I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about work / life balance. Now, I know what you are thinking. Usually when someone brings up that topic it’s because they think they have none, or somehow it's become tilted too far one way or the other.
That sort of thinking though implies the optimum state is one of equilibrium. A horizontal plane where equal time and effort is spent between the two. It’s as if there are two versions of our own self, constantly struggling between work and personal life demands looking for the perfect balance. Some people take the concept of two versions even further and say the actions of one are independent of the other.
"It’s ok to walk over others at work and climb up the ladder of success at any cost in order to provide for your family". Sort of a “Breaking Bad” ain’t so bad mentality.
What I have found to be true is there is no separate work life and personal life. There’s just life. Mine and yours. A life filled with decisions and outcomes; choices and consequences. And the idea of maintaining some sort of equal balance between the two is nothing more than a myth. In fact, if you only give 50% to each, or guide your actions based upon that, the only thing that will be equal is the degree of failure with each.
What each require, deserve….even demand is full commitment. Not a simultaneous split, but full attention. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying sacrifice one for the other. What I am saying though is when it’s time to focus on work, do so full throttle and without regret or hesitation. When it’s time to focus on self, family, etc., do so with the same level of conviction and lack of guilt. When you and I do that, I believe we can become better at each.
In the movie “We Were Soldiers Once, and Young” Lt. Colonel Hal Moore was asked how he could balance being a solider with being a father.
“Colonel, may I ask you a question?
What do you think about being a soldier and a father? -
I hope that being good at the one makes me better at the other”
You can’t separate the one whole into two halves. Applying your energy and efforts at the appropriate time, to the appropriate cause, can bring remarkable results. It’s hard though. I many times still find myself trying to listen to my daughter tell me about her day while responding to that last email. And you know what? Each suffers because of it. An executive at my firm once described it as work / life integration. I bristled at the idea initially thinking it was just another way of telling me my 50 hour work weeks weren’t enough. I was wrong. It’s that integration that makes up life. My life. And I only have the one so I better act thoughtfully and purposefully.