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If you’re interested in taking a good look at your life, preview our two tools:
  • The Twenty Year Journey® Assessment helps individuals see patterns in their lives over the past ten years and helps them create a vision for the next ten. Work/life balance follows. Assess your past and present and design your future around the twelve basic needs.
  • The LifeMastery Builder® inventory of 72 questions allows people to achieve balance and harmony after clarifying priorities and necessary future actions. You’ll get a better sense of why you might feel stressed or out of control.

What Are Organizations Doing to Ease Stress
and Support Balance?
“Johnson & Johnson’s results from a new Worksite Wellness Program showed that 80% of participants said they could better handle stress and 81% stated that they increased their productivity at work as a result of the program.”

      Organizations claim “people are our competitive edge.” And yet they sometimes treat people as if their time, energy and commitment is infinite. Because people can work 24/7 doesn’t mean they should. It is imperative that U.S. companies treat people as sustainable resources and put as much time and attention on building environments that provide human resources for now and the future. Not wear out and scare off the best and the brightest.

      Some work environments are more amenable to wholeness and balance than others. Women’s entry to the workplace has brought a heightened awareness of the need for an integrated and respectful approach to work and life. Policies, practices, programs and awards have been generated as a result. Best Companies to Work For lists now fill the internet. Many of the factors are aligned with the need for balance, wholeness, long-term goals, and individual working agreements. A myriad of factors allow organizations to be on the Best lists.

Factors Include:
  • Work/life balance policies and wellness programs;
  • Work redesigns that address heavy workloads, long work hours, shift work, infrequent rest breaks;
  • EAP counseling – addictions, relationships, eating disorders, smoking, etc.;
  • Career counseling and career mobility programs;
  • Stress workshops;
  • Meditation classes;
  • Support of alternative health practices;
  • Flexible work schedules;
  • Full-time, part-time, alumnae programs, and contract workers;
  • Family care – children, parental leave, daycare, elder care, etc.;
  • Telework policies;
  • Work and Life Coaches;
  • “Ramp On” and “Ramp Off” programs;
  • Vacations – given generously and supported; and
  • Medical coverage that fosters prevention and wellness.

     In addition, some of the best companies offer concierge services, pet-sitting, massage, work-out centers, cafeterias, dinner-to-go, cleaning services, car-detailing services, ipods, iphones, computers, etc. Their real motivation is a question. Are these services simply fostering a move to more extreme work or provided to make life easier and more whole for people? The real motives of leaders and managers have a huge impact on balance and well-being in the workforce. Check the motives of your executive team!

      We live longer and will work longer. Balance for a twenty-something is quite different than balance for a fifty-something. Workforce policies and practices need to support multiple generations in the workforce. Different strokes for different folks has never been more needed! Policies and practices must be broad enough to allow individuals and families to be true to their values and goals.

      Wholeness and balance require being true to ourselves – our needs, goals, aspirations, values and dreams. In addition, we need to continually choose work and work environments that fit our values and dreams. Then, we need to create a myriad of work arounds in life to achieve both. The body, mind and spirit are one. We need to rest and rejuvenate. The quick ability to ask ourselves, “Will this further my long-term goals?” and act accordingly gives us the courage to negotiate minute by minute. Our long-term goals and values guide our short-term choices. Being totally present or mindful in the minute allows a sense of balance and wholeness. Work and life balance may still be uneasy at times. But, it’s possible to establish personal and organizational practices that will lead us to wholeness.

1. “Balance is Bunk!,” Keith H. Hammonds, Fast Company, October, 2004

2.“6 Ways to Simplify Life,” by Elaine St. James, Fast Company, May, 1998.

3. ''My name is Tony, and I'm a workaholic,'' by Tony Schwartz, Fast Company.

4. Corporate Stress Solutions: What Is Stress? From STRESSDirections.

5. “Stress at Work,” Report from the National Institute for Organization Safety and Health (NIOSH). Publication 99-101.

6. “Healing and the Mind,” Bill Moyers, Doubleday, New York, 1995.

7. “Eight Immediate Stress –Busters,” by Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD and Jay W. Marks, MD.

