Rethinking Meaningful Life Balance

Having advocated meaningful life balance over work-life balance, I found myself in an unusual predicament these past two months as my emotions dipped to the point that I could not understand why I felt sad or sometimes anxious. I also noticed that these emotions surfaced at very distinct times - in the evenings, after 7 p.m. and on the weekends. Even then, I couldn't figure out why I was experiencing these emotions.

Well finally the intensity got to the point that it started affecting my sleep and I just felt increasingly sad and I told my husband and he tried to rationalise, “But this is what you wanted, to not work all day and night. You are finally getting what you want - your definition of balance.” And so amidst tears, I tried to make sense of it and then I GOT IT!

You see, for the past 10 years, I had been doing substantial academic teaching and my classes for the evening and weekend slots were usually filled up. I only had a week or 10 days semester break and in this time, I had papers to mark and reports to write so I hardly ever had any free time. All this while I was also juggling corporate training, consulting and coaching.

And then last year, it all came to a sudden stop.

My teaching contract ended.

The first 6 months, I kept myself occupied with lots of activities and research to the point that my body began to ache and I was advised to quit doing too much work on the computer.

That’s when I realised I needed to have a meaningful life balance - which at that time meant, resting my body sufficiently while I did enough work to keep me busy.

And then the second conversation I had about my current predicament with my good friend Juliana put it all into perspective - I was going through what retirees go through - a loss of purpose!

THAT'S IT!!! The jigsaw puzzle was complete. I found that one missing piece that was making me miserable.

In my quest to have a meaningful life balance, I forgot to define what would meaningful life balance look and feel like in my newly structured life.

So if what I wanted was to have the evenings and weekends to do things I love, then what would these activities look and feel like?

So why am I sharing my story? Like me, many of you may be experiencing some form of retirement from your full-time work - either by choice, circumstances or forced circumstances. You may be feeling sad, anxious, lost or even useless. It would feel like your life had lost its meaning.

So what can you do?

2 simple steps to get you out of that state:

  1. Identify when you experience these emotions - the days, time of the days. Pay attention to your physiology, thoughts, and emotions and notice how the intensity changes throughout the day and week. Either make a mental note of it or journal it down.

  2. Talk to a trusted friend/associate/loved one/Coach - talking helps to put things into perspective. Explain what you've been experiencing and the symptoms and as you talk, you will begin to uncover the loss you are experiencing - or grieving; the meaning or purpose you are disconnected with.

Now that that’s done, you will be experiencing a sense of relief that whatever it is that you’re experiencing is “fixable”. Look out for my next blog post on how we can reconnect with our purpose and meaning.