By Akilah S. Richards
In “Balance Is For Yoga & Flamingoes,” part one of this two-part series on our struggles with work-life balance, I discussed how being well-rounded in work and in life is a constant contributor to women’s feelings of not-enoughness and muted self-expression. The theories are pulled from my Life Design Kit for women, mothers, and entrepreneurs, and today I want to move you from the truth of the struggle to the solace of a sound solution.
If Work-Life Balance just won’t stick, what’s the viable alternative?
Consider instead, Work-Life Harmony—a stark contrast to “balance” in that it allows for staccato moments to infuse themselves in the melody of our days, without alarm, severe resistance, guilt, resentment, or blame.
Harmony is about three things: trust, prioritization, and risking expression.
“And you? When will you begin your long journey into yourself?” —Rumi
In observing whatever your life looks like right now, can you honestly say that you saw your life being exactly this? Did you know you’d live where you live, do what you do for a living, be a parent to that child or those children, and look the way you do? No, right? Even if you’re a long-term goal setter and achiever, odds are, you didn’t plan for your life to be exactly what it is right now.
You set some intentions, and somewhere along the way, a path unfolded, and for the most part, you followed it. Lucky breaks, hard work, serendipity, and perhaps a few well-placed efforts and phone calls got you where you are today. In essence, a part of you trusted the process, and allowed yourself to be led by it, making—save for a few poor choices—healthy decisions along the way.
When you embrace harmony where your Work-Life endeavors are concerned, you allow your particular gifts and instincts to work in your favor, with minimal resistance from your learned behaviors of self-doubt, guilt about your emotional needs, and warped ideas about what it means to be selfish.
“What you focus on expands” —Lao Tzu
Under the tyrannous work-life balance regime, we’re told that self-prioritization is imperative for our emotional wellbeing. Simultaneously, we’re advised to make sure our partners and children’s needs are met, our careers are noteworthy, and our physical appearance is in line with whatever is currently deemed acceptable.
How exactly does one make multiple things a priority? Is it not oxymoronic to prioritize multiple things simultaneously?
Use the pick-two rule instead. Each night before bed, look into your bathroom mirror, or take a hand-held mirror with you into your bed, and tell yourself the two things that are set as priorities for the following day. Say it aloud and watch your face as you make this commitment. Go a step further by writing them down in your task management app or on your calendar. Keep those two things in mind, and let the other ones serve as icing on the proverbial cake.
But what if multiple things need to be done in one day?
Then get about the business of re-structuring your days to include less schlepping around of children, less clicking around on your keyboard answering irrelevant emails, and more time tuning into yourself and your own real needs. Etch out WINN moments throughout your day, and tune in to hear what your mind and body are in need of at that moment. Believe me, they know—you’re the late one spinning around feeling frustrated and fatigued, all the while neglecting the always available resource that is your body and your instincts, but only when given your full attention.
“In order to truly master her life, a woman must be willing to risk expression.” —Me
Significant growth usually comes at a price: Risk. It’s not likely that playing it safe will yield the returns and rewards that come with a heightened risk tolerance level. If you’re an entrepreneur, you know exactly what I mean. We step out a bit, look left and right, realize how many other folks are heading down the same lane as us, then we deepen our resolve, step further out, and realize that indeed, the road to success (and fulfillment) has far fewer travelers than we originally envisioned.
Why? Because it’s scary as shit, that’s why!
It’s scary to trust that what you think you know is actually a useful life skill.
It’s scary to put your real feelings out there to a potential client or even to your husband, and have it slow-blinked and fish-eyed all to be damned.
It’s scary to step outside of what you’ve been taught, to explore what may or may not work better.
Risking expression is beyond daunting, but it is, and always was an option.
When a woman is fully expressed, she can consistently step outward, further into the world, with clarity, confidence, and courage as her allies. She can define her ideal lifestyle based on her real needs, not the forced ones; she can design a lifestyle, decision by small decision, that serves her, not imprisons her and isolates her from her true self; and she can live in a space of un-muted expression, constant exploration, self-fulfillment, and enough love and joy to spread to her family and friends.
I wrote about rejecting the myth of work-life balance, and other lifestyle survival techniques in my latest book, The Execumama’s Survival Guide: Strategies and Soulwork for surviving the daily challenges of our work-life flow. The book is divided into seven survival categories—Fear, Relationships, Authenticity, Balance, Money, Excellence, and Growth—and is sold in conjunction with Lifestyle Design worksheets and an audio version of the book, as part of the full Execumama’s Survival Kit.
If you’re up for considering that life isn’t always going to feel like a perfected yoga pose, and that you get to be present and unapologetically you in all aspects of that life, then The Kit is the ideal place to start.
Take me up on my Rethink challenge by grabbing your Execumama’s Survival Kit here. And if you’re already on the Work-Life Harmony train—then let’s open ourselves a bit more, and see what areas of our lives could benefit from several exercises in the art of risking expression.
About Akilah Richards: Emotional Wellness + Radical Self-expression are the focal points of lifestyle coach Akilah S. Richards, as she serves women, mothers, and entrepreneurs at The Life Design Agency. Her second book, The Execumamas Survival Kit, asserts that balance is best reserved for yoga and flamingos, and that finding harmony (not balance!) offers true access to work-life fulfillment. Learn more at AkilahSRichards.com.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.