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Work-Life Balance: Blazing Our Own Trails
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Work-Life Balance: Blazing Our Own Trails - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Blazing Our Own Trails

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Blazing Our Own Trails

Work-life balance as a concept is easy to embrace. As a practice, it can often be elusive, as evidenced by the seemingly endless parade of books and articles doling advice on how to attain it. One article says it’s about priorities and planning; another says it’s really about embracing everything as a whole and attending to each component as working with the others; still another advises balance as a collection of habits that should be put into motion in order to reshape priorities. The big takeaway from this varied and valuable advice is that each must find his or her balance in a way that makes sense to the individual: there is no single, omni-effective roadmap to finding work-life balance when each of us must define it and pursue it within the framework defined by our specific needs, values, and wishes.

It’s tempting to accept this first truth-that we each must set our own path-as a mandate first to examine our lives and prioritize compartments according to our visions for the moment and for the future. Where am I now? Where do I want to be tomorrow, and where do I want to be ten years from now? This can certainly be an effective way to get the big-picture view, and if that’s all one needs in order to set the ball rolling (the journey of a thousand miles, and all that) then finding balance for that person may never have been more than a matter of sitting down and thinking about it. However, for many (if not most) of us, it’s just not that easy. Work works one way; life works another. This is the heart of the conflict, and the reason so many of us find balance difficult to achieve. This birds-eye view also lends itself too easily to falling back on old-school reasoning about employment and family. Some of those old ways are fine, but we’ve already tried them all and we’re still not satisfied.

Another approach, one which takes a bit more openness, is to grab onto some of the balance-friendly initiatives we’ve read about and see what unfolds. You might think you have no real use for a multi-tool, one of those pocketknife-like gadgets that unfolds into pliers, scissors, and screwdrivers according to the demands of the moment. But if you’ve ever carried one around for a few weeks, you might have discovered a weird thing: it’s difficult to let go of after that time, because simply carrying the tool has revealed needs you never thought you had, everyday situations you might never have noticed until you had their solutions right there in your hand. Perhaps you don’t know what you’d do with a flexible schedule or the ability to take the office outside the office, but equipped suddenly with the ability to use them on an everyday basis, you may find answers to puzzles you didn’t know you had. A side benefit to this approach is that the open-minded employer who collects feedback from the team may discover new ways to address old organizational, logistical, or personnel issues. It’s giving fire to the mortals to see what they cook.

Arianna Huffington calls her concept of professional success the Third Metric, which is composed of well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. Rather than money or power as measuring sticks, she offers these four aspects of personal growth and satisfaction as a means of assessing success. It’s certainly an approach worth examining, but examining your own values may reveal different categories, or similar concepts with differently arranged categories. Yours might something along the lines of body-mind-spirit (that is, physical health, mental health, and emotional health), or home-community-world, or self-family-village. These are all ways of lining the facets of our lives up in tidy columns that can be checked off as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, an exercise worth going through no matter how successful you feel about the relationship between your job and the rest of your life.

Yet at the heart of this sort of examination is a principle that’s easy to overlook: no matter where you draw the lines, you’re empowering yourself to decide what stays and what needs work, and that underscores the importance of reminding yourself that work-life balance begins with you. Even if you’re convinced your work is a calling, an assignment from a higher power, it remains your choice to follow or not follow that calling. You decide what balance for your life is going to look like, or you decide how the tools at your disposal can be used in its pursuit, or you recognize a missing element and take steps to addressing that shortfall. In any case, accepting that power and responsibility is the heart of determining your own path to the balanced life you covet.


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Work-Life Balance: Blazing Our Own Trails - Executive Leadership Articles

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