Work-Life Balance

Athletes and other performers are not immune to the challenges of finding a balance between life and performance.

(Or Performance-Life Balance As We Call It)

When Life Gets In The Way
When Life Gets In The Way

This article is designed to get you thinking about some of the hurdles that may get thrown up in the months ahead “when life gets in the way”, more commonly know as find a Work-Life Balance. Some barriers are predictable. For example, juggling work and training commitments. Others whilst will spring up unexpectedly, such as illness or financial stress. We’ve all had situations when “performance” has taken a back seat to other demands. But this thing we call “life” need not derail our progress or compromise our sense of pleasure.

Let’s pause for a moment and recall a core Metuf principle of performance enhancement: enjoyment is essential in developing mental toughness.

When life gets in the way we need to remember why we took up our chosen sport (or performance area) in the first place. What do we love about it and why it is enjoyable for us personally? In other words, it’s important to quantify the ‘fun factor’. What it is that we gain from participating in our chosen sport? This will help provide a buffer from the non-sporting challenges that life inevitably throws our way.

Work-Life Balance 101

‘Quantifying’ means putting a name, value or description to something to better understand it and improve it. If you can specify what you love about your sport then you can start incorporating this as a ‘non-negotiable’ in your sporting life. By maintaining the fun factor we give ourselves an outlet or refuge from life stressors. Furthermore, at the same time, we enhance our sporting performance in the face of adversity.

Following on from this idea of quantifying enjoyment, it’s extremely useful to define what matters to us outside of the sporting arena. Below some categories which our clients have identified as being important in their lives:

  • Family Friendship and social relationships
  • Physical health
  • Emotional and personal wellbeing
  • Non-sporting leisure activities
  • Education and learning
  • Personal development
  • Spirituality and religion
  • Employment and career
  • Community life and the environment

I daresay most readers would agree that the above categories are important with some categories more important than others. If we explore an area like ‘employment’ it becomes clear that this matters to individuals for very different reasons. For some people, employment is simply a means to an end, i.e. a way to put food on the table. Yet for others, it’s more than merely having a job, it’s about building a career. For others, their work helps to define their identity. And for the few, employment is a gateway to making a difference in the world.

Work-Life Imbalance; One Side Hurting The Other

When life throws up work-related stress it helps to know what matters most to you in this category so that you can define your own targets for improvement and develop strategies for meaningful gains. This has the benefit of contributing to positive changes in your job situation and also of knowing that you’re actively doing something to make things better for yourself.

Let’s again pause to recall another core Metuf principle of performance enhancement: that improvement is best achieved through a focus on effort.

Effort, for us, is controllable and is a combination of quality and quantity into what are targeting for improvement. It is most easily measured in minutes spent ‘trying your best’ each week. Most importantly, it involves setting clearly defined weekly blocks of effort to drive continual improvement towards attaining goals.

In essence, you can take goal setting and goal getting skills from sport and use them to better your life in general. Let’s take ‘education’ as an example, with academic issues such as low grades having a negative impact on an athlete’s performance.

Firstly, it may help to quantify what it is about those particular studies that matter to the athlete. Why are you doing that course and why is it important to do well? If there are elements of fun in those studies, it can help to specify what exactly is enjoyable about studying and incorporate these as ‘non-negotiables’ to help stay on track.

Secondly, it’s important to set clearly defined goals over the course of an academic year/semester – what grade or other outcome are you hoping to achieve in the not-too-distant future?

Monthly Checks (Key Work-Life Indicators)

Thirdly, the use of monthly checks allows you to keep tabs on your progress – what measures will serve as evidence of improvement and confirm whether you are on the right track?

Finally and most importantly, what does your academic effort look like? That is, what are you doing each week that is within your control to improve as a student? By allocating dedicated blocks of time each week to high-quality learning improvement activities an athlete gives themselves the best chance of addressing educational challenges.

Life has a tendency to get in the way of our sporting ambitions, either by disrupting our routines unexpectedly or casting a shadow over the simple pleasures of training and competing. Crises in areas such as family, work, study, health and finances can seem overwhelming. But the same strategies which allow you to quantify, understand and then enhance athletic performance can be used outside of the sporting arena to benefit you in “the game of life”.

If you’d like a simple way to measure the impact of your current workload and/or circumstances then complete one of our Mental Toughness Questionnaires which, amongst a raft of other measures will show you how stressed you are at the moment.

Author: Chris Pomfret

Chris "The Gun" Pomfret is an exceptional performance psychologist who has helped boost the Mental Toughness of many a sporting client since joining Condor Performance in 2012. He lives in Brisbane, Australia with his wife and two daughters.