Achieving a healthy work-life balance requires managing our work and personal life in ways to keep our minds and bodies healthy and our whole selves happy and content.

Work life is not only paid employment; it includes those of us who work from home, carers, volunteers or people who work in other capacity not measured by weekly pay.

Work is an obligation that should create a harmonious way to enjoy life and our relationships with family and friends.

It means, having a close look at our life’s structure and determining what it is we want more or less in our life.

Feeling well balanced is subjective and accepting that work-life balance will look different for everyone makes it easier to find a personal formula to achieve success.

The right path then becomes a matter of changing our environment to support the balance we hope to see.

Making change towards work/life balance

Surprisingly; creating the change to facilitate work/life balance is tough as habits and emotions provide resistance to change.

Psychologists know there are two systems in our brains; one is the rational system, and the other is the emotional system.

Jonathan Haidt, an American social psychologist, uses an excellent analogy for how these systems work together.

He says; we can think of these systems like an elephant and a rider. The elephant is the emotional, automatic, and irrational side of us. The rider is the analytical, controlled, and rational self.

We as riders may make a rational decision, like getting fitter and healthier with exercise and proper nutrition.  But it’s the elephant, (our emotions) that provide the willpower to make change possible.

If our elephant isn’t on board with change, we can lead, push, or even beat our elephant into submission, but it won’t work. Our elephant isn’t going to move unless it feels like it!

Moving with our elephant for work/life balance

Chip and Dan Heath, in their book Switch, use Haidt’s model of the rider and the elephant to outline a plan for behavior change.

They say; in order to get our elephant moving in the direction we want, we need to do three things:

  1. Have direction: that is, a clear “postcard” picture of what work/life balance will look like based on our current experience, and then, prepare a series of steps that will get us there. If for example, our postcard picture includes daily exercise, then scheduling a small amount of exercise daily is a rational way of achieving the goal.  Structuring these small steps means that change becomes easier, because we know exactly what to do to get where we need to go.
  2. Feel like it: Exercise, is a great example of our elephant’s power.  Many of us never really “feel” like exercising.  Intellectually we know it’s vital for a healthy body and mind, but no matter what we think and know – if we don’t feel like it – it ain’t gonna happen! Scheduling exercise before a delicious healthy lunch is a great motivator – creating healthy habits reinforces the importance of living a healthy balanced life for our emotional well-being.
  3. Build the path: Often we don’t achieve the healthy balance we desire because our elephant is too busy reacting to its environment and we have lost control of the reins. In this situation we need to “get off our high elephant” and build a path our elephant will be happy to travel. It means finding solutions to obstacles that have prevented work/life balance in the past and start to create feel-good habits that won’t be met with emotional resistance. Once work/life habits are formed, balance is free and easy because the power of our emotions will take us through life with health and well-being. We can then sit back and enjoy the ride!

I can’t say this enough; small things matter. Being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval of life.

With the smallest investment of time in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your life and feel balanced with purpose.

Be thoughtful this week and reflect on what a life well lived looks like for you. Then, make a tiny change that will see it your reality.

Perhaps your change can start with exercising daily,  and our 9 minutes to fitness program may be the answer for you. Click below for more information and to download your Free 9 minute workout.


Live well with fitness!

Written by Anna: Fitness and Nutrition Personal Trainer