8. “13 Ways of Staying Fit When There’s No Time to Exercise,” by Melissa Stoppler, MD and Barbara K. Hecht. Ph.D.,

9. “The Workplace: Studies find that ‘extreme’ workers can hurt bottom line,” by Lisa Bolkin, International Herald Tribune Business, 12/11/2006.

10. “Extreme Jobs: The Dangerous Allure of the 70-Hour Work Week,” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce, Harvard Business Review, December, 2006.

11. “Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success,” bySylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce, Harvard Business Review.

12. “The Science of Addiction,” by Michael D. Lemonick with Alice Park, Time, July 16, 2007.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph.D., is President of MasteryWorks, Inc. in Falls Church, VA. She has been a consultant, entrepreneur, and educator for over 30 years, Caela has worked with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to get them on their mastery path. Caela’s practice and company builds strong links between changing trends in industries, changing strategies of organizations and the talents and aspirations of individuals. People who work with her company discover their passion, their mastery path, and bring renewed contribution and high performance to their organizations.

Caela is known internationally for her expertise in developing talent management products and services. Her solutions are user-friendly systems that serve the needs of both organizations and individuals. She is frequently quoted in the media regarding her thoughts and advice on changing careers and work patterns in the nation. Hundreds of organizations have implemented talent management solutions from MasteryWorks, Inc. — consulting, workshops, assessment instruments and web-based talent management portals.

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Work and Life - Balance Uneasy
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.
     The breakdowns in achieving work and life balance paved the way for many breakthroughs in alternative medicines –mind/body/spirit wholeness. See Mastery Spotlight for leaders in alternative medicine and work design. The breakdowns in skyrocketing health care costs for stress related illness are paving the way for breakthroughs in workplace wellness policies and practices. Hopefully, medical insurance will be loaded towards preventive health care measures (coaching, meditation, stress courses, wellness programs, acupuncture, massage, nutrition courses, addiction counseling, etc.). The pressing need for talent and the research on the costs of extreme work can support leaders in reformulating work expectations and provide education that assures each worker can determine and articulate his or her work/life balance needs and negotiate their work contracts accordingly. Balance is uneasy! And we’re moving towards a two-way negotiation to assure both organizations and individuals are healthy, productive, and loyal.

     The current dis-ease in achieving work and life balance is a plus! The result of our dizzy pace, conflicting needs, access to information, and 24/7 global environment can help us clarify what work and life balance means to us. We can then take the steps to be happy and whole. Do we learn to be mindful and press for our needs or do we give in to stress-related illness and addictions as coping mechanisms – workaholism, alcoholism, drug addictions, obesity, gambling, etc.? What positive structures and practices do we each need to be healthy, whole and happy? (Eating, exercise, meditation, vitamins, relationships, spirituality, etc.) There’s certainly not just one answer. Each of us needs to go through this introspection to find our unique needs and build our personal practices.

     Organizations also have a choice as to how they react to work and life balance issues. They can treat workers as disposable, throw-away commodities that work til they break. Or they can pay close attention to medical costs, retention statistics and losses in productivity and invent flexible work designs that reward health and wholeness. Individuals and organizations have to be in a responsible, on-going dialogue if the needs of both partners are to be met in the long-term.

     There is an uneasy balance between organizational needs and individual workers. Both continue to change. Both need to adapt and refocus. Both need to be agile, alert, and open to change. We’ll look at both sides of the balance issue in this article.

Individual Balance - Choosing & Doing
     Balance is the sense of poise, ease, harmony or equilibriumpassion and resilience – in the face of many competing daily tugs between work and life priorities. Balance is a fine art. Balance usually refers to a short period of time. Like walking a tight rope, our sense of inner peace and stability is momentary. In our 24/7 world of communication, the ease attained in one second, one week or one year can easily be toppled by a myriad of life factors – plant closing, merger, lost keys, increased workload, job insecurity, childcare snafu, illness, divorce, marriage, global talent working for less, disrespectful managers, new leaders, inflexible schedules – to name a few. When we’re balanced we feel stable and use a set of life and work practices that keep us healthy rather than addicted.

     Juggling, designing, prioritizing, negotiating or choosing are apt descriptors of the skills needed to live and work in a manner that promotes balance. The demands and challenges in our work and lives are changing. The very landscape of work (globally competitive, 24/7, fast-moving, multi-generational, multi-lingual, multi-time zones, etc.) has created a more challenging world. Individuals and organizations are becoming more cognizant as to what it takes to be healthy and create a healthy work environment. Wholeness is another metaphor for individuals and organizations as they assess themselves.

