My first blog for the Huffington Post caused quite a stir. "Why You'll Be Happier If You Stop Striving For Work Life Balance," proposed that the whole concept of balance was flawed. In fact, seeing our professional and personal lives as opposing forces, and not managing them as potentially complimentary sets us up for failure. That's where concept of yin and yang come into play.
Yin and yang energies have nothing to do with being a man or women but the attributes that characterize them reference gender. Yin is characterized by femininity, soft, gentle, slow, nighttime, while yang is characterized by masculinity, hard, rough, daytime. Hmmm. Female at night when we're home and male during the day at the office. Coincidence?
By adapting your energy to the needs to the various roles you play, you are more effective.
The duality of the roles we play in our lives, as professionals and as moms, wives and daughters is something that most women accept. What we've rejected thankfully, is that we notion that we need to adopt masculine archetypes at the office and feminine personas at home to be successful in each respective domain.
That said, there is a certain energy that a business environment encourages that is very different from our home life. Think about the energy you bring to a boardroom with senior executives. It's hardly the same energy that you would think to bring to a dinner table with your family. By adapting your energy to the needs of the various roles you play, you are more effective.
In 2007, HBR published a fantastic paper called "Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time." With time as a finite resource, energy if intentionally invested, can also be expanded and renewed. What does this mean if we apply it to yin and yang energy to managing our daily lives?
1. Figure Who And What Fuels Or Depletes Your Energy
Assess the activities and interactions in your life to determine whether they drain you of energy or you feel renewed following them. Have you ever noticed that an hour with one person feels very different than an hour with someone else? You sometimes need to brace yourself with the thought that "I need to stay really calm, as I know that this interaction will be really difficult." The same goes with certain activities.
Some things in your life feel much more daunting than others so the time you spend on them feels very long. It's not about how much time you spend, because time feels very different depending on who and what you spend it with and on.
2. Be Intentional On When To Use Yin And Yang Energy
Again, yin and yang are complementary so if you get really good at identifying how interactions and activities trigger you, you can use the right type of energy to balance any situation. Here's an example: if there is something in your life that you consistently find stressful and always results in less than optimal outcomes, then you must examine your approach. Is the situation intense and in anticipation, you're approaching it with a yang energy?
Using yang energy in a yang situation, probably won't end up very well! People who do this skillfully with certain personality types are brilliant at relationship management. They can flex easily based on the interaction and adapt to situations in order to yield the results that they want.
3. Monitor Your Energy Reservoir And Fill Up With What You Need
We all know the feeling of physical exhaustion and some have actually felt something worse, emotional exhaustion. The latter feels like you're literally out of gas, your reservoir of energy is empty making you unable to engage with anyone or anything. That's when you know you've done a really bad managing your energy. You've likely been unable to apply the right energy to balance those who you interact with or situations that you're in.
Remember energy expands and renews. There is no need for your tank to become empty. The key is monitoring how you are feeling and engaging in the activities that balance you. High intensity yang energy at work, may mean, that it's best to skip the spinning classes for yoga. Feeling unmotivated or a little yin at work? Find some intensity in activities that you engage in outside of work.
Approaching life with full intention means being conscious of how people and situations affect you. Taking a mindful approach to managing the continuum of life and work, the energy you invest throughout will allow you to find what we all strive for, equilibrium.
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