I recently spoke on a panel about the myth of work-life balance. I have been spreading the word since 2005 that there is no such thing as work-life balance. We have been sold a bill-of-goods similar to other career and life cliches such as "you can have it all". These dangerous cliches have perpetuated mindless pursuit of what we have been told is important. As a result, "we" as a community have neglected to align our work and life with our values and what is really REALLY important to us.
I thought this myth would finally fade with growing collective wisdom. But, it keeps rearing it's head. Hence, the need to readdress the myth especially with recent comments by Marissa Mayer (Google fame) that the 130 hour workweek is required for success. Anyone feeling guilty? "Hogwash" was the John Brandon's retort to Ms. Mayer's comments. Kudos to Mr. Brandon (Inc. fame) for calling out this insane and unhealthy expectation. Here is the link to his article.
Before you read his article, it's time to revisit the blog (below) that I wrote in 2005. Let's put this myth where it belongs (in the annals of obsolete nonsense) and reframe our expectations as we approach the September demands.
Stop the Balancing Act!
The distinction between integration and balance.
Inspiration and insight came one morning this week (September 2005). Rain, lightening, and thunder fueled introspection and supported my intention to stay inside and write. I had spent three days of lovely early-September weather browsing through the Almonte, Ontario business community and meeting wonderful women who left big cities to settle in Almonte (near Ottawa) and enjoy a different quality of life. Each woman I met was open and responsive to my curiosity about what brought her to Almonte and how she was handling transitions in her personal and professional life. One thing stood out with each one of these professional women regardless of age or status. Each woman spoke of the unrelenting desire and effort to “balance” her passion, her personal life, and her professional life.
Through my own experience, I have discovered that “integration” rather than “balance” is key to thriving during any intense period of transition. Understanding this distinction has a profound effect on sustaining the quality of life.
Here’s my interpretation of the distinction between integration and balance.
“Integration” implies acceptance, assimilation, and sense of continuous flowing energy. As something is added, it is absorbed but it does not take over. When something is deleted, the gap is filled without losing sight or appreciation for what was removed or lost. Wholeness is maintained. Our sense of being whole gives us strength to flow through transition.
“Balance” on the other hand implies struggle to achieve and maintain. Any addition or deletion from the equation will cause upset. When something is added or deleted, there is a compensating reaction. Under or overcompensation fuels the imbalance. We feel fragmented along with a gamut of other feelings and fears that tear at our sense of being whole and compromise our strength. We focus on the hurdles, we trip, and we lose the flow.
Call to action – Stop the Balancing Act:
Examine your distinction between integration and balance.
- List what is most important to you this moment. Be as detailed as you feel is meaningful for you to benefit from this exercise
- Use my distinction and/or your own regarding “balance” to determine how well (or not so well) you are currently “balancing” or “juggling” what is most important to you. How do you feel when “A” gets more attention than “B”? Or, when you add “C” which forces you to eliminate “B”? What is “balancing” costing you?
- Now explore the shift to “integration”. Can this shift allow you to give the appropriate amount of attention to “A” and “B”? Can you accept and assimilate “C” without total exclusion of “B”? If the unexpected comes along, will you be able to accept it with ease and maintain the flow?
One important element of success in shifting from the balancing act to integration is to orient yourself around your values. Orienting yourself around your values offers a perfect pathway to unity, wholeness, and centeredness. Values help you to screen and filter naturally. For professionals [and entrepreneurs], this is extremely important in setting meaningful goals and screening and filtering events, surprises, and people who come into our lives. Our values help us to navigate our transitions with ease and grace.
Call to action – Identify and clarify Your Five Core Values
Can you clearly identify your five core values? Do you consistently refer to and honour your values when choosing what you truly want and do not want in your life?
How will your life change?
- You won’t be torn between things because your values will choose for you.
- You will feel less conflict within yourself and feel more at peace because your goals will be in sync with what is most important to you.
- You will enjoy your passion, your life, your profession. The different parts of your life will flow together. No sacrifice in one area to satisfy another. No costly juggling.
- You will have courage and conviction to drop and let go of draining goals, projects, and people.
- You will have no regrets, no guilt. You will be at peace with your decisions and choices because you will have been true to yourself.
- You will feel integrated, whole, and strong.
As I completed this blog, the morning had transformed into a beautiful sunny afternoon. A warm glow flowed through me as I admired the subtle change in the colour of the maple tree just outside the second-floor sunroom at the Blue Heron. The Mississippi River (the Canadian river) flowed with ease after the rainfall. I had a lovely chat with my hostess, Pat, about the transformation of her house into a beautiful bed and breakfast. We shared a little about our perspectives on life’s transitions. Everything around me was a story of transformation and transition. I was in flow. The time and space was not just right, it was perfect.
I purchased a greeting card in the Almonte Post Office; not to give, but to retain as a gift for myself. I believe the verse is quite appropriate.
Don’t think in terms of “on time” or “late.”
Think in terms of flexibility, fluidity, spontaneity.