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Feb 13, 2024

Work to Live or Live to Work?

Written by Mariateresa Romeo

Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

(D. Parton)

Work-life balance is more a mindset than an equation to solve. It is how we approach events, regardless if we can control and foresee them, make decisions that honor our needs and desires, and maintain an honest and deep look into our lives.

We live most of our adult lives managing compromises and relentlessly pursuing the perfect balance between professional accomplishments and “everything else.” In “everything else,” each includes their affective lives, time for loved ones, and other aspects that make them unique and fulfilled, such as passions, hobbies, self-care, and spiritual growth.

I am not a big fan of the term “work-life balance” because it assumes an even distribution of the weight (or time) between work and personal life. Most importantly, achieving a balance is often misinterpreted as a situation in which we achieve perfection, as we can find the secret recipe to plan, foresee, and sort everything out correctly.
Life is also made of unexpected and unpredictable small and big events. Instead of finding a balance between work and everything else, we should develop the ability to navigate these events and continuously adjust our focus and effort to make the best of our lives.
However, the risk of completely dedicating ourselves to our careers is real. We often sacrifice time for ourselves and our family and friends, thinking we have unlimited control of our lives and will be satisfied only when we get that promotion, make that money, or our business flourishes.
In my career, I met several successful professionals who were forced to revisit their priorities because of unexpected events, such as illness or losing a loved one. Others struggled to retire and preferred to age at work for fear of facing the fact that they didn’t build anything besides their career.

How can we realize if we live to work instead of working to live?



Here are my three warning signs you should look at.

1. Health issues

Our bodies never lie. Insomnia, palpitations, digestive problems, headaches, and other illnesses that last several months or become chronic are clear signs that we are forcing our bodies beyond our limits and not taking enough care of them.

“I know I should stop, but I can’t” is the most common answer we give ourselves and others when we feel overwhelmed or are suggested to slow down and rest.

2. Lack of purpose

We deceive ourselves into thinking that having a goal means having a purpose. Building a successful business or growing our company can help us make our lives meaningful, but having a purpose is more than that. Pursuing our purpose means using our skills to contribute to something greater than ourselves that will benefit others and make the world a better place. It is something we achieve with our work and not only. We pursue it in several ways, affecting all aspects of our lives, not only the professional ones. It is finding our “why.”
If you are approaching the end of your career and don’t know what you will do after you retire or feel you are losing your reason for being, that’s a sign you need to refocus on your purpose.

3. Poor quality of life

How much do we enjoy our lives? And pay attention. I am not asking how much we are good at our job or how many compliments we get from others. I am referring to the enjoyment, fun, meaningful relationships, new experiences, and all the things that make us feel alive and wish to do more.

When was the last time we did something for the first time? Or when was the last time we laughed out loud with someone? When was the last time we took a vacation and disconnected from our work-related duties?

Answering those questions will help us realize if we neglect essential aspects of our lives.

As said at the beginning of this post, shifting focus, developing that mindset to effectively navigate events, and living life to the fullest are abilities that can be learned. They require good self-awareness, continuous commitment, and, sometimes, qualified coaching support to look at things from a different perspective and review our decisions and life choices.

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