So, whose idea was this- Work/Life Balance? According to Wikipedia the term was first used in the UK in the 70s and in the US in 1986! After more than 10 years working as an Executive Coach with many people in search of this balance, I have come to believe that it is a false dichotomy or an asymptote. Now there’s a word! Asymptote comes from the Greek word meaning not falling together. A rainbow is an asymptote, it appears to be there but you can never in fact get to it. Much like work/life balance which appears to be achievable but is not.
I have come to realise that the pursuit of work/life balance is not a harmless one. Firstly, it leads people to believe that work is an interference to life when in fact work gives meaning to our lives. I remember reading once in a book about Well Being that research has shown that it is easier to recover from the death of your life partner than it is to recover from a protracted period of unemployment. Work is important to us, it makes us feel good about ourselves. Secondly this construct of work/life balance underpins a belief that emotion has no place at work. It is assumed that emotion is the stuff of life, so at work we should be professional and have no emotion. Well, by encouraging our people to confine work interactions to the realms of the cognitive and the rational, we lose out on so much of the energy and vitality in our people and teams. These are just two reasons why the pursuit of work/life balance has not served us well!
So, if we leave the false dichotomy of work/life balance behind what should replace it? I believe that life is not really a balancing act but a juggling act. There aren’t just two aspects to our lives, our lives are multi-faceted. Consider the key elements that make up your well- being: Work, Relationships, Physical Health, Mental Health, Interests and Hobbies, Personal Development, Financial well-being. These are the things we need to juggle and make sure we strike the right blend, to give us a decent level of well-being and a good life. Work is a critical element but it has its place amongst the others. If we over-invest ourselves in any one of these elements we will lose out in others.
At Ignite we are used to helping people improve the quality of their juggling. Why not give us a call today and see what we could do for your juggling act.
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