Be a happy camper even if you don’t go off to camp!Mar 15th, 2011 | By admin | Category: In Every Issue, Live and Learn
Be a happy camper even if you don’t go off to camp!
written by Lu Lewis and Edna Varner
You’re lucky as a family if you’ve already chosen a “just right” summer camp or similar experience for the kids. Whether they are all set for youth adventures on their own, or you’ve decided to make this summer a family affair, there are hundreds of reasons to escape the routines of ordinary life.
But how do we sustain that “happy camper” experience so that it is not limited to two weeks in the summer? Most of us have heard the expression “work-life balance” many times. How do we actually accomplish it?
Author Nigel Marsh says that first we need to take stock of what has happened to us over the years to make us think we are happy in our work. He says, because we have flex time and dress down Fridays, we have become more accepting of working long hard hours, in jobs we hate, to buy things we don’t need, to impress people we don’t like!
Nash offers some alternatives for those of us who are committed to designing our own lives as opposed to allowing someone else to design our lives for us. “We have to be careful,” he says, “with the timeframe upon which we choose to judge our balance.” If we try to fit all of our favorite experiences into one day, we may end up disappointed because we were too ambitious. The other extreme is to postpone all our great plans until the children leave for college or we retire. The problem with delaying is that we may end up too old or dead before we get through our great list of wonderful life experiences.
Marsh suggests approaching balance in a balanced way with a thoughtful, more realistic definition of a life worth living. Consider small things that matter and small investments of time during each day rather than attempting a major overhaul of work-life balance. Get Nigel Marsh’s advice first hand, “How to make work-life balance work” at http://www.ted.com/speakers/nigel_marsh.html.
Jim Bird, founder and CEO of WorkLifeBalance.com, says we struggle to manage work-life balance because we don’t have a good working definition for it. At the very core of an effective work-life balance, he says, are two key everyday concepts that are relevant to each of us. “They are daily Achievement and Enjoyment, ideas almost deceptive in their simplicity.”
Now think about the typical summer camp promo: When children make new friends, explore the world around them, and learn that “I can” is much more powerful than “I can’t”, magic happens. In an environment created just for them, children learn real life skills, develop self-esteem, and gain a sense of independence and community. (source: http://www.campparents.org/)
Achievement and enjoyment are strong motivators. Think about the thousands of kids and adults who camp out for movie and concert tickets, the latest Harry Potter book, or the first spot in line on Black Friday. People who were among hundreds camping out for a year of free chicken sandwiches at a Virginia Chick-fil-A opening had this response when asked why:
“The free food and the experience,” Jessica McCulley of Burlington said when asked why she was braving the cold.
“And the family fun,” her friend Jessi Harris of Greensboro piped up.
The experience, family fun, achievement, enjoyment—all in camping out for free chicken. What if every day, adults could experience the power of achievement and enjoyment during the work day and evening hours? Wouldn’t we be happy campers?
Jim Bird suggests we set as a goal, meaningful daily achievement and enjoyment in each of the four life quadrants: Work, Family, Friends and Self. We don’t have to work on both each day for each quadrant, but we should be intentional about one or the other each day. Read Bird’s article on what work-life balance “is” and “is not” at http://worklifebalance.com/worklifebalancedefined.html.
Now, because some of us just need the handy-dandy tips, lots of websites offer them and the following are on most lists:
Tips for improving work-life balance—
- Drop activities (and avoid people) who sap your time or energy. What you achieve is more time for the activities and people who matter.
- Build downtime into your schedule. Some of our friends have “me time” on their calendars and they consider it sacred–or at least as important as a scheduled meeting with the boss.
- Schedule quality time with family. In his TED talk, Nigel Marsh tells about an evening he spent with his son when his wife had a conflict and could not pick him up from school. He said they went to the park, ate pizza, talked as they walked home, and ended the evening with dad reading from James and the Giant Peach. Marsh enjoyed the evening, but didn’t think much more about it until he heard his son say it was his best day ever!
- Learn how to say “no.” While people love us for saying “yes,” they will also love the people we recommend who never get a chance because we step up to do everything.
- Turn off the television (studies show that it creates depression and saps your energy). Limit internet time (technology is great but it can upset work-life balance if you are using it when you should be working and losing it (time) when you should be living.
- Resist trying to be perfect in work and life. Remember, achievement and enjoyment are the goals. We can accomplish both without perfection.
When the kids return from summer camp this year with award ribbons and certificates, new names of new best friends, stories about the mischief other kids got into, and dirty clothes bearing evidence of their own—wouldn’t it be great if they came home to parents who are well on the way to achieving work-life balance? Wouldn’t it be great if they came home to happy campers who didn’t go to camp!