“I’m just going to say it: the concept of work-life balance is malarkey. It’s an unrealistic ideal we believe we see in others, and then strive for in ourselves. This ideal often creates guilt and anxiety about perceived 'failure' as a parent, as an employee, as a spouse. You just can’t be balanced all the time, friends, and trying to do so will leave you feeling ill.
Let’s strive for something else. In her article “Let’s Retire the Term ‘Work-Life Balance,’” Jeanne Thompson introduces the concept of sway. When we sway, there is movement—back and forth, give and take. Sway seeks compromise, as first one side and then the other takes precedence. Can you see how well sway works as a descriptor for work and life? Sometimes family needs to be our top priority, and then the focus shifts the other way.
Another wonderful thing about the image of sway is that, by necessity, you have to lean both ways. Imagine that you’re actually swaying, and you just lean left. What comes next? You. Fall. And so it goes. Yes, sometimes you have to focus on work for a while. But the focus can’t stay that way forever. If you always place family above your work, if you never take the afternoon off to go to the park with your kids, there will be consequences.
My advice? Be gentle with yourself. Don’t expect the perfection of balance. Allow for the grace of sway.” – Becky Eason, Wellness & Career Coach
Here is another perspective of balance as being flexible.
“I think the term ‘balance’ has made headlines due to everyone being overwhelmed with all the ‘stuff’ they THINK they need to do. I don’t see balance in the sense that every aspect of your life (work, relationships, health, chores/errands, hobbies, etc.) will be equal. I see it that certain areas will have a priority. And that’s great, provided you flex and adjust as needed during seasons.
Think about this example. When we are working hard on an important work project, that might take priority over working out for 1.5 hours every other day. You might work out for 15 minutes instead, so you can focus more on work. When the project is done, you can bump exercise back up.
Or, you might decide that during this project, you need to exercise, and spending less time working on your health is not an option. What you could do is demote the balance of something else. Perhaps it’s cooking, going out with friends, or asking others to care for you kid(s) when you work late at the office.
When the work project is done, then you’ll spend more time with your family and friends to get back to balance.
I think we have seasons of balance – and that puts us in balance. It’s when there is no flexibility, and something takes over our lives, when we’re no longer in balance.” – Danielle Carson, Anxiety to Happiness Coach
Might balance be found when focusing on what is essential to you?
“Professionals are seeking ways to improve eﬃciency, but at what cost? We sacriﬁce parts of our awareness of self, others, and life. Pauses in our life rhythm when analyzed may be perceived as deﬁciencies. We seek guidance on a healthy lifestyle and desire work-life balance. This pursuit while grand is in my opinion misguided.
I am a compulsive busy body. If I ﬁnd an opening in time, I will seek to ﬁll it. I am addicted to busy-ness. I want to be something, to inﬂuence and inspire, to be extraordinary. I feel like that when I am in those paused moments where I can evaluate value, I instead pick areas that need ‘work’. I try to create an assessment that deﬁnes my shortcomings and make a plan to ‘ﬁx’ them. I believe many of us feel that if we had real balance, we could stabilize our lives.
Balance in life is a partial myth. It is this magical idea that if I have life balance, everything will come together. The perspective I genuinely want to share is that we go through periods of sacriﬁce when ﬁnding life balance. Remember to focus on the essential things. These essentials are diﬀerent for everyone, but in those pauses of life, we are made aware of what we truly value. This is where we ﬁnd balance. – Jeremy L. Gray, Leadership Coach and Business Consultant
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