Wholeness - Living & Being
     Wholeness is not an “either/or”. Wholeness connotes completeness, harmony, a sense of fullness and happiness. Wholeness refers more to our state of being than our state of doing. They’re related obviously! But one can balance day-to-day activities and not have a sense of existential wholeness. Questions of wholeness include:

  • What energizes me?
  • What saps my energy?
  • What causes me stress?
  • What reduces my stress?
  • What are my values?
  • What are my goals?
  • What's important to me?

     Striving for wholeness gives us meaning and pride. Wholeness is about living in sync with our values, goals, and priorities. We continually learn how to recreate a platform from which we can take on the challenges of the world and still end up with a sense of peace and well-being. We each want to feel whole and healthy not anxious and depressed.

     Resilience has been a leadership competency for a decade. Bouncing back is good. But we would argue that wholeness is the goal we’re striving for. We want to live goal-centered, passionate, diversified lives in which we have time and energy to reach a myriad of important goals – not simply expend our energy to bounce back or feel balanced. We want to feel proactive rather than reactive. We want to establish life practices to support the myriad of choices we make in a day, week, month or year. And, the only way to be whole in the short term is to choose frequently those actions that will bring us closer to our life-long goals and aspirations. A paradox indeed! Long-term visions support our short-term balance. Wholeness is the prerequisite for balance.

Stress - The Lack of Wholeness & Balance
     Stress management has become big business in the past decade. Consulting firms, life coaches and EAP counselors now help people cope with their stress-related illnesses and addictions.

“Stress is a physical and psychological response to perceived demands and pressures from without and from within. To respond to these demands and pressures, we mobilize physical and emotional resources. …extreme, or prolonged use of these resources strains us and generates distress signals. Our body experiences distress signals in a variety of ways, often in the form of: irritability, anger, anxiety, depression, fatigue, tension headaches, stomachaches, hypertension, sleeplessness, migraines, ulcers, heart attacks, or colitis.”

     Some degree of stress is inevitable in life. How quickly we recognize and react to these stress signals is up to us.

Stress Hurts the Bottom Line
     Workplace stress continues to grow. In the U.S., experts at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are dedicated to studying stress. The recent report, Stress at Work[5] reports the following:

  • Stress is linked to physical and mental health, as well as decreased willingness to take on new and creative endeavors;
  • Job burnout experienced by 25% to 40% of U.S. workers is blamed on stress;
  • More than ever before, employee stress is being recognized as a major drain on corporate productivity and competitiveness;
  • Depression, only one type of stress reaction, is predicted to be the leading occupational disease of the 21st century, responsible for more days lost than any other single factor; and
  • $300 billion, or $7,500 per employee, is spent annually in the U.S. on stress-related compensation claims, reduced productivity, absenteeism, health insurance costs, direct medical expenses (nearly 50% higher for workers who report stress), and employee turnover.[5]

     The financial and psychological results of stress are beginning to get attention from both organizations and individuals. This is a good sign! The cost of not making certain policy decisions will soon outweigh the status quo.

Growing Stress in Organizations - The Extreme Workers
     According to Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder of the Center for Work Life Policy, extreme workers love the “thrill, the meaning, and the challenge of work ,their oversized compensation and working with brilliant colleagues.” They can test their limits, physically and emotionally. This creates the same pleasure rush that characterizes any addiction (workaholism, alchoholism, drug addiction, gambling, etc.). Ultimately, too much adrenaline can produce stress and chronic disease. Hewlett’s research reveals the down-side of extreme workers:

  • 69% say their extreme jobs undermine their health;
  • 46% say work gets in the way of a good relationship;
  • 58% say work gets in the way of strong relationships with children;
  • 36% of extreme workers aged 25-34 say they’ll likely leave their jobs within a year;
  • 65% or respondents say they’d decline a promotion if it demanded more of their energy.[10]

Are You an Extreme Worker?

