The Myth of Work-Life Balance

If you’re passionate about your career and spend 16 hours a day working at it, do you lack work-life balance?  Is there a healthy desire for a siloed life, one in which we can flip a switch at the end of some predetermined hour and move into a parallel existence, or does balance simply mean finding harmony and peace with all aspects of life’s journey?

Recently, I spent a wonderful evening dining with my wife discussing our passions for our careers.  She’s a hard-core researcher, a neuroscientist with a passion and drive that keeps her alternately in the laboratory or reading and writing on her Mac.  To balance things out in our household, I am more of a social scientist, a organizational psychology scholar-practitioner who spends his days influencing the culture of a Fortune 500 financial services giant and his evenings conducting research into organizational culture and leadership as a doctoral student.  Both of us feel incredibly balanced in our chosen professions.  Neither blinks at the prospect of spending 16 hour days immersed in our respective fields.  So are we balanced?

Mind you, we have our hobbies and stress relievers.  We’re both ice hockey goalies in respective leagues (we learned long ago the perils of being opposing goalies for opposite teams….I’m sure you can imagine!).  She’s an amazingly talented artist and cook.  I’m a skydiver.  Oh yeah, then there are the kids and pets to keep us truly balanced!

But the point remains….how many of our colleagues view us as successfully balancing our work-life?  In actuality, what really is meant by work-life balance?  Doesn’t that very phrase imply some sort of differentiation between one’s work and one’s life?  Why can’t both exist in harmony, as either complementary aspects or merely as an extension of the same?

I would posit that as long as you are at peace with the path on which you are traveling, you have achieved appropriate “balance.”  Similarly, I would suggest that a better description ought to be professional-personal balance, rather than work-life.  Oh, if only all people found that their professional experiences tapped into an inner sense of satisfaction and peace!  Think of that!  So, for all those critics who insist that Erica and I need to find balance, perhaps it is just our sense of balance to which the rest of the world should strive!

Now, I don’t intend for this to be a self-aggrandizing portrait at all.  Rather, I am interested in others’ perspectives on this notion of work-life balance.  It’s a topic that receives considerable attention in the business world currently.  But it seems to be a notion lacking true definition or design.

So, I propose a discussion about what work-life balance means to you?  Is it possible?  Is it even desirable, and does this idea resonate with you?  Let me know your thoughts….

One thought on “The Myth of Work-Life Balance

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