The ever-mythical work-life balance

Updated: Apr 29, 2019

Have you seen yourself in someone else’s photo recently and realised you are not quite as fit or as healthy-looking as you used to be “...before this venture launched” or “...before this project started” or any other work-related line in the sand?

Perhaps right now you think you need to re-enrol in the gym (or at least show up and actually USE said gym membership); or maybe you’re just about to hire a personal trainer...Well if you find yourself needing that one little push back into finding a balance between work and play...Or if you need just a bit of inspiration from others who HAVE found that work-life-balance, then please read on.

I used to do power lifting many moons ago. I was a Hatha Yoga instructor. And I jumped off a plane ten times in one week. The last skydiving stint was part of a reconnaissance mission to see if being a Tandem Skydiving instructor in New Zealand was for me, or not. Well more than a decade later, the main traits I’ve kept from those pre-children chapters of my life are these: I am methodic, process orientated, meticulous and obsessive to the point of being cajoled as having OCD. I’m also a calculated risk-taker.

The biggest risk is really doing nothing. Every little inner wake up call is worth answering.

Here are five of the most common wake up calls shared as stories from sunbear friends (so don't worry, you're not alone in thinking, 'wow these are really SIMPLE!')

1. Set an alarm and respect it.

(a.k.a. Don't forget the basics today, or for the rest of the year)

Let’s call this the overarching rule. An alarm is not just that noise that gets you started in the morning. We could be talking about a daily alarm so you don’t forget to eat at regular times. Or a monthly alarm to remind yourself to have dinner at home with friends (or a night out dancing if you were so inclined). Alarms work. When you master the suite of alarms available to you, and more importantly your reaction to it, then you are on the precipice of change.

Taking control of your Balancing Act can start with small changes.

Find an alarm that works for you, but have one: whether it’s on your smartphone, a calendar on the wall, or a diary. The trick is to respect the sound of it as and when.

2. On your feet, soldier. Just walking is for sissies.

(a.k.a. Walking clears your mind, and Power Walking is actually exercise)

Walking and going somewhere without jumping into a car or train is always possible. Don’t argue with me, it is always possible. Large chunks of time taken over by a sedentary lifestyle of laptop time and desk loitering will make it appear like you have no time to do this, but it’s a trick. It is procrastination peddling as “too busy”. It is always possible to sneak in a 15 to 20 minute walk to and from your laptop.

Our founder, Natalia Shumskaya, is an entrepreneur with a penchant for disrupting everything; even her own sense of routine (and her friends’):

“...My favourite thing in the world is meditation in the mountains after a long hike. When you can feel all the energy flowing in your body and you can fully connect with the Universe…I also love making my friends and family hate me and they complain and complain during a long hike when I take them to the mountains, only to end the trip feeling satisfied, blessed and thankful at the end of this trip.”

...If you take public transport, you will already be walking. Here’s an instant upgrade to your daily task: Walk faster. If you don’t feel your heart change a beat somewhat, you are walking too slow. Speed it up, and as you do so, do a bit of Isometrics. Nothing fancy here, this is all it is: take every stride with purpose, maybe throw your leg out as far as it will go, and pick them up a bit from the ground (never EVER dragging). This creates an effort that will effectively help clench your glutes ever so slightly, allowing you to feel your leg stride and backside muscles accentuate naturally as you walk.

Isometrics when done correctly strengthens your body frame and general constitution. Get that adrenaline going at a constant rather than sporadic rate, and your body's natural desire to keep its balance will kick in.

3. Ever fancied being on wheels?

(a.k.a. Do something you've always wanted to do)

Skateboards are largely regarded as a teenager thing, but rollerblading - now this can be an old or new joy to revisit. Walking is wonderful. Seeing visuals that vary from your office ceiling and walls frees your inner creativity. But there are very few sports quite like rollerblading, and I tell you: wheels on feet can be very liberating.

And thus look upon it, if you will, as next-level walking. Why not?

The feeling of gliding and getting somewhere is ever-present (as opposed to gliding and going around in circles, as you normally would via ice skates). So the movement itself is therapeutic. If you want to be quite clinical about it, rollerblading requires balance.

Now flipping this balance ‘light switch’ in your head can do absolute wonders for your actual Balancing Act.

And then of course there’s the necessity of overcoming the Fear of The Fall. Ask any sociologist and that’s half the battle. Enough said.

But you need not fall, not on rollerblades anyway. YouTube is rife with the basics, as well as refresher courses if it’s been ages since you had wheels where your shoes should be. Give it a go in a nearby park.

My first advice on this is learn how to stop.

Everything else gets easier. (Just like working--Are you getting the theme here?)

4. Embark on a bit of Urban Exploration

(a.k.a. Venture to explore and enjoy the city you live in)

Now this bit can be quite widely discussed. Exploring the city you live in is an amazingly simple way to decompress. Between us, the SunBear team live in Barcelona, New York and Denver, Having lived in cities like Hong Kong, Barcelona and London, I feel fortunate to have had the chance to experience everything from Theatre and Concerts, to Interactive Art Installations and hundreds of festivals. It’s not difficult to do this, whatever city you call home.

When deadline-stricken, a lot of us will tend to send one last email before dinner, one final touch to the report or strategy document before sleeping.

Exploring your city or making day trips is not going to set you back.

Perspective is never as sweet as when you think of it outside the desk and office periphery.

5. Climb. We actually all want to, deep inside...

(a.k.a. Always have something to aspire to)

If like me you grew up climbing trees, then you know the thrill of it. Trees seem sparse, or even off-limits to the average city person. But if you can, climb one every so often, with or without an alarm. It is primal and liberating. I love Oliver Shiny's take on this, or just on Mountains in general and how humbling they can be.

...Alternatively, there are always stairs. And stair masters. Every single time you come across stairs, speed up the climb, try taking two steps at a time, even on escalators (not standing on the right side like sheep). It’s eternally more satisfying.

By far my favourite story is that of Paul, a CTO I’ve known for years who has the everyday high pressure of teams and technology coming from every angle. He eats stress for breakfast and is one of the most productive, innovative and genuine people you'll ever meet. He recently climbed Mont Blanc, and has conquered other mountains and massive rocks all over the world. He also goes indoor rock climbing three times a week.

This means wake up calls at ungodly hours on climb days; and taking 6 tube rides instead of 2 or 3. Scheduling such a passion around his other passions (personal and work ones) is a mammoth of a job, I thought. Thus I asked him: Do you end up solving challenges or get magical insights while doing a climb? Paul answers: “...Nope. When I climb, it’s all about the climb.”

Fancy that.

He turns off spreadsheets, challenges, tech dramas and all; and it is all about The Climb. Brilliant. Something to aspire to in taking your Balancing Act to new heights (Sorry).

So there's five, off the top of my head. I do all of these and more, always challenging myself, friends and loved ones when I can. I guess it all goes full circle to a mindset change first and foremost.

I’d really like to hear about yours.

How do you keep The Balancing Act? Or do you think it’s all an ever-mythical Urban Legend?

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