have to have a personal life that seems out of control. You don’t have to have a life that feels like the one comedian Ray Romano talked about. Romano said, “Everyone should have kids. They are life’s greatest joy in the world. But they are also terrorists. You’ll realize this as soon as they’re born and they start using sleep deprivation to break you.”

So how can you start to get more healthy work-life balance?

1. Decide how much is enough.

I find that many people live their lives and do their jobs on autopilot. They just go from day to day, week to week, and year to year without giving any thought to what they really, Really, REALLY want. At best, they have some vague goal of “getting ahead.” Before they know it, they’re on some kind of treadmill that “may” give them more “stuff” but not necessarily more balance.

How much is enough for you? It almost sounds unAmerican to ask that question. We’ve all been taught that we should be in a constant battle to get more stuff that is bigger and better. But my wife and I confronted that question years ago when it came to my speaking schedule around the world. We realized I could double or triple my income by traveling more and speaking more, but the cost on our marriage would be too high. We had to decide “how much was enough” for us and learn to say “no” after that. That decision has paid off for us in a thousand ways.

So let’s get personal. How much is enough for you? Are you the unhappy, discontented king or the joyful, singing servant?

You see … once upon a time, there lived a King who, despite his luxurious lifestyle, was neither happy nor content.

One day, the King came upon a servant who was singing happily while he worked. This confused the King; why was he, the Supreme Ruler of the Land, unhappy and gloomy, while a lowly servant had so much joy? The King asked the servant, “Why are you so happy?”

The man replied, “Your Majesty, it’s true; I am a servant, but my family and I don’t need too much. Just a roof over our heads and warm food to fill our tummies.”

The king was still confused, so he sought the advice of his most trusted advisor. After hearing the King’s woes and the servant’s story, the advisor said, “Your Majesty, I believe that the servant has not been made part of ‘The 99 Club’.”

“The 99 Club? And what exactly is that?” the King inquired.

The advisor replied, “Your Majesty, to truly know what ‘The 99 Club’ is, place 99 gold coins in a bag and leave it at the servant’s doorstep.”

When the servant saw the bag, he took it into his house. When he opened the bag, he let out a great shout of joy. So many gold coins! He began to count them. After several counts, he wondered, “What could have happened to that last gold coin? Surely, no one would leave 99 coins! They would leave an even 100.” He looked everywhere he could, but that 100th coin was elusive. Finally, exhausted he decided that he would have to work harder than ever to earn that gold coin and complete his collection.

From that day on, the servant’s life was changed. He was overworked, horribly grumpy, and castigated his family for not helping him make that 100th gold coin. He stopped singing while he worked.

Witnessing this drastic transformation, the King was puzzled. When he sought his advisor’s help, the advisor said, ‘Your Majesty, ‘The 99 Club’ is a name given to those people who have enough to be happy but are never contented, because they’re always yearning and striving for that one extra thing. They’re saying to themselves, “WHEN I get that one final thing, THEN I will be happy.”

You see … you can be happy, even with very little in your life, but the minute you’re given something bigger and better, you’re tempted to want even more! You lose your precious work-life balance. You lose your sleep and your happiness, and you may even hurt the people around you … all in an attempt to satisfy your growing needs and desires. That’s “The 99 club.”

To have the healthy work-life balance you want, need, crave, and deserve, start by deciding “how much is enough” for you?

And then…

2. Force yourself to take breaks.

If you’re a typical person, you’re never going to have the time to relax and refuel. You have to make time. As I’ve learned, if you don’t MAKE time for relaxation, your body will TAKE time for stress and disease. It’s your choice.

Choose to take breaks. And when you feel especially overwhelmed and simply do not have the time, that’s the time you most need to take a break. As Kevin Carey, one of my “Journey to the Extraordinary” participants and a Senior Manager of Internal Audit from the Time Warner Company, related, “My own personal relaxation time is lunch. I either go by myself and read non-work material or go with a group of people that all understand that lunch is personal time and that work-related discussions won’t be tolerated. I find that I’m much more refreshed after these types of lunches and in a better mood when I get home.”

Very practical advice.

However you do it, you must build some break time or escape time into your schedule. If you take off 20 minutes a day or one day month, to really rejuvenate you, you’ve got to unplug … which will be extremely difficult in the beginning but very rewarding in the long run. That means … during that break time … you do absolutely nothing related to business…not one phone call or opening one email.

Too many people compromise on this standard and they wonder why they’re worn out. They define “time off” as taking their mobile phone with them everywhere, answering incoming phone calls, and making a few calls of their own. And they have a fax machine at home as well as their business email always turned on … just in case something important comes up.

Call it what you want … but that will do little to nothing to recharge your batteries. You’re still on call and a long way from being unplugged. You’ve got to value yourself enough to take some real time off and recharge your batteries … so you have more to give your company, your customers, and your family tomorrow.

There’s two strategies to help you get greater work-life balance. Which are you going to start with?


Sit down and think … seriously … as to how much is enough for you.