The issue of work-Life balance comes up a lot when in coaching conversations with people. And they seem genuinely shocked when I tell them that I think balance is for the birds – the feathered variety. I mean after all, have you ever looked at something that is balanced? Take a look at any bird sitting on a branch or wire – he’s balanced – but he isn’t doing anything, not even moving. The same holds when you get two objects balanced on a set of scales – when completely in balance, there’s no movement! Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t see being in one spot, perfectly still, as an enticing way to spend my life, even if I am “in balance”.
I decided a long time ago that my life was way too complex to even think of a simple concept like “balance” as a goal. After all my life was made up of many roles – wife, mother, daughter, co-owner of a farm, professional biologist, professional agrologist, member of many organizations, and environmental activist to name just the main ones, and each of these roles made different demands on me at different times. At work I carried out research on living systems which come under the influence of the seasons, so my workload varied depending on the season, with limited flex ability to put things off when they were affected by such things as temperature and weather. Likewise with the farm, there were certain times of the year when it was important that I take a “holiday” from work so I could help on the farm, such as during spring planting and fall harvest. And then with four children and their varied activities, any thought of reaching a time when work and life were in simple balance was, well, for the birds!
However my science training provided a much more workable concept – dynamic equilibrium.
The scientific definition of dynamic equilibrium states that it is ‘a state of balance achieved by two forces in motion’. I redefined it as a state of net balance between my many roles in life, so that at any one time I might be putting more time and energy into one role, however since which role required the emphasis at any time was always in a state of flux, which role received more of my attention would shift and change accordingly. Therefore I didn’t worried about the fact that during an experiment that required my presence in the lab for long hours I had limited time for my role as a mother. Likewise when one of the kids was sick, or had something special on that required my time and attention, it didn’t bother me that I took time off from work. Where I put my time and energy was a constantly shifting kaleidescope of roles and activities. Bur I knew that overall, it all balanced out, just not in a simplistic, static state!
So if your life is like mine and has a multitude of roles and responsibilities, don’t stress out trying to balance your time using a simplistic ‘either/or’ approach. Recognize the complexity of your situation and that everything is in a constant state of motion – that’s life. Cut yourself some slack and aim for an overall long term state of ‘dynamic equilibrium’. Try it – you’ll find life much relaxing and enjoyable.
Until next time, keep thriving 🙂
Canada’s Premier Thrive Synergy Strategist
©2012 Karen Switzer-Howse