  • Work 60 hours or more per week
  • High earner
  • Hold position with at least five of the characteristics below:
    - Unpredictable flow of work
    - Fast-paced work under tight deadlines
    - Responsibility that amounts to more than one job
    - Work-related events outside regular work hours
    - Availability to clients 24/7
    - Responsibility for P&L
    - Responsibility for mentoring and recruiting
    - Large amount of travel
    - Large number of direct reports
    - Physical presence at workplace at least ten hours a day.

    Adapted from Hewlett and Luce[10]

     Hewlett and Luce found that health was a big issue in their study of extreme workers. “More than two-thirds of professionals said they don’t get enough sleep; half don’t get enough exercise; and a significant number overeat, consume too much alcohol or rely on medications to relive insomnia or anxiety.”[10]

     We know the statistics of high potentials leaving organizations for a better quality of life. They reach a point when the stress and tradeoffs are bigger than any payout. They want to leave while they’re still healthy enough to do so. More and more women are choosing to ramp off and either stop work or reduce their workloads and responsibilities.[11]Unless organizations change their policies and practices NOW, much of our talent will come from other countries in the next decade. The U.S. will be at a definite economic disadvantage.

Medical Paths to Wholeness & Balance
“Our country spends 95% of our health care dollars, one trillion dollars a year, on diagnosing and treating many diseases. However half of all deaths in the United States can be prevented.”

– Commonwealth of Massachusetts

     The past two decades of work in alternative medicine and the solid impact of Eastern medicine reveals the importance of integrative medicine – looking at the mind, body, spirit integration. Ultimately, the breakdown of spirit (energy and zest) takes a toll on both mind and body. Creativity and innovation do not flourish forever in environments where the body is stressed, exhausted, or “burnt out.” People will not be able to endure extreme jobs indefinitely. Our bodies need breaks, time outs, movement, rest and relaxation to continue functioning at optimum capacity.

Jon Kabat-Zinn has been working since 1979 to understand the mind/body relationship and how to rewire the mind to peace and happiness in the face of a stressful environment. He has conducted research studies on stress and rejuvenation at the nationally acclaimed Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts, working with over 11,000 clients. Meditation, being authentically in the present, has become one of the hallmarks of his learning and success with stress reduction in executives and others.

     According to Kabat-Zinn, “the real meditation practice is being in the present moment as your life is unfolding. In other words, you operationalize it so you’re not just cultivating mindfulness on your cushion but you’re practicing it in whatever environment you find yourself.”

     In their book, Just Enough: Tools for Creating Success in Your Work and Life (John Wiley, 2004), Laura Nash and Howard Stevenson discovered that “success at work is largely rooted in achievement while success outside of work mostly isn’t. The things we most value in our non-work lives are simply caring and being there for others… they coined the phrase “switch and link” for the people that maintained their balance and joie de vivre in the face of compromises. Those people were able to “switch the focus of their full attention with lightning speed among activities and people in different realms.”[1]

     Success requires attention to the future and the present. Meditation instills the practice of being present in the moment - giving your entire being to the moment. The Buddhists call this mindfulness. Living in the moment. Doing what you’re doing full-out. One wonders what the price of multi-processing is on the spirit and the body.

     We’re hoping that escalating health-care costs will push corporate America and insurance companies into holistic health care practices. Preventive measures for stress and anxiety (meditation, acupuncture, exercise, nutrition, massage, sleep, etc.) could eventually replace uncalled for surgery and drugs. Precursors in the field of wholeness and wellness, Jon-Kabat Zinn, Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra, Dean Ornish, Thich Nhat Hanh and many others have put preventive wellness measures in the hands of the masses. Now, we need our organizations and insurance companies to start paying for wellness rather than sickness. The tools are steadily being put in place.

Individual Paths to Wholeness – Designing Your Future
     MasteryWorks consultants have worked with thousands of people through our program - LIFESCAPES® - Designing Your Future. We have identified 72 wellness practices and provided activities and resources to allow anyone to take charge of designing their lives. Over 55,000 people have participated in this program over the past decade and they continue to voice their appreciation of the guiding principles and practices of the program:

  • Design and assess your life in longer time periods – decades or chapters;
  • Use Twelve Basic Needs as the backdrop for life choices and design;
  • Know your long-term as well as short-term priorities;
  • Select or negotiate work environments that honor your values and goals;
  • Know your body and listen to it – have ways to rejuvenate;
  • Be present – be focused – be mindful;
  • Values are the drivers – living true to them supports peace and wholeness; and
  • Goals give focus, energy, direction and a sense of achievement.

