How a balanced life makes you better at work

I was asked to give a short talk last week.  “What rest means to me”, was the title.

A number of years ago I developed a training session on life balance, not “work-life” balance – work is part of life, not something separate – and the thrust of the session was to look at the components of a healthy, balanced life.  It’s my strong view that the people who are most effective at work, both in terms of sustainable performance and in building strong relationships with colleagues and clients, are those who have acquired balance in their life.

The components of a balanced life are:

  • Healthy eating
  • Sufficient rest and sleep
  • Exercise
  • Spending time with those that love and support us
  • Exercising the brain in way other than through our work
  • Entertainment and pastimes.
  • Community or voluntary activity
  • Finding moments of peace, contemplation or spiritual nourishment.
Helping you work rest and play? It's a long time since this was the considered the key to a balanced life.

Helping you work rest and play? It’s a long time since this was the considered the key to a balanced life.

Making a life that includes as many of these as possible are, for me, more important that simply “rest” as a way of recharging.  I do not believe that someone who works incredibly hard, but has very little else in their life except for relaxation and sleep is likely to be able to perform well in their career over the long term.  External activity grows us and makes us more rounded people, and we bring all of that into our work.

Relaxation is important, but not less or more important than exercise. Volunteering for a charity enables us to do things that express care and valuing of others, while going to the cinema or a football match is a way of valuing and giving ourselves attention.  Being with friends and family is essential for a healthy life, but no more so that spending time alone.

Some of these components are to do with the body, some the mind, and some the soul.  I don’t want to get all spiritual on you here, but don’t underestimate the importance of ideas like inner peace and humility;  they are very grounding.

I’m not advocating that people incorporate all of the above into their lives.  Not everyone wants to get involved with a charity, not everyone is able to pursue a sport or exercise. I simply invite you to think about what you do to keep yourself physically healthy, engaged with those around you outside work, and mentally agile.

A full, varied life is a life that stimulates.  Recharging the batteries does not simply come from being passive.  A change is, as they say, as good as a rest.

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