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6 am. What's the first thing on your mind: work or life?

photo © John McDermott |

"A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both." - L.P. Jacks (English philosopher and educator)

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you wake up in the morning?

Are you honoring your needs, values, and goals? Are you grateful or worried? Are you realizing if you combine, merge or separate your work and life?

"When I wake up in the morning, I am looking forward to what I will learn today. If it's from my work tasks today, or from the people around me or the people I meet or the happenings that shape the day", told me a friend the other day on the phone. I like this answer much better than the often-heard answer: "What pops up first are the problems I have to face at work and the issues that are awaiting me."

I realized how much it puts me on a positive track for the day if I first think about what I appreciate and am grateful for. And that I am curious about what insights and learnings I might end up with at the end of the day.

How much attention do you pay to your work and career and how much to the other aspects of your life?

I believe our work life, occupying a third of our day, should be a joyful part of our life, giving us a sense of fulfillment at the end of the day while not neglecting ourselves and our loved ones.

In this article, I will show you some examples of how people around me changed or adapted their work according to their desired lifestyle and give you a list of questions that help you become aware of your circumstances and mindset.

These are the sections we are going to explore:

  • - Setting your priorities

  • - Hello big picture

  • - The Beauty of interconnectedness

  • - Be inspired: keep your boss, change the country

  • - Be inspired: leave your boss, start your gig

  • - Connecting work and life for a happy ending of your workday

  • - A question of lifestyle

Setting priorities straight

"My advice to the next generations is to try to help and be great people. Remember to be remembered for the kind of person we were ... not just for our titles or professional achievements." – Ivan Fernández Anaya

"The past twenty years, where did they go?! I don't remember much of it. I went to work, back home, back to work. That's it!", says a close friend of mine. "Did you witness your kids growing up?", I ask. "Maybe not really. I realized that sometimes at the dinner table the kids share stories…' remember how we did this and that?' I can't recall those moments. This made me realize that I missed out on shared experiences with them while they grew up."

Are you one of those busy, always rushing people with a sign attached to their chest "I have NO TIME!" regretting later in life that you didn't pay enough attention to the people that are close to you and to the things that are essential in your life?

This is not about neglecting work goals, or not putting any effort and energy into your workday.

This is about being aware of how work defines your life and your personality.

Exposing yourself to different experiences teaches you what you like or dislike, what you are attracted to, or what makes you feel uneasy.

You don't need work to define who you are. You need your goals and values to define your work.

--- Are you aware of your goals and values? Leave that question at the back of your mind and notice during your daily activities what bugs you, what makes you feel yourself, what makes you tick, or what makes you uncomfortable and resist?

Looking at the bigger picture

"I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So, I do more reading and thinking and make fewer impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life." - Warren Buffett

Several major areas of life need our attention to living in a fulfilling and satisfying way.

  • - Health and Body

  • - Work and Career (finances, education, achievements)

  • - Family and Social Life (friends, maintain relationships, meet new people)

  • - Personal Development (intellectual, spiritual, creative inspirations)

  • - Life Vision and Quality of Life

This is not about optimizing your work, relationships, health, leisure time, and every other aspect of your life. This is about paying attention to each part of your life and become aware of the fact that all areas of life are interconnected and contribute to your overall well-being, personally and professionally.

You don't live longer, better, healthier by focusing on just health and body and neglect the other areas of life.

In what has become the Blue Zones project initiated by Dan Buettner the researched cultural groups show us that it is about the combination of the different life-areas that open up the door to a healthy long life.

  • - How do you feel about your current health, social life, and personal development situation?

  • - What changes would you ideally like to make to feel better about these areas of life?

  • - What's important to you right now? Are your family, friends, and social interaction part of the picture?

  • - What sparks you and what motivates you?

  • - Where do you not accept any compromises anymore?

  • - What do you not want to miss anymore?

Asking yourself these questions will guide you in making a decision you feel good about and are less likely to regret.

