Pick up any business magazine today and there will probably be an article about work-life balance: what it means, why we don’t have it, how to find it. These pieces are so common that it bears to ask: has work-life balance become another aspirational buzzword, or is it something that can be quantitatively achieved?
The word “balance” evokes an image of a tipping scale, weighted evenly on both sides. Using balance to describe our lives implies that our work life and our home life are opposing forces, each pulling at us from different directions and hindering us from investing too heavily on either side, lest we tip the entire scale. But maybe we are measuring our balance by the wrong scale. Thanks to technology and constant connectivity, it can feel like it’s no longer clear when work ends and personal time begins. Many of us are guilty of answering work emails in bed at night or browsing for babysitters at work. Whatever the case, the technology’s blurred lines don’t necessarily have to force our minds into a state of unbalance. So what happens when we allow the two to mesh? By living mindfully, our work life and our home life can actually be, indeed, one life … bringing together all pieces of ourselves into our hours, when our talents and personalities flow naturally into each of our daily goals and tasks.
Being self-aware about our needs and wants helps us manage our energy and our expectations of it. When our lives feel unbalanced, too often we are simply engaging in activities that leave us unsatisfied or wanting more, rather than those that are personally fulfilling. These activities can actually be found in abundance within all spaces of our lives—both personal and professional—if we have the awareness and ambition to seek them out and prioritize them. Personally, I most enjoy reading with my children, and my professional preferences fall to writing, so my weeks feel most balanced and fulfilling when I prioritize these activities. On the other hand, weeks that feel draining typically involve doing administrative business tasks for work and chauffeuring my kids to extracurricular activities in my free time. So maybe it’s not the number of hours we spend on personal versus professional activities so much as what we are filling those hours with that tends to push us off balance. I could be spending what I deem the ideal number of hours both on the clock at work and with my children at home, but I’m finding that a truer feeling of balance stems from how I feel about those hours, regardless of the amount. Even if I only get to read with my children for 30 minutes, my day feels much better because of it. Being mindful in our workplace is no different from being mindful in our home. Being purposeful at work is not separate from being purposeful at home. Giving the best part of you at work doesn’t mean you can’t also give the best part of you at home. If we can stop believing the misconception that our work selves have to be lived in contrary from our personal selves then maybe we can begin to experience more balanced living.