Thriving in Workplace and Home

My spouse and I recently had the opportunity to share a few lessons and tools on enabling us to thrive in workplace and home as a dual-career family. The most popular question from the participants is that while they want to thrive in both environments, they wanted to know how to prioritize and juggle the conflicting priorities.

Since this seems to be quite a popular question, I thought it’d be good to share some of the key takeaways here for the benefit of the larger group.

The most foundational step when it comes to thriving in workplace and home is to have the belief that we can thrive in both. The semantic of “work-life balance” somehow gives the impression that something has to go. The reality is that our life is dynamic and that “see-saw” balancing act always oscillate from time to time. As a family, we made a conscious decision very early in our partnership that it will be “work-life integration”. By using the word integration, we are conscious of the choices and priorities that we make and we are committed to stand by our principles at all times.

With this foundation laid, as a dual-career family, we see thriving in workplace and home as running a “Life Enterprise”. This means that we approach everything as running an enterprise, we integrate both with the other life aspects, using the tools and processes to run as a unit. This includes setting the family guiding principles based on values, systems, support, and decision-making matrix. In a simpler form, it means we are mindful and intentional over the things we do, be it at work or at home.

We believe in preserving the core while being flexible in executing.

To run the “Life Enterprise”, we have observed that these “pillars” have significantly helped us set it up effectively:

1. Build your support, processes and systems: For our family, we have set-up many systems to automate, delegate and prompt our important tasks. Of course, just like any enterprise, we need to start somewhere and further refine the systems as we go along. Some examples of the systems include the morning breakfast system, laundry management system, house-cleaning support system, homework support (which is minimal except if it was Bahasa), monthly bills payment system, kids’ annual stipend system and our property management system. We even have a travel checklist and toiletries & travel essentials ready to-go whenever we decide to travel (near or far).

2. Plan and prioritize: We cannot stress enough the importance of planning and prioritization. Given that our time is finite, we have to be mindful of what gets done and what gets dropped. As a life enterprise, rather than prioritizing in silos and in isolation, we would rather look at the bigger picture and that means balancing our family, our life and our career. I can expand this topic on its own – so I will deliberate more in a different entry on time management. 🙂 Hint: Things get done when scheduled in your calendar

3. Habits and rituals: We admit that we are creatures of habits and our willpower can bring us only so far. Hence, we believe in creating daily habits and family rituals to increase the chance of success in integrating both worlds. We believe in being role model to our children, hence setting up core values and use those as our compass has helped us tremendously. We also believe in consciously creating our family identity: the family rituals will help us through this journey and bind us in a more meaningful way.

4. Create open and honest communication: This is the most interesting journey so far for us, as we build this life enterprise. We joked at the learning session that we observed that the number of “silent treatments” and “unnecessary fights” have exponentially decreased over years, as we learn how to fight well. We learnt how to be transparent and communicate our needs openly. We need to understand where the other person comes from, what is his/her motivation when expressing their stand and how we can work together in co-creating the solutions. As we learn to fight better, we created deeper bond and mutual respect for each other, as partner in this life enterprise.

In summary, a slight shift in perspective will yield completely different strategies. And above all, this fits nicely with our persona – my spouse and I find meaning in the partnership and we get the joy in growing together.

Chasing Happiness.

Being happy can feel elusive sometimes. There is so much hunger in ‘chasing happiness’ yet the exact act of chasing happiness is the main reason why we cannot ‘achieve’ happiness – what a conundrum.

I joined the bandwagon of ‘chasing happiness’ more than a decade ago.

Feeling dissatisfied, I could not understand why I was not being happy despite career and family successes. It made me ponder if I was being ungrateful, since nobody seems to be openly bothered about not ‘being happy’.

The quest of ‘chasing happiness’ brought me to interesting paths – some require detour, some lead to interesting insights. Through journaling, personal development classes and books, I had a fascinating discovery: that I might have defined happiness too narrowly.

Naturally, as a true-blue engineer, I began to dissect the problem and began to see possible solutions emerging.

I find few of these frameworks and tips worked beautifully for me (hope you find them equally enlightening):

  1. Definition of happiness: This turns out to be the biggest AHA for me. When I started reframing the range of ‘positive emotions’ instead of ‘being happy’, suddenly many possibilities emerge. Rather than focusing on being happy, I started listing down all things (or actions) that make me feel joyful, in awe, satisfied, contented and accomplished. The list of things that made me feel positive suddenly grow by multiple folds. Being clear on these positive emotions had raised my awareness so I can incorporate more in my life. (And I learnt, I am not doing too bad in this arena as I previously thought!)
  2. Creating space to experience positive emotions: The power of setting daily intention of loving myself and creating ‘micro joy’ has been tremendously helpful. I know that reading, dancing, doing yoga, playing with my kids, connecting with people and walking in the park are the big things that create positive emotions for me, so I will incorporate 3 – 5 minutes of these activities throughout the day. The result? Magnificent. (I love things that require minimum effort with maximum results.)
  3. Physiology matters: There are many resources that point out that we can ‘trick’ our body to feeling joyful and happy. Simple things like dancing and smiling send powerful signals to our body and nervous systems that reset our stress response. My routine is either restorative yoga or qigong which have tremendously helped me cultivate the relaxation routine, which in turns, create the positive emotions.

Above all, I stopped expecting to be happy. 🙂