It's Hard to Live Well When You Don't Work for Yourself

Actually, some people live well while working for someone else, but it’s certainly easier when you work for yourself.

What does it mean to live well? It means having a work/life balance that is best for you. It means being able to take time to hang out with friends and family, to vacation, to pursue hobbies, to volunteer or whatever else makes you happy.

Living well doesn’t just mean being happy outside of work, though. It also requires getting satisfaction from the way you make a living. Balance requires that you are happy with both sides of life and spending the best ratio of time doing each.

Put your personal priorities first

What does it mean to work for yourself? It doesn't necessarily mean being self employed. You are working for yourself as long as you feel your personal priorities are being served first. For some people, that may mean working like a dog for some period of time so he can retire wealthy one day or meet some goal. That can be considered working for yourself, but only if you are fully aware of the tradeoffs.

It’s especially hard to live well your whole life when climbing the corporate ladder. You may be the best at your job, and you may be rewarded with salary increases, but how often will your boss reward you by saying “great job, take the next three months off?”

That’s not to say that some companies haven’t figured out how to make work/life balance a legitimate priority. I worked for a consulting firm called Point B which built their entire culture around making sure their employees live well. It’s not just lip service either. Consultants at Point B are regularly known to take extended vacations, work less hours and have meaningful input into the types of projects they’re assigned to, all while providing outstanding value to their clients. The firm’s unique relationship with their employees has earned them annual praise for being a great place to work from publications such as Consulting Magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

Take your work/life balance temperature

You can take big steps towards living better even if you're not looking to change careers. If you feel like your work controls your life, stop to ask yourself why. It may be your plan to work really hard to meet some life goal. More often than not, though, people simply get caught up in the competitive spirit of productivity, or they become obsessed with material posessions to fit in with friends and colleagues.

Return some balance in your life by reevaluating your priorities and thinking about how to structure your career around those priorities. Your employer may be more flexible than you think. Consider asking for whatever you need to start living well. Maybe you need some extended time off, or maybe you need to work part-time. It could be that you just need to work at home one day a week.

With the economic crisis in full swing, it may seem like a bad time to make such requests. But remember that your boss is a person too. Know how valuable you are to your employer. Make sure that if you are granted some flexibility, the quality of your work remains constant. Above all, consider whether you should be working somewhere if you’re afraid to ask for things that you really need.

We’ll discuss the strongest form of working for yourself (being self-employed) in another post. For now, let us know what you consider work/life balance.

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Hi, I’m Corbett Barr. I’ve been writing here since 2009. Join my email list for new articles about supporting yourself doing something you love: