Before we talk about balancing work and personal life, I should clarify that in my brain I think of balance as a perfect symmetry. To me, balance means complete equality between all elements.
When looking at it that way, I think the answer to the balance question is no – there is no such thing as a perfect work-personal life balance. Just as there’s no such thing as a perfect balance in any other aspect of life because life is unpredictable and imperfect.
So, based on my thought process, does this mean that those of us who work and have personal commitments have no hope for ever achieving balance? I certainly hope not! But what’s the solution?
Getting Rid of “Balance”
The first step is using the right terminology, especially for those of us (okay, me) who tend to get hung up on literal meanings and exact specifications. If we can’t aim for work-personal life balance, what should we strive for?
I like to think of it as an ongoing quest for a level of acceptable compromise, because instead of balance, I think the best we can aim for is a level of give and take that satisfies all of our needs in the best way possible. Plus, by ditching “work-personal life balance” and adopting “work-personal life compromise,” we rid ourselves of a lot of the pressure that comes with achieving an unachievable balance. And it allows for the very personal aspects of what that compromise entails.
The Three Most Important Elements of an Acceptable Work-Personal Life Compromise
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what you call it. You simply can’t ignore the fact that you have opposing forces pushing and pulling you in all directions. Whether it’s balance or compromise, we all just want to feel like we’re present in all aspects of our life, living satisfied lives and keeping those around us happy.
In order to do this, there are three essential things we need to keep in front of us to make our struggle for acceptable compromise achievable.
The first essential element involves taking a long, hard and realistic look at your priorities. Whether you work outside the home or have your own business, have kids or pets or aging parents, or have hobbies you’re not willing to let go of, you need to be able to rank the importance of all aspects of your life.
It’s important to recognize that your priorities will change, sometimes frequently, and if you’re not clear on what parts of your life need your attention first, achieving an acceptable compromise will be a struggle.
Because your priorities will change, and life has a way of introducing unexpected (and sometimes unwanted) surprises, you need to be flexible in order to accommodate these changes, regroup and shuffle your priorities, and change directions when necessary. By avoiding looking at your priorities as set in stone, you’ll gain the flexibility you need to move with the changes.
The last necessary element of achieving an acceptable work-personal life compromise, is being willing to accept that the level of compromise you attain will not always be ideal. The reality is that some days are better than others and some priorities will be easier to satisfy than others.
The key is to remember that with a constant give and take, and the goal of doing the best you can at any given time, you can trust that it will eventually all even out in the end.
How you do handle the inherent desire for work-personal life balance? Do you think it’s achievable?
Image credit: Kristin Smith