Is Work/Life Balance Really Possible?

I have yet to meet a person who has achieved work/life balance. This is due to daily changes in the landscape of our lives (life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans), there is always more piling up on our plates than we can handle, and that the metrics for balance are usually imprecise. 

Stop wasting your time on this quest because it is often a vague guilt-ridden aspiration set with the best intentions. The quest for balance is based on,

A false dichotomy between work and the rest of life

We bring the same person to work that we take home, to a house of worship, to the movies, and to the kids’ soccer games. Our needs and experience of our humanity does not change across venues. Rather than balance the quest would be better served if we asked, “How can I show up as my best self no matter where I am?”

An artificial view of time

W/L balance is based on a very Western view of time that views it as a scarce entity. As a result we fear that time will be “wasted”. In the David Lynch movie “The Straight Story” he presents his protagonist Alvin Straight as a contrast to the frenzied life. Alvin travels everywhere on a lawnmower. In so doing he experienced real human encounters. Contrast our lives hell-bent on speed with the Italian saying, “Who goes slowly goes safely; who goes safely goes far”. In this instance time is seen as plentiful. A high value in such cultures is not to rush from one appointment to another but to savour our time with each individual. 

A misplaced sense of priorities

If one places a higher priority on time at the office than one does on reading, socializing, family night, meditating, and exercise then, in Steven Covey’s terms, one is not “sharpening the saw” or replenishing one’s limited resources. One friend of mind thinks this way about being a slave to the clock, “Busy day today? Spend extra time in meditation”. All of life is sacred including sitting and doing nothing.

The fallacy that one can do everything

This unnecessary burden is especially true of women in the workforce, especially those with young children or  special needs family members. Society and especially some males take less responsibility for what is prejudicially labeled as “women’s work” The reality is that one can only juggle so many balls before they start dropping. The question then could be “How can we better share the juggling?”


What are your best practices in living your priorities?

About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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