Achieving work-life balance? Is that even the right question?

A see-saw doesn’t balance for long. That’s the visual I have always conjured when people talk of “work-life balance.” In a former life, I studied the concept by surveying employees only to find that sustaining work life-balance is, you guessed it, awfully hard. I think the problem is that the very phrasing we’ve used to address this issue has been myopic. Is it really “work-life balance” we should aim to achieve? Or is the bigger issue and more important question one that focuses on how individuals and families live peace-filled, stress-reduced, satisfying lives?

To achieve the latter may have have little to do with the so-called “work-life balance,” and more to do with spending increasing amounts of time engaged in activities that are in alignment with your disposition, values, and passions. Work-life balance suggests that there is some algebraic equation which weights work and pleasure by some calculus and, if figured correctly, can equate to a satisfying life. I would suggest though that it isn’t about balance as much as it is about identifying energizing and rewarding ways to spend your time.

About a year ago I made a professional decision to begin consulting which meant a great deal of travel. This decision means evenings away from my family. With two small children, such a decision was and remains an important one for my wife and me. However, because the work I am doing currently is in strong alignment with my disposition and passions, I am able to enjoy more satisfying family relationships. And, yes, my family members concur!

Instead of trying to figure out how to balance the time and pressures of my work life with the rest of my life, I prefer to spend more and more of my time engaged in life activities (be they family, work, or otherwise) from which I derive meaning, value, and energy. When I’m doing that well, balance becomes a useless aspiration.

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