I hate the term work-life balance. Life is not the opposite of work for me. I hope it is not the opposite for you. When I’m working, I’m engaging, connecting, growing… Also I am definitely breathing when I am working. Hope you are too!
So, what do we mean when we speak of work vs life and keeping a balance between them? The work-life duality is a flawed mindset. Both of these categories – “work” and “life” – include aspects of identity, relationship, and sense of purpose that create fulfillment in our lives.
Imagine a balance scale. Take a quick inventory of the myriad of roles you play throughout any given week. Here are some of mine to get you thinking: co-worker, project lead, recruiter, sourcer, cheerleader, fiancé, daughter, dog-owner, citizen, friend, and yogini. Now place your many roles into one of the weighing pans on either end of the beam – one pan for “work” and the other for “life.”
This means every role we play needs to be arbitrarily split into these two categories. Yet for all of us who have done any remodeling or hosted a party, then a role like project lead will be tough to put on only one side of the scale. The more we examine the roles we play, the more overlap we may find.
But please go with this mental exercise for a bit and put your “work” roles on one side of the fulcrum. Then put your “life” roles on the other side. Now look at the balance scale. It takes an odd skew, doesn’t it?
On the other hand, work gives our life purpose and infuses our lives with a key set of relationships united by that common purpose. Often work defines us: #IamaRecruiter, right? Gallup finds that 55% of US workers get their sense of identity from their work. It’s not just a j-o-b. This percentage has remained pretty stable across the 16 years of surveying. In a recent survey, the percentage of US workers who got their sense of identity from work jumped to 63% for those with household income over $50,000 and jumped all the way to 70% for those with a college degree.
Yet is work all of who we are? Again, take a quick inventory. Consider the many areas beyond work where you have relationships united by a shared purpose – such your family or school, sports, or civic groups. It seems fairly human to bond around relationships created through common mission and vision. We do it for money, sure, but we do it for many other reasons too.
Our health, our families, our work – it’s all vital to our full lives. Do they ever stay in balance? We juggle. The struggle is real. The search for balance is worthy, but aiming to balance work and life doesn’t make sense to me.
The only way to achieve work-life balance seems to be drop the view that work is separate from life. My life is my life. My time is my time. My choices are my choices.
From that perspective, integration becomes the way forward. How do I integrate the many roles, relationships, and goals vying for my time? Well, for this “recruiting yogini” my practice comes first. I rise early, do a little yoga, a little chanting, and a little meditation. After that my purpose for any given day is a lot clearer. My simple practice enhances my ability to flex with what life brings. It strengthens my resolve to stand with poise in the face of challenges. And it provides some intuitive wisdom of when to bend and when to be firm.
By choosing every day to make time for my practice, integrating all the other demands on my time gets so much easier. Sounds good, but you have no time for anything more, right? If the work-life balance illusion has you stressed, then take a deep breath. Give yourself a break, actually give yourself several breaks. Conduct an experiment by giving yourself 15 minutes in the morning for 30 days. Try 5 minutes of yoga, 5 minutes of chanting (for real), and 5 minutes of silent meditation. Then see whether or not you have an sense of integration throughout your life priorities. If this experiment doesn’t work after 30 days, google work-life balance and go back to the illusion. You’ve lost nothing!
Here are tools get you started:
There are so many more…