How’s that New Year’s Resolution going? You know… the one where you promised yourself you’d make a real difference in how late you stayed at work… or how much time you actually spent with your family on the weekend…. or how much time you got to the gym, or Church, or your friend’s violin performances?
Work-Life Balance: we hear it all the time. Everyone encourages us to maintain a sense of balance and keep these in check. We know we are supposed to put down the cell phone after hours, or pay attention at our kids soccer game to the field rather than the buzzing in our pockets, and yet we feel the pull to handle “just this one thing” or say to ourselves that it actually clears our mind to get the last thing off our plate so we can be present at home.
Well, I’m here to tell you that Work Life Balance is a myth.
The very image conjured up by the phrase Work Life Balance is one of a seesaw, where work is on one side and life is on the other. Of course, this is absurd for a number of reasons. First, because how can “life” be on one side of a scale with anything on the other?! Isn’t it ALL “life?” Second, this is absurd because it implies that there is a perfect balance – some place where everything is in perfect harmony and one things does not outweigh the other. But if you’ve ever tried to actually balance a seesaw – or a work and family schedule – you know how absurd that idea is. Even if you were able to reach that fictitious state of equilibrium for a moment, one broken arm can throw it all off in the next.
So what do we do? We desperately want to have it all: a fulfilling and successful work experience as well as a satisfied home, spiritual, emotional and social experience. I’d like to suggest the following:
Get rid of the seesaw: it’s ALL ‘Life”!
What we strive for is actually an integration of all our activities
that is a reflection of our values.
We’ve all heard of the people who have had some tragedy, some jolt to their “normal” existence that have radically reworked their schedules and priorities: some change jobs, some go back to school, some stop hanging out with the toxic friend. Why do you think that is? Because having a near-death or traumatic experience suddenly re-acquaints them with their core values and they then see the need to match their lives to their clear vision of how to spend their precious moments.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver
Rather than seek the perfect balance between work and anything else, I invite you to think rather of the choices that you make and align them with your priorities. You might start with the following:
1. What are the things I most want to accomplish in my lifetime? Is it being a parent? Building a business? Strengthening my community, my mind, my body? What do I want to look back on my life and see? (As far as I know, there are no reported cases of people on their death beds wishing they’d answered more emails.)
2. If I have less time than I think in order to accomplish those things, what do I need to do to be sure I have the experiences that are most important to me?
3. Of all the things on the list, what’s the priority right NOW? (it may be different next year or even tomorrow.)
4. Here’s the tough one: adjust your calendar accordingly! Sometimes this takes a real overhaul: having a conversation with your boss abut not answering emails at 9pm, telling your spouse you plan to be out one night a week to take archery class, signing up for a dating service to find that special someone. Sometimes it simply takes forgiving yourself for missing the recital today to go to yoga, or postponing a family visit to attend a conference.
Revisit these steps frequently – it’s a matter of constant adjustment. The idea you reach a point where it stops requiring adjustment is all part of the Work-Life Balance Myth.
Each piece builds the whole picture. It’s up to you to decide what picture that will be.
Otherwise you may find yourself having built a picture you never intended,
just by default.
If you’d like assistance creating the picture in the way you intend, give us a call!