What is work-life balance, anyways? Jenny Blake (author of Life After College) and Lindsey Pollak discuss work-life balance and ask whether or not you are happy in your job, and what that means. During the conversation, my favorite tidbit was the idea that your work may only fill up some of your tank and that it’s okay if your job doesn’t satisfy all of your needs as a person. Perhaps your job gives you roughly 50% of the satisfaction that you’re looking for in work and your career. This can be distressing – you’re probably asking, ‘is this the right job for me if I’m not always happy with it?” Instead of viewing your job and your work as “half empty,” perhaps it’s time to start looking at our jobs as filling us up to to half full.
Perhaps your current job only fills up one of your “tanks.” This does not mean that your job is something that won’t work for you – it just means you have to recognize that you are multifaceted and complex, and you may need to seek work or activities outside of your day job to really “fill up your tank.” It’s a hard sell to find a job that is everything you want it to be – a creative engine, an artistic place, filled with challenging problems, a place where you have oodles of responsibility, something that balances your athletic needs, a place of rest and relaxation. Often, we’re afflicted with a “grass is greener” approach (also known as job envy) when we think that other jobs are more fulfilling. In reality, they probably offer certain areas of satisfaction – but may leave you craving other outlets.
For me, I find my day job fills me up about 50% – more or less during any given week, depending on the projects and the level of responsibility I have. After struggling with a corporate job for the first year, I realized that I can’t expect my job to fulfill all of my needs as a person – and more importantly, that it’s up to me to find other activities and tasks that satisfy my irks and quirks. I love the creativity, challenge, and artistic components of being a landscape architect. However, I also crave person-to-person interaction, thoughtful reflective writing, and (to others) inordinate amounts of athletic exercise. Sitting at a desk all day long, for example, does not give me the active, athletic outlet that I’m looking for. (not to worry: I’m already campaigning for a walking workstation at my office). Making my job something I love requires some extra effort – and for me, a strategy. My main strategy for making my job something that I love is to fill up my other tanks so that I can go back to my job each day fulfilled. (Suffice it to say, writing is also one of my favorite extracurricular activities).
The good news about having a 50% job? You’re already at 50%! Also, looking critically at what your job IS (here’s to looking at the positives!) and identifying what your job is NOT – can help you figure out what type of jobs and work make you happy. Discovering what you don’t like about your job reveals a lot about you as a person: it tells you what else you need to be satisfied. It teaches you the direction to take your current job, whether or not you should leave your job for something more fulfilling, and how to add activities to your life that help balance out your needs. It’s our task to look elsewhere for the rest of our “life fuel.”
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