Last week I read an article in Forbes Woman where Katerina Schneider introduced a concept she called “having it almost”. This reminded me of the debate whether we can ever be able to strike a balance between work and life.
Different definitions exist for what constitutes work life balance. The one I found interesting several years ago was from a Canadian Organisation called The Work Place Mental Health Promotion which defined it thus;
work life balance is a state of well being that a person can reach or set as a goal in order to allow that person to manage effectively multiple responsibilities at work, home and in the community.
Then I came across another observation by Jim Bird who heads a company that offers training for managing stress. He notes that
there is no perfect one size fits all for achieving work life balance. What matters is we achieve our goals and have some enjoyment while doing so because achievement and enjoyment are parts of the same coin and we cannot have one without the other.
There is always Opportunity Cost Involved
One cannot talk about work life balance without considering the economic concept of opportunity cost. This is because we often have to make sacrifices as we choose one option over another. When one chooses to slow down their career path to start a family, they have inevitably chosen family over career for that particular period.
I believe and tend to argue that we can have balance in our lives. The issue is often how you choose to look at the concept of work life balance. Often the picture painted is one of a person holding the life and work balls then trying to juggle both while balancing on a beam. As long we have this picture the belief will always be no one can attain balance without dropping one ball.
Scripture says “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven”. This in effect means there must be time to live and time to work. When you view the concept in these terms then work life balance becomes feasible.
It Starts With Managing Your Priorities
In order to have some level of balance in our lives, we need what I call an “ideal life”. This is what we wish our life would be like if all the pieces were in the right place. This picture must be fully imprinted in our minds. Granted only God knows the plans he has in store for each of us. The best we can do is pray that our “ideal life” and his plans match.
When you have no idea what a balanced life should look like, you tend to always feel out of balance. Without a doubt, life is going to throw us many responsibilities and opportunities at the same time. Making the decision of what to take and toss is often a challenge in itself. Carefully crafting out your “ideal life” allows for easy decision-making because of the clarity regarding your priorities.
Another advantage of having an “ideal life” is it allows you to define success on your own terms. This means you can peruse both your personal and professional goals at a pace defined by you . Avoid worrying about what everyone else is doing. For example, Instead of distressing about not reaching the top of your career in your forties; you could focus on how your children have turned out to be decent teenagers. You on the other hand can now get back on the career train.
Always do a Cost Benefit Analysis
The second way in which we can thrive to have balance is to always do a cost benefit analysis. Since there will always be a cost of something you forego to have or pursue its alternative. It makes sense to weigh out the cost of a decision against the benefits it is going to bring you.
If for example taking on more challenging work or a promotion is going to cost you time spent with your infant children. You could consider postponing that part of your life for a few more years. Granted opportunities will not always wait or suit our life styles but what is the cost of loosing out on the most valuable years of your children? You can work harder in future and catch up on your career but kids grow upwards and never backwards.
I also find that the cost benefit analysis is best carried out when you are a goal oriented person with clear short, intermediate and long term goals. Sometimes a decision you make in the short-term is greatly influenced by the long-term goals you have set for your self.
In conclusion, if we continue to look at this question in terms of us juggling both work and life on a balance beam our answers will always be negative. However, when we define success in our own terms, set challenging yet realistic goals spread over our life time; then we can begin to get answers in the affirmative. The truth is there can be a realistic balance between working and living.
I am curious to know what your answer to this question is. Please let us continue the discussion in the comments section.