Mindfulness is a great personal example of work life blend, where the lines between our work and non-work activities get blurred. Work life blend addresses the impossible task of a perfectly balanced and segmented schedule where you spend the same amount of time and energy on your work as you spend on your life.
Instead of seeking a balanced schedule, what if we are engaging in work that is so satisfying and fulfilling that it becomes fully integrated into our life? What if we are as excited about our work as we are about our hobbies or other interests, so that we can fully engage in whichever activity we are most aligned with at the time? What if instead of avoiding or dreading our work, we love it so much that “paying the bills” becomes a benefit, not a purpose. This isn’t just a lot more attractive than a perfect balance between work and life, it’s a lot more possible.
Ten years ago I began a meditation practice based on personal spiritual exploration. It wasn’t anything complicated or too far out there; it was basic meditation where you focus all of your attention on breathing as a way of practicing mindfulness or present moment awareness. The goal is to practice the transition from being lost in thought to being wholly present in the moment, a skill that is very helpful when dealing with stressful situations.
A quick Google search will return countless articles and resources that explore the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. For me personally, these practices revealed to me that my intellectual mind and the stories that it constantly creates are only a part of me and not all of me. The stories are interpretations of past events that can no longer be changed or fictional anecdotes about a future that doesn’t yet exist. They are filled with judgements that lead to counterproductive emotions. For example, I might dwell on a past situation because I thought someone was upset with me or I may fear the reaction to an upcoming conversation because I think the other person isn’t going to like what I have to say. These emotions cause unnecessary stress and produce a lot of negative energy. Mediation helped me recognize the source of these kinds of emotions and allowed me to stop identifying with them.
Starting a meditation practice coincided with starting a new work role as a project manager. The role was challenging and stressful. I unintentionally applied the principles from my meditation practice with my work on complex projects. I learned to not take things personally. I took a few minutes before a tough meeting and meditated in silence to center myself. When team members were angry or upset, I was able to approach their situations with a clear head, recognize the stories that were being created, and objectively resolve the problems for the betterment of the project and its goals. In hindsight, meditation and mindfulness practice was critical to my success. I was able to blend my personal interests and my work in a way that benefitted all aspects of my life. I’m grateful now that I didn’t draw an imaginary line between what was considered by work and what was considered my life.