Rethinking “Work-life Balance”

How many times have you heard someone refer to that elusive-sounding “work-life balance”? I’m going to assume the answer is: “A lot.”

Well, the reason “why” the terminology is so popular, is that our society is becoming increasingly consumed with busyness. And personal | professional life balance, while desired, SEEMS so improbable is because it is! Not impossible, mind you, but certainly challenging.

When I think of “balance” I envision an old school attorney’s scale – both sides are evenly weighted. If we were to apply this word picture to our lives, everything would be like that scale – Zen-like and calm. And how is that achievable all the time?

I’d like to turn this terminology on its head. It’s time for us to re-think “balance.”

Often, I think of the closest thing to balance that we, as mere mortals, can achieve is a pendulum — NOT a scale. Many weeks, I feel like I meet “balance” once or twice as I swing from one extreme (personal) to the other (professional), like Tarzan (in stilettos — which I guess makes me Jane) on a vine. The reality is, all of us are in a constant battle to assure we are prioritizing effectively. At some point, the pendulum will swing too far to the right – perhaps into career territory – and at other times, given personal circumstances or developments, the pendulum will swing in the opposite direction – the family arena. Yes, sometimes the pendulum lilts close to the middle like that evenly-weighted scale, but most of the time I am consistently evaluating, assessing and adapting my priorities based off of changing demands and circumstances.

I’ve told you before, I often feel like I am letting someone down in my life. I’m human. There are times, for example, when my clients are all thrilled and well taken care-of. But then I may step back and see that my family or friends or volunteer obligations are getting the short end of the stick. Back to the scale: We put a lot of items on one side, and what happens to the other side? It’s thrown completely out-of-whack! There is no weight given to the other side whatsoever.

The important thing is that I am conscious of this, and I do step back and make adjustments as needed and where possible.

This can be hard for a lot of us. I’m certainly of the type – and many of you can relate – where I am relentlessly driven to perform at the highest levels in my career, serving my profession, advancing, engaged, involved. But I am also fiercely committed to be there for my family, to be the wife and mother that my husband and children deserve. At some point, as my children get older (or with practice and experience) the pendulum will start to swing in the other direction, or perhaps the swinging will lessen, and I’ll maintain an easier “centeredness”.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep on keeping on. Success won’t happen by osmosis. It requires consistent evaluation, and the ability to respond in kind.

I’d like to leave you with something else that I have heard time and time again from mentors over the years, and it’s far more credible to me than that “other” pearl……the image of the balanced scale:

“You CAN have it all – you just can’t have it all at the same TIME.”

What are you doing to be intentional and focused in how you prioritize the many commitments competing for your attention?



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