The Laser Lifestyle
by Claire Hatch
Claire Hatch Counseling and Communication
I feel very lucky to live in a country where work can be more than just a way to survive. Where work can nourish the mind, build self-esteem, and provide what novelist Henry James described as ďthe most agreeable emotion of the human heartĒ-success.
But a lot of us are getting too much of a good thing. When, work consumes us, the rest of our lives suffer, including our sense of well-being and our relationships.
I see the price of work/home imbalance in my office every day. Thatís why Iím devoting three issues of this newsletter to ideas for getting back in balance, so you can get more enjoyment from both your family and your work.
Today, Iím looking at the problems that come up when work culture leaks into home culture, and what you can do about them.
The Laser Lifestyle
Sometimes, itís good to be out of touch with your feelings. Yes, I did say that! Take, for example, emergencies. If youíve watched a T.V. show like ER, youíve seen this scene many times: A distraught relative causes havoc in the emergency room and has to be physically removed so the doctors and nurses can do their jobs.
Thereís no room for feelings in the ER. Every second counts and emergency workers have learned how to keep a laser focus on the task at hand. If youíve received this kind of care yourself, I donít have to tell you what an awesome skill it is. But it can also turn into an occupational hazard. Emergency workers often lose their ability to relax and reconnect with their feelings when their shift is over. The laser focus turns into the laser lifestyle.
The laser lifestyle is not just for emergency workers. Itís an occupational hazard for a lot of high-achievers these days. Their pace is fast and their adrenaline high, at home as well as work. They donít look left or right. They work single-mindedly to check off their goals as efficiently as possible. I call this ďthe drive to optimize.Ē
If youíve adopted the laser lifestyle, chances are youíve noticed a change in your marriage or primary relationship.
Relationships languish under the laser focus. They need something more like a wide-angle lens. They need you to be open to whatever comes up. Intimacy canít be optimized. It has to unfold.
Think of the mindset you have when youíre a tourist in a foreign country. You go strolling through town, just looking around, open following your whims. Relationships thrive on this attitude of discovery. When you think about it, thatís what made dating so much fun. You dropped the laser focus. You looked at your date with a wide-angle lens. You were open to learning new things, having new feelings, and communicating in new ways. You discovered new parts of yourself. It was such a satisfying experience that you kept calling her for more dates!
You still need this kind of time and so does your partner. So try out some ways to leave the laser focus at work. For some people, it helps to have a transition ritual, like 15 minutes alone after they come home, or a short walk or run. You might leave a couple of nights completely work free. No checking email, no going over tomorrowís schedule. And no planning or problem-solving about family issues, either. No goals at all. Just relax and tune in to whateverís going on with your partner and kids. Even a small amount of this kind of time will make you feel more in balance.
Bonus: The non-stop laser lifestyle eventually takes a toll on your resilience and creativity. So donít be surprised if your new wide-angle focus increases your effectiveness at work, as well.
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