Recently, I did a Google search on the key words “life balance”; it yielded me 10.1 million hits. The key words “work life balance” got me almost eight million hits. Work, life, and balance between the two are quite hot topics!

Balance = 50-50?

Is there something objective that we can call “work-life balance,” a state we can achieve and know we have it? In other words, can work-life balance be defined for each and every one of us?

I do not think so. Balance is always perceived balance, which is an individual matter. Work-life balance means that we are happy with all aspects of our lives, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and this is different for each person. We have control. We can do everything we feel needs to be done at work, but we also have a private life next to it and participate in the community. We set goals, make plans, and stick with them.

Out of Whack

In my life I always sense that there is actually something like work-life balance when the balance is thrown off! I am doing okay up until a certain point, and then life starts to feel out of whack—there is no time to do what I need to do, let alone what I want to do. Family, social activities, and work all start to encroach upon me; everything needs to be juggled, relationships seem to get tighter and tighter, work becomes even more demanding, I start to cross out weekends to at least have two days to myself, and so on . . . it is all too much.

Technology does not make it any easier: e-mails, (mobile) phones, beepers, pagers, sms, video messaging or conferencing, voicemails, Web sites, magazines, newspapers . . . we can hardly run from it all.

Moreover, bosses nowadays expect us to take on more work every day, work longer hours and more days; it is not surprising that the World Health Organization calls work-related stress a “worldwide epidemic.” It makes us want to run and hide in the woods!

The Issue

What is the issue? It is not that we do not know the answer to the problem. Everyone can come up with good ideas to bring back the balance: more exercise, delegating tasks, letting go of burdens, prioritizing, working fewer hours and fewer days, sharing jobs, varying the work week, learning to say no, and so on. So why is there still so much perceived lack of balance among many of us?

It is because of a values conflict.


Values are huge drivers for our behavior. They are the attributes in life that are most important to us as individuals; they are the answer we give to the question “what is really important to you?” The answer can concern any life area, be it work, family, relationships, money, health, personal development, and so on.

Values are private, personal beliefs about good and bad, right and wrong. They are the foundation on which we base our judgments in life. Values can be words like honesty, integrity, love, balance, rest, fun, fear, worry, and doubt or sentences like “the world is a good place to live,” “my work fulfils me,” “chocolate is bad for my health,” and so on.

Values are formed within us from the day we are born, mostly by our parents (“you shouldn’t be doing that; that is bad”; “you are so beautiful; you will be famous”), but also by peers, teachers, colleagues, and events in our lives. Values are stored not in our conscious, reasoning minds, but in our subconscious, creative minds, so mostly we are not aware of what our values are—unless we start to consciously look at them and think about them.

As it is suggested that 95 percent of what we think and do is dictated by our subconscious beliefs, values determine our behavior—and emotions—greatly, without us noticing much of them. In the work-life balance example, we feel out of whack but have not got a clue why exactly. Our perception of not being balanced means that there is inner (value) conflict: Our inner values are not reflected in our outer behavior. We desire this but do and get the other.

The Solution

We need to find out what we want our lives to look like, create a life vision, and assess what work-life balance means to us as individuals. Most people do not do that. They live by default, forever getting what they always got and perpetuating the vicious cycle. Life happens to them rather than from them. And exactly there is where we can start to make a difference.

We need to realize that life is a product of our minds—we create our experiences through our thoughts, and we assess what has happened through our thoughts again. Realizing this makes us able to consciously respond to our present outcomes and to change our future outcomes. Life is no longer something that happened to us one day and in which we now seem to be stuck.

Be fair: There will always be times when life gets thrown off-balance—a sudden holiday comes up, a baby is born, a huge storm blows the house down, you are involved in a car accident, suddenly you are “promoted” to a foreign country, you fall ill, you win the lottery, you receive an invitation for a wedding next day, and so on. Generally, though, it is about striking equilibrium in all aspects of our lives, as far as this lies within our power.


Let me give you some tips that will help you to get more balance in your life.

• Improve your current state of mind. How do you feel right now regarding your work and life? If you feel off-balance, identify which values are infringed upon, and resolve to align yourself with those values from now on.
• Set some easy-to-achieve, short-term goals. Pursuing goals usually will create more balance immediately as you are creating a vision.
• Protect your private time from your work time. There is a huge gray field, and if you let it, your life and work become more and more gray and blurry.
• Know that there is always an alternative. Ask for support, whether from family, friends, colleagues, your community, or your boss. Tell them you are feeling off-balance and want to improve the situation. Honesty is nearly always appreciated.
• Improve your lifestyle. Your working conditions may be fantastic, but if you eat and drink too much (or unhealthily), sleep too little, exercise too little, smoke, use drugs, and think negatively most of the time, you will feel lack of balance regardless.
• Hire a life or business coach (but that is quite self-explanatory); a coach will get you on track and keep you there. I can guarantee you that (if you choose to commit).

Rest assured that life will not be dull ever; there will be times you are challenged and the scales are tipped. It is on you to restore the balance by looking at what is really important to you in your life. That will require action. Action will get you results.

The system works. Are you willing to work the system?

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit

Author's Bio: 

Marc is a certified life and business coach, master NLP practitioner, author, and speaker in Queensland, Australia. He specializes in coaching professionals and small business owners worldwide who are at critical junctions in their lives. Having been an attorney for nearly six years in his “previous life” in the Netherlands, Marc knows how daunting taking steps in a new direction can seem to be, yet how rewarding it is when one does. Marc can be contacted through his Web sites and