In my 30 years on Earth, I’ve learned something critical: I can’t set perfectionist standards for myself, because I’m only going to be disappointed when I can’t reach them. Instead, I need to set realistic goals for myself and do my best to reach them. If I don’t, I won’t get stuck on my failures, but instead aim to do better the next time around.
I used to be a perfectionist and a workaholic. I would stay up super late, eat in front of my computer, and work any time I could, including on public transportation, when I was a passenger in a car, on vacation, in waiting rooms, etc. I was all about work. I would put work before everything else, including my relationship.
It was completely draining and unhealthy. When I put work above everything, I gained weight, lost sleep, suffered in my relationship, and suffered spiritually. I didn’t have faith that things would work out. I thought my success was entirely in my own hands.
My life was work-work-work. No balance.
Then, I hit a point of exhaustion, and I tried to go the other way. Stop working so much. Work only eight hours a day and always shut off my computer before a certain time. If I worked in the car or stayed up late working, I would punish myself by feeling guilty. I turned off Facebook, where I found many writing gigs previously, and hated when I would check my email multiple times a day.
I was all about life-life-life. No balance.
I have now realized that working a lot comes in waves, and even during those times, I can still have a life. I can compromise on my gym time when I’m on deadline as long as I get a walk in at some point that day. I can go on vacation but still work an hour or two per day and not let it ruin my time off. I can enjoy my work and not dread it simply because it’s work.
There is a pressure to work a ton, and at the same time, ensure that it’s not taking up too much of our time. If it does, we should feel bad.
It’s important to set boundaries, of course, but we shouldn’t feel bad if sometimes we need to work a little more or if we need to take a mental health day (or three). We need to go with the flow and if we feel off-balance, then we should make a change.
I know that when I’m waking up anxious about work, eating poorly, putting off going to the gym for days on end, and rushing through my prayers, I am off-balance. I also know that if I’m finding it hard to start work in the morning and I want to run away from my responsibilities, I am off-balance in the other direction.
Though we want to exist in the black and white — because, let’s face it, it’s much easier — life is all about the gray. The balance is possible, but don’t feel like a failure if sometimes, you are a little off.
Remember: Being a freelancer or entrepreneur is all about adapting to whatever comes at you each and every day. You decide how you are going to react.
Do you have work-life balance? Let me know in the comments below.