--- Expose yourself to different experiences – it will teach you what you like or dislike, what you are attracted to, or what makes you feel uneasy.

The interconnectedness of life areas

"To live consciously means to be open to perceive the world around us, to understand our circumstances and to decide how to respond to them by honoring our needs, values, and goals." - Fred Kofman

All the different areas of life are interconnected. It's all tied together and every area has a profound effect on the other areas. Do you consciously pay attention to the "other" areas of life besides work and business or not?

If you keep your body and mind healthy through moving, nutrition, breaks, sleep, and walking in nature you have way more energy and a clear mind to deliver a great performance at work and in daily life.

Do you pay attention to your spouse, kids, friends and nourish the relationship with them which in turn gives you support and the feeling of being loved? This brings you to a positive state of mind and gives you energy for your work life.

"Your friends are long-term adventures, and therefore, perhaps the most significant thing you can do to add more years to your life, and life to your years." – Dan Buettner, The Blue Zone project.

  • - What do you like to think about?

  • - Where does your mind wander?

  • - What do you care about?

  • - How do you enjoy spending your time?

--- Force yourself to think about your feelings, words, emotions, and behaviors, then you start to understand what's bothering you and what you want.

Keep the boss - change location

Not finding her job really satisfying and challenging anymore and getting tired of London my dear friend decided to move to Barcelona. She confronted her boss with her ideas, feelings, and plans and as he wanted her to keep working for him, they figured out a solution.

In today's world of automation, digitization and interconnectedness it's easier than ever to connect your work with a place you like to live.

As for my friend's dissatisfaction with the content of her work, they changed the tasks and projects she is working on. She can continue working for him remotely from Barcelona and once a month she flies to London for meetings and specific updates. The boss is happy he can keep her skills, contribution, and experience, and my friend is satisfied to have new work challenges with the same boss she appreciates in a location of her choice.

"If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down." - Toni Morrison

Leave the boss – start your gig

A friend of mine decided to open a business for repairing and selling bicycles. After making his career for over a decade in the advertising and marketing industry he had enough. He is a passionate mountain bike rider and decided to change his work to business activity and product that is close to his heart. What he loves compared to the old marketing days is the immediate, happy feedback of his customers who express their gratitude about his efforts and service that makes them immediately mobile again.

"Success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives." - Michelle Obama

How can we combine life and work, so we are happy at the end of the day?

"We need to all give ourselves the time to think about what we want from life for ourselves. I'm no advocate for long, arduous self-improvement forms. Keep it simple, stupid – but don't ignore or neglect your wellbeing. If you're honest with yourself, you can learn a lot." – Sir Richard Branson

This is about experiencing oneself in the world to discover, develop and shape the essence of your personality.

  • - What kind of life do you want to live?

  • - What life do YOU actually dream of?

  • - What do you stand for?

  • - What does your typical day look like?

  • - What are you focused on?

  • - What values do you have and always want to be aware of as a guideline?

--- Can you imagine combining the best of several life-areas to create a good balance between yourself, work, others, and your surroundings?

CONCLUSION: It's a question of lifestyle

"I believe the quality of your attention determines the quality of your life." – Claudia Brose

Thinking about how you want to combine life and work is about defining what lifestyle you like to create.

  • - What kind of a person do you want to become?

  • - What kind of a life do you want to live?

  • - And what kind of a person gets a life like that?

You can choose to give attention to all parts of life that make for a well-balanced life-and-work-style. It is your attention to your different areas of life that provides you with a blueprint through which you can live and work with more fulfillment and success.

6 am. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you wake up?

"People [in Blue Zones] aren't waking up in the morning rudderless. They're driven by life meaning and purpose. They're investing in family, keeping their minds engaged and there's no existential stress of being worthless in life." – Dan Buettner, The Blues Zones project.

They know how to set up their life in the right way, so they have the right outlook.

What is your outlook on life and work and the combination of the two?


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