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How an integrated life, not a balanced one, is key to work satisfaction

In a world where work, family, recreation, faith and other factors compete for our time, people speak about the need to seek a “balanced life.”

But maybe “balance” is the wrong goal.

“The concept of being in ‘balance’ has the potential to set us up for immediate failure,” says Michael Sipe, author of The AVADA Principle and founder of the consulting firm 10x Catalyst Groups found online at www.10xgroups.com.

“We talk about work/life balance as if work and the rest of our lives are separate things. But in reality, work and everything else are all part of one life.”

Instead of balance, Sipe suggests seeking an “integrated life,” where the integral parts of life are combined into a fully functioning whole. He acknowledges that’s easier said than done.

“It’s a challenge to determine what the integral parts of human life are, how to integrate them, and what a fully functioning and completely whole life would be like,” he says.

For Sipe, a major part of that integration involves faith. But his suggestions on how to approach your job so that it is integrated into the rest of your life are relevant regardless of spiritual views.

In Sipe’s view, work often gets a bad rap. Work is actually a neutral concept, he says, and the larger evaluation is not that we “have” to work, or how much we work. Instead the key is to look at the purposes toward which our work is directed and to be intentional about how we allocate our energy.

In managing your attitude about work, Sipe recommends that you:

Focus on purpose. “One definition of work is energy directed toward a purpose,” Sipe says. “If you find yourself holding a detrimental attitude about your work, take a look at your purpose. Perhaps you simply are not directing your energy toward a purpose you care about.” If so, he says, consider changing your work so that you can invest your energy toward a purpose that matters to you. Alternatively, perhaps you have not connected your work to your purpose, and thus, your motivation to work is suffering.

Avoid griping. The more you declare that work is hard, bad, unpleasant, a waste of time, and a drag, the more it will be all those things for you, Sipe says. “Reframe work as good, as a joy, a blessing, a challenge, an opportunity, a privilege, an investment,” he says. “Loving your work is a choice — your choice.”

Take responsibility and take charge. If you don’t like your work, Sipe says, then change it. “You are not a tree rooted in place; you can move,” he says. “You are not a victim or a slave. If you are blessed to live in the Western world, and especially if you are blessed to live in America, you are free to do the work you love toward purposes you desire.”

Ask yourself better questions. When things aren’t working out as you hoped, you might be inclined to ask yourself, “Why me? Why is this so hard? What did I do to deserve this?” Instead, Sipe says, ask yourself: “What am I supposed to learn here?” He says you could also do as the late Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker, instructed: “Don’t ask why things are so hard; ask how you can get better.”

“The concept of work is simple, but we tend to complicate it,” Sipe says. “And work really does apply to everything we do. Yes, we can work at a job, but we also work on our health, work on our education, work on our marriage, work on our friendships, and work on our faith. It’s all energy applied toward a purpose.”

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