What is the balance between your work and other aspects of your life? Do you spend too much time working or thinking about work at the expense of other things? Do you have the skills and environment to make your working life satisfying?
Having a balanced life involves welcoming a range of aspects into your life. In particular, we function well and have satisfying lives when our various emotional needs are broadly met in balance. The most fundamental human emotional needs are these:
- Security/safe territory: In finance, home, job, relationships
- Autonomy and control: Volition to allow us to make responsible choices in and outside the workplace
- Attention: Both giving and receiving sufficient quantities
- Competence and achievement: In our job, hobbies and home life (self-esteem)
- Status: Whether at work and/or home, with our hobbies and/or in social groups
- A sense of meaning and purpose: Including being stretched
- Being part of a wider community: Recognising that we are social creatures
- Friendship and fun: Including having at least one person who accepts us warts and all
- Emotional connection: Fostering ties to others
- Privacy (and the time and space in which to enjoy it): In order to rest, reflect and consolidate learning
Our work environment often meets many of these needs, but relying too much on one source can put you at risk of difficulties if anything goes wrong with that source for any reason. It is a good idea to invest time in building a wide range of sources to meet our needs, in case one of the existing sources is unable to provide support at that time. It’s a little like a hammock, where each string provides an element of support. The more strings there are, the more stable things remain even if one or more strings break or become less reliable.
If we consider each of our needs to see how well they are met in our work, personal and social lives, respectively, we can identify where any particular need could be better met and what we can then do to improve the degree of its fulfilment. A general review or life audit is worth doing from time to time, especially when we are under particular stresses. Stresses typically arise because of a low scale in fulfilment of one or more needs at a particular time or because we are misusing our imagination (i.e. worrying without applying problem-solving skills). So, being clear about the need which is not being met in balance gives us the opportunity to develop the existing source or, instead, to draw on or build another source so we can meet that need elsewhere.
We have various innate resources which allow us to ensure that our needs are met. These are the ability to learn and add new knowledge to innate knowledge (that is, having both a memory and the ability to forget); curiosity, imagination and the ability to problem solve; the ability to focus and redirect attention; the ability to understand through metaphor (known as pattern-matching); self-awareness and being an observing self; resilience; the ability to empathise and connect with others; and a dreaming brain that debriefs the emotional brain every night, thereby keeping us sane. We have immense inner resources to tackle difficulties and recognising and practising how best to use these will allow us to take better control over our lives.