Don't chase the elusive work-life balance; build resilience

Tracey Porter

It took a potentially fatal health diagnosis to convince corporate high-flyer Stuart Taylor that his way of working was no longer conducive to living a long and productive life.

An experienced management consultant with qualifications in psychology, finance, IT and engineering, Taylor was working around the clock for a top tier financial firm when he began experiencing debilitating headaches.

A visit to his specialist revealed a brain tumour and with it a 2.5 year death sentence.

It was a life changing moment for the young father who soon after began his journey back to wellness by developing a new passion - learning about the mind-body connection and the importance of sleep and meditation to a balanced lifestyle.

Today Taylor is cancer-free and earns a living as the head of The Resilience Institute Australia working with organisations to build resilience and create sustainable high-performance.

Taylor says that while many work environments promote a fear-based culture, individuals alone are responsible for better managing stress and avoiding burnout and chronic illness.

“It’s important to remain connected with your ‘why’"

Rather than chasing the elusive idea of work/life balance, Taylor says it is critical small business leaders learn to manage their personal stress levels through daily practices that encourage personal robustness in the workplace.

“Pre-cancer, in my corporate career, my health took a back seat. Working on a big project with high demands, exercise was the first thing to go.

Post-cancer I’ve gone through an enormous change, implementing habits around exercise, sufficient and quality sleep, a healthy diet and meditation, building these into daily practices.

“Understanding that these are essential to sustainable high performance, these are now key priorities that set me up for the day ahead and for optimal performance in other aspects of my life.”

Taylor says the reason why many small business leaders go into business is because they are trying to achieve their “purpose and contribution”.

Too often the focus in small businesses is to avoid the negatives, where sometimes what is needed is just a re-prioritisation, he says.

“It’s important to remain connected with your ‘why’. If you get caught up in the drama, intensity and worry that comes with running your own business, you won’t just be making yourself unwell, but you will likely never be able to deliver on your purpose, your reason for starting. It is essential to maintain connection with family and engage your personal passions, not losing sight of the things that inspire and energise you.” 

Taylor says there are four steps to consider when looking to redress the imbalance.

Small businesses need sustainable high performance, he says, but to achieve this, resilience in leadership is required.

The first is to be mindful of worry when it occurs.

“You can turn a victim mentality into a performance mindset. Understand the onset of worry and get better at noticing when it takes hold. Tuning into how you’re responding will help you gain greater self-awareness.”

Secondly he suggests reaching out to your close support network as meaningful connections are essential to personal resilience.

Next, concerned individuals should consider getting professional support to help get back on track.

Lastly, he suggests taking a step back.

“Taking a break to reset your priorities is key. Get an understanding of the key metrics of where you’re up to, and regain perspective on your purpose. Try to identify practical steps to get back on track, whether this means reconnecting with family and friends, or building stronger habits around diet, exercise and meditation.”

Small businesses need sustainable high performance, he says, but to achieve this, resilience in leadership is required.

“You can’t be a resilient leader without self-mastery.”

Tracey Porter

Tracey Porter is a career journalist whose mug shot appears everywhere from daily newspapers and online news sites to business and consumer magazine title.

Image: Pedro Alves, Flickr Creative Commons License