Our relationship to time

“Life is about making choices, and choosing means eliminating”1aiming at work-life balance, by Sophie Audubert-Todorovic.

Let’s assume that you’ve already read many management and leading change theories: change curve is a classic concept, you’ve identified the reasons for resistance and access to autonomy, you’ve spent some time surfing the internet about emotional intelligence, various communication techniques, collaborative management…You are aware of the hiring of some Chief Happiness Officers (C.H.O.) and are convinced that there is more to life than the raw pursuit of profit. As my clients, you are capable of “analyzing what’s going on”, however not sufficient this might be. What could we do?

Option 1. Review our relationship with time

Amidst working modes acceleration, considering the lack of realism of some project deployment schemes, which only Super Heroes (with a cape and a tight suit) could achieve, let’s recall two principles of our human condition2: Irreversibility, the fact that time passes without any means to hold it or relive it, and Ineluctability, the fact that time passes without any ways to slow it down. The good news is: we will not be able to do everything that we have to do, even with a great sense of professionalism and engagement. We are limited human beings, and this is ok.

Option 2. Eliminating allows better choices

“All changes, even the most longed for ones, have their melancholy.”3 Our capacity to live serenely in chaos and permanent sense of urgency is in part linked to our capacity to give up, to stop generating negative thoughts, hoping that someone (a manager, an HR manager, the company) will at last ‘understand, change, learn’, even though every external and observable sign says the contrary. Giving up starts by accepting that it will be difficult, with the related negative emotions: anger, sense of injustice, bitterness, sadness…In the quest for happiness lies an emotional part which has to be expressed and opened, such as: accepting that an old world that seemed happy is gone, understanding that yesterday’s successful solutions do not grant success in the future, taking some time to stop and listen to our inner state, express our feelings. Accepting that some data of today’s environment will not change enables choice making.

Option 3. Greeting “Human Emotion Managers”

There are a great number of people, within companies, who know how human we are, and who accept that life is not as bright and as simple as it may appear, and that happiness may be a bit far away. They live us alone on our bleak days, understanding that we need our melancholy time lapse. They are convinced that magical wands belong to fairy tales, and they let us choose what cannot be done. These people do not need to be coached, to be “more” (faster, more engaged, more efficient, more demanding). We have to make them way.

At last, work life balance lies as well in dealing with a subdued« here & now », instead of hoping for a perfect world. And progressively, via small changes, step by step, giving ourselves and others the possibility to design our own equation of happiness at work.

[1] André Gide
[2] inspired by the book by François Délivré, Les quatre visages du temps, InterEditions, p.23-ff
[3] Anatole France