achieving work-life balance

The Struggle of the Juggle: Strategies for Prioritizing Our Values and Achieving Work-Life Balance

I was texting with my cousin the other day and we were both expressing the challenge around balancing the pursuit of creative dreams with the other aspects of our life like house chores, you know, that old question of achieving work-life balance. We bonded over the struggle of the juggle and I realized it’s a common conversation I’ve been having with numerous people in my life. Whether it’s my friends that have kids trying to figure out how to be great parents while devoting time to their work and marriage too or my fellow creatives trying to juggle the work that pays the bills with the work that fills our cups.

For me it’s all of it, I have two small kids and a husband that are top priorities and I also have a business that I’m trying to grow in directions that will lead to both more profits and more fulfillment. Meanwhile, I always value exercise, time outdoors, and connecting with my community. People say that something’s gotta give but even when I strip my life down to my top values, I still find it hard to fit it all in.

This blog post is an exploration of things I’m trying, both the things that are helping and the things that I hope will help. Whatever chapter or season of life you’re in, there’s time to be reclaimed for self-care so that we can better balance the things we’re trying to juggle. It starts with defining our values and aligning life accordingly.

Defining Values as Priorities and Aligning Life Accordingly

People say that if you want to know what someone values you should look at their calendar and their checkbook. The people that said that should update it to a banking app instead of a checkbook but that’s beside the point. The point is that if we’re not spending our time, money, and energy on the things we say we value, then what are we doing?

We all say that our family and friends are our top priorities but we treat those people the worst because we’re stressed out from something else. The first step in solving this incongruity is getting clear on what our values are. There are a lot of value lists out there that you use to define what yours are and from there you can analyze if your life reflects what you value.

My theory is that you’re probably not actually that incongruent, you’re probably almost living life according to your values. What I’ve found is that there are usually things in the way like obligations that we’ve put just in front of our true priorities preventing us from living true to our hearts. The next challenge is figuring out how to put our values out in front where they belong.

achieving work-life balance

Simplify Life to Make Space for Your Values

If our values and our priorities were one in the same, I believe it would lead to more fulfillment. When I think about the days that make me happiest, it’s the days that I spend my time focusing on the things that I love. Self-care, to me, is more about creating a life worth living than it is about taking a bubble bath even if I love a nice bath.

When we find that our days are so crazy that we don’t have time for the things we love, value, or say matter most to us, then it’s not something that can be fixed with a massage. Instead, what we need to do is simplify. When I find myself frazzled and being torn in numerous directions, I’ve been trying to take a deep breath and determine which way I’m interested in being pulled and then figure out how to go there.

What’s keeping us from aligning our life with our values? It’s worth figuring out how to eliminate or simplify those things. Maybe there’s an app we can use to help us stay more organized, maybe we need some spring cleaning to make physical space, or maybe there’s something we need to let go of completely.

achieving work-life balance strategies

Redefining Success (and Balance) with a Customized Definition

One of the barriers, when you start trying to simplify your life and align your priorities with your values, is that it’s hard to let go of the idea of success. There’s usually a reason we are trying to do too much and it often has something to do with our idea of success or our idea of balance. We think that we have to do all the things in order to keep up with the Joneses, or whatever family we’re trying to keep up with.

What if instead, we took a hard look at the picture of success that we have and where it came from? Do we even agree with it anymore? Or can we redefine success to be something more realistic or better yet, actually balanced and more aligned with our priorities and therefore our values?

Success in work or life doesn’t have to be standing on the top of the mountain if you’d really rather be in the meadow. Or maybe a better way of putting it is to make sure we’re climbing the right mountains. That way, when we get to the summit it’s actually somewhere we want to be and not someone else’s idea of success.

Juggling All the Work-Life Balls is a Choice

When it comes down to it, we’re making the choice every day to live our lives the way we’re living them. If we want a change, we need to make a change. Sure, there are circumstances and limitations imposed on us by where we find ourselves. But if we really look hard at our overstressed lives, we can probably find something to drop since choosing to juggle all of these work-life balls is actually a choice.

Maybe, like me, you refuse to drop one of your values. I’ve never liked the idea that family has to suffer for work or friends have to suffer for health or health has to suffer for anything. Therefore, instead of considering myself a victim, I can choose to juggle those priorities.

And then what? What can I drop or let go of? Maybe it’s as simple as adjusting deadlines a little further out or redefining goals and systematizing processes.

achieving work-life balance and prioritizing values

Taking Control Where We Can, Achieving Work-Life Balance

What I’m really suggesting here is that we take back control of our lives and seek to actually achieve the elusive work-life balance. Wherever we can. I’ve been working towards that goal for a while and if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s not easy.

But the hardest part of achieving work-life balance is remembering what’s important. It’s too easy to get sucked back in and ripped apart in all directions rather than allowing myself to be pulled in the direction I’ve chosen to go. Because my definition of success doesn’t always match the one I’ve been taught and it’s hard to fight against that conditioning or the marketing that surrounds us.

That’s when I remind myself, and I’ll encourage you, to ask if the way everyone’s doing things is working. The struggle of the juggle is real and work-life balance seems so elusive. Instead of reaching for someone else’s definition of success that’s always just out of our reach, let’s put our values out in front of us and chase them toward our dreams.

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About the author: I am Brenda Bergreen, one half of a husband and wife photography team specializing in Colorado wedding photography and videography and adventure photography.

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