How to Achieve a Balanced Life

When Nigel Marsh turned 40, he decided to turn his life around and address the thorny issue of work/life balance. He took a year-long sabbatical from work to spend at home with his wife and four young children, and discovered that it is quite easy to balance work and life…when you don’t have any work.

Since that time, he returned to the workforce, wrote several books on work/life balance, and now travels the world sharing his discoveries. Check out his TEDx Talk below and learn how to change your life and make room for it all.

4 Observations on the Pursuit of Work/Life Balance

During his hiatus from work, Marsh discovered four key observations about the pursuit of work/life balance in today’s busy world.

  1. First, Marsh says that society needs an honest debate. What is the true cause of work/life imbalance? Many companies try to compensate for this imbalance by providing perks at work, like casual Fridays or happy hour. But, to quote Marsh, “the core issue is that certain career and choices are fundamentally incompatible with being meaningfully engaged on a day-to-day basis a young family.” Marsh says that thousands of people work long, hard hours at jobs they hate, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t like. Going to work on Friday in jeans and a T-shirt doesn’t fix this. If this sounds like you, the first step to achieving a better work/life balance is to assess your priorities. Do you find meaning in your work, or do you simply work to buy stuff you don’t even need?
  2. Marsh’s next observation is that it’s our responsibility to take control of our lives. Governments and corporations aren’t going to give us the balance we crave. In fact, if we don’t design our life, someone else will design it for us—and not necessarily to our liking. Never put the quality of your life in the hands of a commercial corporation, says Marsh. Doing so is fundamentally flawed, because even if the company is exceptionally caring, commercial companies are nevertheless designed to get as much out of you that they can. It’s what they do. For example, on the one hand childcare in the workplace is wonderful, but on the other hand it just makes you spend more time at the office. Instead, Marsh says that we are responsible for setting and enforcing our own boundaries.
  3. Third, we must be careful with the timeframe that we choose upon which to judge our ideal balance. Be realistic. We can’t do it all in one day, but waiting until retirement is too long. There has to be a middle path—a period of time to become balanced that is longer than a day but shorter than a lifetime.
  4. Finally, Marsh suggests that we approach balance in a balanced way. There are other parts to life besides work and home balance. We must also consider our physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual well-beings. Although it feels daunting to attend to all of those areas, Marsh submits that doing so will improve our lives substantially.

Apply these observations to your life

Consider the current imbalance in your life, and apply the above observations to those areas:

  1. What is the honest reason behind this imbalance? Do you put too much weight on less-important activities? Can you cut back on those and move that focus toward more important places?
  2. Who controls your current work/life balance? Have you left it up to your employer? That might be why you feel disappointed. Take steps today to regain control of your own balance. Remember, you are responsible for setting and enforcing the limits in your life.
  3. Are you realistic in your expectations? Just because you decided yesterday to find a better balance between work and life doesn’t mean you will suddenly achieve that balance today. Try listing the areas that you want to improve, and work on one area per week until you see progress.
  4. Balance your idea of balance. True life balance is not just juggling work and home. Consider other areas of your life that need attention. Even though it seems daunting, the results of achieving true balance will be worth it in the end.

Make Small Investments in Key Areas

Achieving true work/life balance takes dedication. It’s not something that magically happens overnight. However, that doesn’t mean it’s difficult. Marsh recalls how an afternoon with his son doing simple activities (going to the park, having pizza, reading bedtime stories), became the child’s “best day of [his] life.” To quote Marsh, “being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval.” Small changes can make a huge difference.

Marsh believes that the smallest investments in the right places can transform your life. And when more people transform their lives in this way, we will actually transform society. That’s because we will change society’s definition of success. It will no longer matter how much money you acquire or how nice a car you drive, but instead whether you lived well. So start living well today!

About The Author

Camille Fairbanks

Camille Fairbanks was born and raised in Arizona and now resides in Lethbridge, AB. She received her BA in English from the University of Lethbridge; she now raises her children and her garden full time, and enjoys writing about minimalism and the Zero Waste lifestyle on her blog, The Non-Waster.