In 406 BC, Euripides, an ancient Greek dramatist, wrote, “The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are a really wise man.” As I read this quote, I was struck by how relevant this is to our lives today. For the past three plus decades, we have been hearing, reading and learning about work/life balance. Yet, most of us continue to allow outside influences to drive us. We have to do this, or we must do that. We need to keep up with the Jones’s, have high powered careers, create a great family life and we have to do it all and have it all right now. Writing this last sentence creates a feeling of exhaustion; imagine living it day after day as many do. I don’t know about you, but I get very curious when I read something wise and profound, especially from ancient times, and realize that we human beings continue to suffer from the same afflictions. This is most prominent in our western culture.
What is wrong with this picture? What is it that allows us to continue to develop intellectually, technologically and scientifically and not emotionally? It’s simpler than you might think; it’s called the human condition. The universal, unconscious agreements we’ve made as a collective group of beings. The notion that it is unconscious is the answer to what drives us to seek peace and happiness while we continue to create distraction and diversion from what matters most.
For decades now work/life balance is a phrase that has become over used and, in my opinion, never quite fully understood. It was never about perfect balance between work and life. It was more about becoming conscious of the fact that people cannot separate their life from their work. It is part of one’s identity. Life does not stop when one walks into their work place nor does work stop when one walks back into their home. Without a complete understanding of what one is striving for, it can never be achieved. So, it remains elusive. More recently, many are now taking the time to investigate, learn and work with professionals, to achieve it. And, some still don’t believe it exists.
What I know, from both professional results and personal experiences, is that it is real. Goals are more easily achieved and life a happier, smoother, more fulfilling and much more enjoyable.
I would like to offer you a different perspective toward work/life balance. I like to think of it as the Balance of Choice. Here is a process you may want to try out the next time you have to choose between almost anything. First, get very clear on what you are choosing between. For this example, let’s say it’s taking two days off in order to attend an important family event. However, you are facing a critical deadline and you are behind on your project. At the same time, your family has expressed how important it is for you to be with them. Now, ask yourself “by saying yes to the family event, what am I saying yes to,” and write it down. When you are done, ask yourself this question “by saying no to working, what am I actually saying no to,” and write that down. Finally, step back from what you may be feeling and just observe your answers. What you will find is a very clear choice, it is not about whether anyone else thinks it’s the right or wrong choice, all that matters is that it is the right choice for you. This process can be used for any situation, give it a try next time you are looking for the right balance and see what happens. I am willing to bet you make the best choice with less work and frustration. As Euripides says you will become a very wise person.