One of the grievances all urban population has is the insufficient time available to spend with their family. The modern men and women are torn between the two priorities “Work” and “Family” and often feel they are either doing injustice to one of them. Work-life balance has become one of the HR agenda and often the reason for divorces and poor relationships in families these days. We reach home late evening almost tired enough to skip dinner and ready to hit the bed. The loved ones are waiting to share their day’s experiences and we are almost a volcano waiting to erupt! Obviously their story is not going to be as interesting as Alexander’s next strategic moves to win a war. We are more comfortable to stare at the stupid programme in the TV rather than play with our two year old child or grandchild. It ends up in poor quality and quantity of time spent with the family and waiting to start yet another day.
In this episode I wish to share few perspectives that will enable you to manage better work-life balance and be effective in both the departments.
Civilization – A Problem or an Opportunity?
This planet was an un-adulterated place till human race came into existence! If you visit Himalayas or Alaska you will appreciate how this planet will look like if human beings are not present here. Civilization distinguished human beings from rest of the species in this planet. Probably the creator had an agenda in putting this gadget called “Human being” in order to differentiate with His earlier versions. The Vedic hymns say that God created all species out of Him and gave higher intelligence to human beings to help them to figure out the source of their being which is God himself! That is why the other name for Nirvana is “self-realization” – realizing oneself of the Godhood; the ultimate purpose of human existence. But the so called civilization created an ever ending pursuit for material acquisition and the resulting misery. Today the modern man believes that material acquisition will make him happy and endlessly chases them!
The transition from Stone Age, agricultural age, metal age, industrial age to internet age has dramatically changed the lifestyle of human beings posing different challenges. One of those challenges is work-life balance. In the Stone Age the only issue haunting human beings were food as hunting for survival kept them busy. There were hardly any difference in life style between animals and human beings. Probably this must have been the happiest part of human evolution as they were living closest to the Mother Nature and had no great ambition for material prosperity! There were no religions, language, cast and creed which have divided people later into groups and created animosity. There is no “Russian dog and American dog”! Dog is a dog is dog even today!
Why we chase Wealth? - Research Findings!
Reference: From the book “CEO DAD” by Tom Stern - Davies-Black Publishing page 25-30
One of the startling conclusions of a scientific Swedish study carried out was the discovery that human beings devote main thinking to achievement and material gains. The anatomy of the human brain studied by this team of scientist reveals that the brain is divided into two major segments; one chasing power, status & success and other wishes to focus on the basic human instinct for seeking companionship and nurturing loved ones. The study shows that over the civilization, the tiny area of the brain reserved for home and family has been squeezed out of the skull completely, now resting in nasal passages. The study also shows that those people who are too ambitious often suffer a bout of colds and flu due to high level of stress. Stern jokingly says that “the area of the brain in charge of love and nurturing would be sneezed out of our evolution in less than quarter of a century”
Another groundbreaking study by the National society in the US reinforced the Swedish research. Its finding was the human brain is divided into 4 lobes of equal size having different paradigms. Bottom one fourth of the lobe called “Truth Lobe” which constantly murmurs that “we are nothing compared to the wonders of nature and can never equal its miracles” and drives the feeling of perennial inadequacy.
The upper half of this lobe is called “Denial Lobe” which challenges the truth lobe saying “what do you mean that we are nothing? What about Shakespeare, Helen of Troy etc? I will try to get there by striving for status!
The third quarter of the lobe is called “Deepest need lobe” which raises the alarm saying “Why am I wasting my life time with so called achievement? It does not get any better than experiencing the simple beautiful pleasures of human warmth and affection – A HAAPY HOME!”
While the third lobe was diverting you from the madness of status & power through material acquisition, the fourth lobe rightly called “Stupid Lobe” takes you back where you started the mad game by saying “Hang on a minute. We need more stuff!” It is hard to believe this fourth section can be so stupid yet so powerful.
The author Stern asks the question “If your brain insists on repeating such behaviour, how will you ever know what your real needs are? The thing you really don’t need always seem so important.
