Is there such a thing to be had as work/life balance? Of course there is! But it helps to understand what is really meant by it in order to manage your commitments toward having any hope of achieving it. Like “family values”, work/life balance is very easy to talk about and quite a bit more challenging to actually live. Each requires substantial personal commitment, particularly if you want to be successful.
Experiencing work/life balance probably requires an adjustment to your way of thinking. Most people think in one dimension following a linear thought pattern. They see things as absolute and respond only one way, either positive or negative. We can or we can’t do it. Let’s call this first wave thinking.
Some people use expanded thought patterns. They see and compare things from two sides, both positive and negative, and make choices on the basis of analysis. For them the issue is one of “maybe we can AND maybe we can’t”. This is what’s called second wave thinking.
People who achieve work/life balance are third wave thinkers. They use complete thought patterns, compare things from multiple angles and see all sides and perspectives. They look at things from the inside out and the outside in. Successful people are almost always grand masters of third-wave thinking. Their approach is always “how can we make this happen?”
Here’s how this translates to the challenge of achieving work/life balance. First-wave thinkers believe it means trading 8 hours of work for the guarantee of an equal 8 hours of time to devote to having a personal life. The second-wave thinkers see work/life balance as 8 hours of work buying 8 hours of personal life but they are willing to invest some or all of their personal time in additional work when they feel it’s the only way open to the reward of success. Sadly, neither one of these two groups experience much work/life balance regardless of the number of hours logged at the office or spent at home.
Third-wave thinkers, on the other hand, see that work/life balance is not a matter of equal time for both pursuits. Rather, it is a matter of accepting that to give more to your work, you must get more from your life, and to give more to your life, you must get more from your work. The values actually added and subtracted are always changing as they are in constant motion. As long as you remain aware of where you are at any given time in your work and in your personal life, you will always be able to maintain a fine, healthy, and satisfying balance. Welcome to professional nirvana!
To sum up, the people who achieve work/life balance have stopped looking at work as simply a means of making a living and have realized it’s one of the elemental ingredients of making a life. So, the next time you are experiencing dissatisfaction at work and unhappiness in your life and are ready to blame it on a lack of work/life balance, stop and ask yourself this important question, “How do I want it to become and what personal actions will carry me there?” Then, as they say in the Nike commercial, “Just do it!”