Recently, thirty progressive women involved in agriculture and I attended a Work-Life Harmony workshop hosted by New York Agri-Women. Dr. Chris Allen, a licensed psychologist and board certified coach, from Insight Business Works ( presented the workshop. Work-life harmony requires ownership and commitment. Hence, the reason I procrastinated writing this blog. I have found it much easier to live the status quo, allow others to monopolize my time, and not live my life true to my values. There I said it! Now comes the really hard part, accepting ownership to change!
Dr. Allen outlined several steps to guide us through the process of creating work-life harmony. The steps are as follows:
  • Assess your current satisfaction.  Are you surviving or thriving?
  • Defining your values. Values shape priorities.
  • Being mindful, setting boundaries, losing the guilt, and practicing self-compassion.
  • Making a commitment to change, a step or two at a time over time, and live by one’s values.
Dr. Allen began the workshop by asking each of us to rate our satisfaction level relating to our career, social life, financial status, physical conditions, and community involvement. Of course, we could all use more money. However, allowing myself to participate on a lifelong roller coaster of eating my emotions, allowed me to rank physical wellbeing as very dissatisfied. I always find time to eat, yet rarely make time to exercise! Recognizing one’s own life dissatisfaction(s) is the first step in accepting the ownership necessary to make changes.
Aligning dissatisfaction(s) with one’s true values and beliefs is the next step to work-life harmony. Thus, Dr. Allen asked us to write down our top values. Of course, caring for our family, our children, the farm (family business/career), and those around us were common themes in the room. Many of us make time for others, yet, we do not make time for ourselves. When we do not take time for ourselves, dissatisfaction occurs.
How do we avoid the inevitable pitfall of dissatisfaction, which leads to misery? We become mindful and we make connections with other people. As Dr. Allen explained, “we don’t really know which comes first, being a happy person or a person with friends, but regardless, the data is clear, people with a strong social network are happy (happy people have strong social networks)”. Being mindful of our own values and emotions and surrounding ourselves with happy people helps us to avoid misery and dissatisfaction.
But, what is being mindful? According to Psychology Today, “mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you bye, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” According to Allen, heath and increased wellbeing are just two benefits of being mindful.
Becoming mindful requires practice. It requires one to set boundaries and learn to say no. Learning to say no is not easy, as many of us feek guilty when we say no. I for one know that when I say no, I am admitting that I can’t do it all, creating an inner perception that I do not have it all together. That feeling causes stress and I eat! The reality is, I am beating myself up (or eating myself up) and I really should be practicing self-compassion. Yes, everyone, it is ok to be kind to ourselves. The Dali Lama once said, “If you want others to be happy practice compassion, if you want happiness, practice compassion.” Compassion helps us understand ourselves and understand others. Certainly, there is no reason to feel guilty about showing or having compassion!! Actually, research shows that people who practice self-compassion are likely to be more successful, because they forgive their human mistakes and try again!
So, what is next? While writing this blog, I realized that if I asked my husband for a little help, I could make it the gym one more day each week. Of course, a huge gush of guilt came over me. I can’t ask him to leave the farm early. I should be able to rearrange my schedule and fit one more hour in at the gym each week. However, practicing the skills learned from Dr. Allen, I asked for the help! John, my husband is taking our daughter, Lily, to school one morning each week, so I can practice a little self-compassion at the gym! The rest is up to me, as a famous author, Erica Jong once wrote: Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one is to blame. I now have no one to blame! What about you?
Work-life Harmony- We can do it!

One thought on “Work-life Harmony- We can do it!

  • January 30, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Sheila–What a wonderful set of takeaways from the workshop in November! It was such an honor and so enjoyable to work with you and the NewYork Agriwomen. I appreciate the time, effort, and authenticity you put into sharing with others your work toward greater work-life harmony!

    You points about how difficult it is for women to ask for what they need and to view their needs as as equally important are key.

    Thanks very much for sharing.

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