Leadership, The Leader

Is Work-Life Balance A Myth?


Continuing the discussion on the Leader dimensions of the Leadership model, a Leader must have a healthy mix of work and life to be successful, not to mention healthy, fulfilled, and effective.

I’m often asked how does one get better work-life balance? My answer is that there is no such thing! I think that what stresses people out is a relentless pursuit of some utopian state of perfect balance that just doesn’t exist. Seem depressing? Well, I don’t think it has to be.

There are two analogies I frequently use to describe work-life balance. The first is a teeter-totter (see-saw) which provides great symbolism when talking about work-life balance. On one end of the teeter-totter is work and on the other, life. Just like the playground equipment because one person weighs more than the other, it is extremely rare that things are in perfect balance at any given time and you find yourself gravitating towards either work or life. If you try really hard by shifting one person’s weight up or down on the plank of the teeter-totter, you can find equilibrium for only a very brief moment, then slowly, it starts to sway to one side or the other, just as in work-life. The stress comes from trying to maintain perfect equilibrium of the work-life teeter-totter. What I think is most important, is to realize which side you need to be higher on at any given time and not fight it. Sometimes, you need to put more time and energy into life, while other times, it is work. However, you can’t be 100% in one! You always have some portion in both. This is where priorities come in. When work requires more from you due to a tight deadline, important project, or career opportunity, you have to determine which are your life priorities and be sure to set aside time for those and let the others go for a period of time. Similarly, there will be times when life needs more of your time and attention such as a sick child, aging parent, or the needs of your partner. During these times, you also need to determine your top priorities at work and let go or delegate the others. You can’t do it all. The stress comes from trying to do it all; doing everything at work, while doing everything you desire in life. It just doesn’t work that way. However, realizing which side needs to be higher while prioritizing those that are most critical and important to you on the other side, will leave you in control of the teeter-totter and free your mind to focus and enjoy the ride of work-life.

seasons of life

The second analogy is the four seasons of a year. Within the four seasons, things change gradually over-time as we move from one season to the next as we do in work-life. Typically this change is gradual but not unnoticeable. You need to be prepared for changes in the weather when you are between seasons. In the spring, it might be a beautiful warm day, however, the nights are still cool. As in work-life, you need to be prepared for the changes of the seasons and the unpredictability of them. The trick is to recognize the change in the seasons and adjust your focus & priorities to what’s most important in that season. At times that will be work, while others it is life. Even though we all have favourite seasons, no one can beat Mother Nature, and the seasons will come and go. We don’t fight it, we go with them and adjust our routines, focus, and priorities to fit the new season and await for passing season to come again.

So, is work-life balance a myth? Yes, if you are looking for that perfect equilibrium balance between work and life. However, I do believe you can find a healthy and happy mix of the two, if you set reasonable priorities well within both. Leave a comment with your thoughts on work-life balance.

In the next post we’ll discuss what you can do for a better work-life balance.

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