Try this simple morning affirmation as you awaken:
“Getting by with less will bring me more”.
You may find the meaning of what Stern says very hard at this stage. Hang on few minutes and read further and it will dawn on you before you finish this article. If the bell rings, it will transform your life; if not it does not matter as you will carry on missing the beauty of Life!
Before I share few tips for improving work-life balance, we need to get the perspective of what is “Work” and “Life”; if not we may be shooting at dark on this topic.
What is Work? - A new Insight
Let us examine the difference between “Work” and “Play”. In essence both are activities with one difference between them. Play is wilfully chosen and work is imposed as inevitable! On a week end when you play tennis in the hot sun for hours and feel refreshed. On the other hand when you reach office even before starting your work you are tired! This leads to the premise that, work per say does not make us tired! The mind set with which work is undertaken makes us tired.
Swami Chimayananda in one of his books sights the life style of an innocent farmer in a village who goes to his paddy field at 5 am and starts ploughing the land in the hot sun till late evening. After coming back home he takes a nice bath in the cold water, sits in the cot and starts singing a folk song! He has no concept of tiredness and if at all anyone is justified to be tired, it must be this poor farmer has the rights to say that he is tired! In the urban scenario, an employee reaches office with all comforts and even before he starts his work he is tired. Chimayananda raises the question “Is the activity makes us tired or the attitude with which we do makes us tired?”
An anecdote from my own experience:
I pursued my education while employed till I finished my MS (Research) at IIT when I was 38 years old! I never complained that I could not have family life as this pursuit was chosen by me (and my wife) and not imposed by anyone! The adult education which was playful for me although it is very stressful to ride three horses viz Job, family and education. I finished with “S” grade (Supreme) in Finite Element Analysis. The same education imposed for a youngster is a pain for him.
From the above two anecdotes you may appreciate it is not the activity makes you tired; but the mentality with which you undertake makes you tired. These days an employee has no emotional bondage with his/her work and constantly in a search of a better package. When the work is done without a passion it becomes merely a motion without life in it.
What is Life for a modern man?
This is an ocean of a question. For someone Life means “Indulgence” – eating, drinking and making love. For someone else it includes all that happiness comes out of spending with their loved ones. For spiritual aspirants it may be progressing in his/her spiritual journey to reach Nirvana some day. We see a strange difference in goal setting between men and women. Let us examine through the great thinker Rajneesh:
Men in general are focused on lofty goals – Alexander wanted to win over all kingdoms across the World and prove as a great warrior. Women are down to earth – baring few exceptions they are satisfied with small achievements. When you find men meet together their topics are generally capturing a great kingdom; while women meet they discuss what they cooked the previous day and the like! Men are very time conscious where as women wear wrist watches more as an ornament. If you have accompanied with your wife to a sari shop you will appreciate what I am taking about!
All of us got married without asking a question “why do we need to get married?” as we have done many other things in life like going to a university. We did it as everyone else has done it. As Swami Parthasarathy says we never used our intellect in many such decisions in life and marriage is one among them! We produced children as a natural follow on after marriage as everyone else has done it! We ended up in a unit called family and we don’t know what to do with it in the middle of our lofty pursuit to gain power and money through our career!
All these paraphernalia are created by our forefathers to create a sense of bondage to fulfil the deep human need of being together without which we will become insane within 6 weeks. Psychology says that we can remain sane only for 8 weeks without the presence of any human beings around us! If you have seen the movie “Cast Away” you will appreciate what I am talking about.
In essence life is not only achievement, it is also seemingly meaningless activities of playing with your children, gossiping with your wife while assisting her in the kitchen by cutting vegetables for her or occasionally cooking food for everyone and so on! For goal oriented men of modern days, it will look like Greek and Latin for him and may also seem it is waste of time. For those to whom it appears spending time with family is waste of time, please examine why you got married and do the needful!!
We will explore work-life balancing tips in Part-2
God bless you.