Happiness and Wholeness Come from a Long-Term View
     Longer time frames for important goals – five, ten, twenty years – give us a sense of control and power over our life and work choices. Real possibilities give us hope! Ten years or more allows us to achieve great goals – our mission. Missions provide energy, focus and a clear backdrop for choices. Great accomplishments have rarely been achieved in a moment. People who achieve great things are rarely focused on balance. If scientists and inventors worked only in the short-term and worried about work and life balance, how could they promise:

  • “We’ll find a cure for cancer.”
  • “We’ll redo the FAA flight communication structure.”
  • “ Chicago will be the “greenist” city in America.”

     Longer-term goals provide a sense of peace and possibility and allow greatness. Some breathing room! We don’t have to achieve everything in the first year out of college or the first decade in our work lives. We actually have a design palette of 40-60 years. We can make changes based on past accomplishments and future needs.

List the top goals for your life. They can include family, work, home, financial or health goals.

  • Have a home that’s comfortable, close to nature, safe, and close to transportation;
  • Enhance my health through nutrition, exercise and relaxation techniques so I need no medication.
  • Downsize home and expenses so I can travel yearly to desired locations.

     Be specific. Share your important goals with family or friends. Write them down and review them regularly. These are part of your life compass.

A Context for Wholeness –
The Twelve Basic Needs Are the Backdrop of Life

     We need a framework for observing, sorting and assessing our work and life priorities. MasteryWorks has chosen twelve basic needs that are easy to understand and define as our context for life planning:
Community: Participate, volunteer, help others in our society.
Economic Security: Manage personal resources to expand options and make decisions about income, budgets, savings, investments, insurance, etc.  
Environment/Safety: Care about your physical surroundings, use organic products, become educated about global warming.  
Family: Care for life partners, children, parents, siblings, and extended family members.  
Health & Well-Being: Enhance your appearance, manage stress levels, take care of your mental and physical health, eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and strive to improve character and mood.  
Home/Shelter: Develop, maintain, and improve upon your life settings; house, apartment, office, car, hotel room, etc.  
Learning: Acquire and apply new knowledge, skills, and abilities to different life areas.  
Leisure: Diversify interests and renew energy through sports, hobbies, vacations, entertainment, etc.  
Social Relationships: Communicate and cooperate with others; maintain old friendships and make new ones.  
Spirituality: Explore the meaning of life and the transcendent through philosophy, religion, the arts, contact with nature, etc.  
Transportation/Mobility: Move from place to place, in order to take care of your human needs and those of your family and friends.  
Work/Career: Choose a life’s work, profession or trade, to contribute fully to society.

The Twelve Basic Needs Model

© 2007 MasteryWorks, Inc

     Putting life inside of this framework organizes hundreds of choices into a small universe of twelve needs. In one phase in life, three or four might be prominent (work, family, home/shelter, transportation) while others are in the background (health, community, education, leisure). A change might occur where you lose money in the stock market (economic security) or decide to get an advanced degree (education). Those two choices impact other needs (family, leisure, or work). We live and work in a system of interrelated needs. A jolt in one area impacts other areas of life.

  • List five major changes you’ve experienced in the past 5 years (moved, married, divorced, had children, lost a job, changed jobs, health issues, involvement in politics, etc.)
  • Review the list of twelve basic needs and circle the ones impacted by the changes above.
  • Study the long-term goals you listed in the previous activity. Which basic needs were your priorities? What other ones might you add?
  • As you look at the next twelve months, which three or four needs require greater attention and focus? Put a plus (+).
  • What are three or four specific short-term goals that would give you a greater sense of balance and harmony in your life? Write them down. Tell a friend.

     As you can easily see in this activity, our lives are in a constant state of change. Some changes are anticipated and planned for - buying a home, getting a degree, having children, or taking a new job. Others are unplanned. They just happen – loss of a job, life-altering accident or disease, drug addictions, death, changing housing market, etc. Coping with the unplanned changes rests on our resilience and resources. If we continue to plan and design with attention to these twelve needs, we might indeed have fewer surprises. We can make choices now in line with our long-term goals and short-term needs.

If you’re interested in taking a good look at your life...

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