Stop Chasing Work-Life Balance. Look for the Red Threads Instead

While working on a project tentatively titled Five Fallacies About Work-Life Balance, I discovered a simple, powerful way to up your joy quotient in every domain of your life. It comes from Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall’s new book, Nine Lies About Work.

Instead of thinking of work and life separately, it’s designed to help you maximize what you love across all domains of your life.

Look for the Red Threads

Imagine a single thread representing each activity in your life. Most are monochromatic – black, white, and every permutation of gray. They represent activities that fall on what I think of as a miserable-to-meh scale, activities you loathe to ones that you do sort of mindlessly or simply endure.

Now imagine a red thread for each activity you love.

Red-thread activities give you energy before, during, and after the fact. You look forward to them, lose track of time while you’re doing them, and feel refreshed instead of drained when you finish them.

You already figured out that it’s a good plan to maximize red threads, right? First, though, you need to get a baseline. Do that by playing Love It or Loathe It, a name which may or may not reflect my recent fascination with HGTV. (It does.)

Love It or Loathe It

Document your love it and loathe it activities for a week; not everything, just the things that spark joy or disgust. Scribble them on a notecard, dictate into a speech-to-text app, embroider them on a doily. Whatever works.

After a week, become an anthropologist, curious rather than judgmental, as you study the data.  Notice the ratio of red thread activities to monochromatic ones.

If you come up with 20% red threads or more, stretch your arm out in front of you, reach it over your head and keep going far enough to give yourself a pat on the back. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that 20% red threads is sufficient for physicians to be significantly less likely to suffer burnout.

Fewer than 20% red threads? Change something. One activity at a time.

Looking for more than “less likely to experience burnout?” Aren’t we all? I’m personally going for the percentage that supports my sustainable well-being. Get there by changing something to a red thread activity. Step by step, drop a tiny something that you loathe and intentionally add red to your life tapestry.

My big issue with work-life balance (OK, one of them) is that it’s almost impossible to define it beyond “I know it when I see it,” which makes unnecessarily difficult to take steps toward making it happen.

Look for the Red Threads, together with Love It or Loathe It, are simple ways to do what Buckingham and Goodall suggest in their book, maximize what you love, in  a way that’s simple, measurable, and sure to help you boost sustainable well-being.

Want help adding more red threads to your life? Let’s talk about how can help. Schedule a complimentary Mini Coaching Session today. 

image: Pixabay; used with permission
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