De-Stress Your Way out of Distress

Plunge into work-life balance with guts and conviction!

Posted Nov 05, 2013

I love jumping into cold water.

Well, wait. Let me back up. I love jumping into cold water with other people around.

Why? Because after thirty seconds of acclimation, I get to chuckle as my friends negotiate the inner fortitude to get themselves to do the very thing they just watched me do.

It’s a bit of a guilty pleasure, admittedly, but who doesn’t have those? And this feeling carries over into the aftermath of Radical Sabbatical, when Glen and I came home completely rewired and ready to live life on our own terms. It became music to our ears to hear people say, “I don’t know how you’re doing it.” How are you entrepreneurs working exclusively from home, they’d wonder? How are you shutting down every day at five?

How are you dictating your own vacation schedules and unplugging at will?

I’m not without envy of certain things, but the envy that people have expressed for the life we lead surely provides legitimacy for the risks and bold steps we’ve taken.

But see, I unfortunately can’t get you around the stark reality that dictating a life of your own is not possible without having the guts to make it happen so you can watch everyone trying to figure out how they are going to get in the pool with you.

So here are some bold steps you will likely need to take to bring balance to your life and win it back from whatever incessant pursuit is swallowing you whole:

  • Strive to hear three sweet words: You’re not dumping most of your existence into an unfulfilling, blood-sucking activity for the hell of it. In this day and age, like we did, you likely have tried to mold your life into one that would get the most approval from others. If it’s time for you to get off the crazy train, it’s probably because you’re at the top of the game you molded to gain that approval. That’s why when you announce to the world that you are going to back off and get out of the business of pleasing others, those very same people you are trying to impress are going to say three sweet words: “Are you crazy?” Just expect it and know that when you hear them, you’re on the right track. 
  • Face realities about your current careerYou, like many, may be in a job where work-life balance is not possible. I know a partner at a big law firm. One of his partners sends out an e-mail every year that says, “Please report to my assistant what time you plan on celebrating Christmas this year.” If you’re in an environment like this, your life is gone and will stay that way. If you want to get it back, you will have to leave that environment. Scared? Just think about how quickly you adjust when you jump in the pool. The biggest part of anything worthwhile is the part where you get going. 
  • Build a detachment habit: Our brains are geared to master our life tasks and make our days as easy as possible through powerful habits. These habits are so pervasive that most people can’t tell you which pant leg they put on first every day and often end up at work not remembering anything they saw on the way. Be careful of the habits you develop because they are so powerful, and turn them around to your benefit. Having parts of every workday that are yours is a great reminder that your life is yours and will prevent you from falling into the brain trap where the only fulfillment you get is from work—perish the thought. Namely,
  • Put a period of time in your calendar right in the middle of your day and call it “My Sacred Time.” Do whatever you can to keep that time at all costs. A little white lie here and there won’t hurt, either.
  • And go home! Go home at five—no matter how preposterous that sounds. I did it for years in a one of the largest consulting firms in the world as I watched Glen and his colleagues pull all-nighters. We worked for the same company on the same team with the same workload. I was in the car by five-thirty. He’d be in the same clothes the next morning. People may say something, but if you’re valued, you’ll survive in your job.

It’s scary to set boundaries, but once you do, you have them. By definition, everything else has no choice but to fall into place around them.  

And getting your life back takes guts. I wish there was a way around it. But relax. This isn’t a never-ending battle. Right now, it seems like one because we think of all discomfort in our lives as permanent. In reality, all you need to do is create a little disruption for a while, and take the plunge.

“This, too, shall pass.” ~The Buddha

Then you’ll be in that refreshing water watching everyone wonder how the heck you took the plunge.