Don’t put your life in one basket

I was once consulted by a successful entertainer who was well-known for his punishing work schedule. During our half-hour he not only took three ‘vitally important’ phone calls but also jotted down plans for the rest of the week in his personal organiser. He was clearly a very busy man.

However, despite his public profile and the pressure of work, he managed to keep both his blood pressure and stress levels low. I asked him how he managed this.

He replied that whatever his workload – and the weather – he would spend at least half-an-hour every day in his garden. This never failed to relax him.

The point that struck me was not that we should all take up gardening, but that a personal activity – whether train-spotting, cooking or synchronised swimming – unconnected with work can have huge benefits. Immerse yourself in an activity you enjoy and you will be surprised by how you gain perspective.

That crucial meeting with the head of accounts may no longer seem so gruelling, as you realise that there is more to life than work.

In Western society the balance of our lives has changed, with work our main reason for getting up in the morning. We demote friends, family and ourselves and become trapped in a cycle of spiralling work pressure.

Yet there is an antidote. Developing other interests – whether a hobby, a sport or a shared family activity – provides a counterbalance to the pressures of work. Balance is the key to keeping stress in its place, while a variety of activities stimulates interest and enthusiasm, two of the best pick-me-ups I know.

So, just as you should spread your financial investments you should do the same with your emotional investments. Then if one fails – work, for example – there are others still there to support you.

Develop a portfolio of interests and activities. Then if you lose one, you will still have a life. Whether these fall into the categories of work, hobbies or family, a range of investments is the key.

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