There are those that would say that work life balance is dead or, there is no such thing. Some even go so far as, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too, “ “You can’t be a good parent and have a career. You have to choose” More even profess that work life ‘integration’ is the ticket. With the weekly work hours getting longer, technology allowing us to be largely ‘ on call’ or tethered to work even when we are not there, parents being faced with children who are largely committed to extra curricular activities and clubs in parents’ ‘free time’, more and more people are slipping into burnout.
I believe work life ‘balance’ is simply an issue of semantics. Often when we think of balance we imagine a scale with a fulcrum that has two sides which have to achieve equality in order to stay suspended. In my experience balance is more of a rhythm that we achieve. The scale is always in motion, just as our lives are always dynamic not static. The key is to maintain a rhythm that does not allow one side or the other to dramatically dip too far slamming to the ground and sending the other end flying. This ‘balance’ can be achieved through integration of all aspects of our lives while creating wholeness. Most people share a simple and similar desire to create ease, joy and meaningful engagement between all the interconnected roles, relationships and responsibilities that make up their lives. In my practice, this what is meant when we talk about ‘work-life balance’.
The reality is both of these aspects of our lives, work and play, at various times will compete with each other, our attention and energy will flow more in favor of one than the other. The goal is to have a depth of clarity for the big picture and what we want our life experience to look like as a whole and strive for ‘relationship’ between the two. What do I mean by this? Just like any quality relationship there is some give and take and understanding. One person has to have the other person’s back and pick up the slack sometimes to give the other what they need to grow. Our lives are no different with respect to work and play. We are in a constant state of prioritizing. If our priorities are out of alignment with our bigger vision for our work and play arenas, we start to feel ‘out of balance’ or fragmented. It is simply a symptom that we have pieced ourselves out too much. When this happens we have to assess where we are and get clear on what we want our experience to look like. Once we have achieved this we can use this vision as a compass or a navigation system for how we prioritize the cornucopia of opportunities that show up in our experience. It then becomes clear what we say yes to and what we say no to, always pivoting and in motion. It is an awareness we create for where we are in time and space with respect to how much we can handle and when we need to adjust.
In short balance simply means you find a rhythm and equality among the various arenas of your life so you feel supported inspired and purposeful. It is not specifically rooted in the idea that you give any one area more attention than the other. You are instead gaining value from each creating a counter balance that leads to ultimate personal and professional fulfillment. I believe that is the end game of work life balance: personal and professional fulfillment that leads to wholeness.
Work life balance is NOT dead. It is possible for all aspects of our two worlds to coexist together. We can have our cake and eat it too. You can be an excellent and supportive parent with a deeply meaningful career. We simply have to choose it and catch the rhythm to the beat of our own drum.